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Volume 14 - Issue 1 - September 2008

Concert notes: The

Concert notes: The Labour Day weekendwill be a busy time for Aviva Chernick at theAshkenaz Festival at Harbourfront. On August30, in addition to performing at MitchSmolkin's CD launch at 7:00, she will also becelebrating Havdala (the end of the Sabbath)with Rabbi Aaron Levy at 9:00 on the outsidestage and participating in the late nightSephardic Cabaret at the Lakeside Terrace.On August 31, at 6:30 her Huppa Projectlaunches their "Under the Canopy - Music ofthe Jewish Wedding Ceremony" CD at theLakeside Terrace, and on September 1 herband Jaffa Road (formerly Shakshuka) performsa free concert at the Brigantine Roomat 7:00.We welcome your feedback and invite submissions.CDs and comments should be sentto: The WholeNote, 503 - 720 Bathurst St.Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also welcomeyour input via our website,www. thew ho le note. corn .VOCALDavid Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote. cornFrom Courts on HighSt. Michael's Choir SchoolIndependent 6671 ( Toronto treasurefor 70 years, thevenerable "St.Mike's" youngstersare back in the recordingscene witha new CD, theirfirst major releasesince "ChristmasGarland" of 1999.The choir does not disappoint. On display isas pure a treble sound as can be achieved.Twenty-five tracks are presented in diversestyles, all the way from Gregorian Chant to abrand-new work by Thomas Dusatko. Onechant clocks in at just 33 seconds, and themajor work, Thou Royal Knight from Courtson High is nearly six-and-a-half minutes long.This hymn pays tribute to the school's patronsaint, St. Michael the Archangel. It wasoriginally composed in the 1940s by the choirschool's founder, Monsignor Ronan, andappears here in an arrangement by alumnusKola Owolabi in a performance which featuresevery student of the school.A large percentage of the sung works are acapella, but interspersed among these arefive liturigical inventions for organ, played onthe big Casavant at Grace Church-on-the­Hill. Larger works, with all stops out, andaccompanied choirs, are saved for the end of54the disc. The collection as a whole was recordedeither at Grace, or at the slightlysmaller Loretto Abbey Chapel in North York .The legendary team of Ed Marshall and GaryRatcliffe have worked their magic, and it isnot easy to tell what work was recordedwhere, although the notes do tell, in tinyprint. We aren't told which of the 3 choirssings on which track, but all members arenamed. The sound is beautiful, and even thenon-religious can enjoy this CD.John S. GrayRavel - Sheherazade; Debussy - ProsesLyriquesMarianne Fiset; Marie-Eve ScarfoneAnalekta AN 2 6761Plastered all overMarianne Fiset'sdebut album is areminder that she isnot just anotheryoung Canadiansinger: she is theFirst Grand Prizewinner of the MontrealInternationalMusic Competition of2007. Fiset, who isfrom Quebec, is a lyric soprano in the Frenchtradition, with a clean, tender sound, perfectdiction, and a wonderfully smooth, seamlesssense of line. Singing Ravel's Sheherazadeand Debussy's Proses Lyriques, Fiset shapesphrases beautifully and places each note withdelicate precision, modulating her dynamicswith sensitivity. But attention to detail comesat a price: Fiset sounds like she is carefullyreading from the score rather than truly engagingwith the music. Variations in colourand attack are rare, and for all the care sheputs into individual phrases, there are almostno climaxes, no moments that sweep youaway into the atmospheric world the musiccreates. The bonus track of the Song of theMoon from Dvorak's opera Rusalka couldhave changed the pace, but here too Fisettakes a languid approach that highlights theloveliness of her voice and the music, butdramatic potential of neither. She might haveborrowed the orchestra that accompanies herhere for a more colourful She he razade,though Marieve-Eve Scarfone does an adequatejob with the piano version. With justover 45 minutes of music, there is room forFiset to show herself to be a more versatileartist. As it is, there is enough to enjoy, andFiset is an undeniably charming soprano.Seth EstrinRoyal MezzoJennifer Larmore; Grant Park Orchestra;Carlos KalmarCedille CDR 90000 104While the privileges are wealth and power inancient times may have been splendid, fortunescould easily and suddenly take a turnfor the worse, resulting in tragedy and humiliation.Maintaining a royal countenanceWWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMthrough such extremetimes couldbe near impossible,especially for womenwho could suddenlyfind themselvescompletely atthe mercy of theircaptor. Such wasthe case for thewomen portrayed in these settings by Barber,Berlioz, and Britten. And it surely takes asinger with a rich and royal tone with depthsof maturity and inner fire equal to the task ofthe extreme emotional states required for thedelivery of soliloquies by figures such asAndromache, Cleopatra and Phaedra at suchpivotal and deadly junctures in their lives.Add to this the dreamy but extremely cleversensuality ofRavel's Sheherazade, and thestage requires the most sensitive and seasonedperformance, which Jennifer Larmoredelivers with a mixture of grace, eloquenceand unrestrained passion. The orchestrationsare phenomenal in their delivery as well,with some truly harrowing passages depictinganger, fear, pride, lust, remorse, revenge,and finally either suicide or resignation toone's fate. A thrilling portrayal of epic grandeur,this CD will make your heart race andtemperature rise.Dianne WellsRossini - La Cambiale di MatrimonioDesiree Rancatore; Saimir Pigru; F.M.Capitanucci; Pesaro Festival; UmbertoBenedetti MichelangeliNAXOS 2.110228Rossini - L'inganno feliceTarver; Mologni; Regazzo; Vinco; Bailey;Czech Chamber Soloists, Brno; AlbertoZeddaNaxos 8.660233-341~oss1:,.. 1I 'lu;.: annu rrllu·It was in 1810 when the Rossini, still a teenagerand fed up with his studies in Bologna,came to Venice to try his luck. Ambitious,energetic, talented and full of new ideas, theboy secured a commission for a one act operafrom a small, almost defunct theatre company.Rossini fearlessly delved into the challengeand, so, La Cambiale di Matrimonio(The Marriage Contract) was born. Successwas so immediate and resounding that thisformer nonentity soon became the talk of thetown and within the next year and a quarterhe produced six operas, two of which becameimmortal masterpieces (Tancredi andL 'ltaliana in Alge ri) .SEPTEMBER 1 - O CTOBER 7 2008

La Cambiale is called 'farsa comica', thecomic farce or opera buffa of which Rossinibecame an undisputed master. Althoughcalled a farce and full of hilarious situations,it also has much character humour thatmakes it considerably superior to an ordinaryfarce. For us Canadians, this piece particularlystrikes home in a certain Canadianbusinessman Slook, who comes to Europe tobuy himself a wife. 'Canada' crops up a lot inthe text, not the least when the incumbentlovers urge Slook ' to go home to Canada!'The performance from the Pesaro Festival,Pesaro being a Rossini Mecca today, isfabulously entertaining - a delight from beginningto end. Umberto Benedetti Michelangeliis thoroughly at home in the Rossini idiomand conducts with charm, grace, upbeattempi and sense of humour. The outstandingcast of nearly all young Italians sings and actsto perfection. Soprano Desiree Rancatore, asFanny, is already an accomplished coloraturaand Fabio Maria Capitanucci, a powerfulbasso, as the Canadian Slook, is a perfectcaricature of himself and perhaps steals theshow.Today nearly all of Rossini's 39 operashave been recorded, many several times. Weare indebted to NAXOS for filling in thegaps, the unknowns, like L 'Inganno felice(The Happy Deception) of 1812 which alsocomes from those early six works in Venice.Initially a huge success, it was all but forgottenfor some hundred years until its revival in1952. This is an opera seria, of serious subjectmatter but with a happy ending. Thisfinely crafted work with lovely music securesa very satisfying reading, expertly conductedand sung, again by young, talented singers.An excellent recording.Rossini didn't stay long in Venice. By1815, at age 23, in the turmoil of Napoleon'sdefeat he took off first to Milan and then toNaples with Rome soon beckoning. So watchout world ... Rossini is coming!Janos GardonyiWolf-Ferrari - La vedova scaltraSollied; Muraro; D' Aguanno; Mihofer;Rossi; Teatro la Fenice; Karl MartinNaxos 2.110234-35Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was a man of dividedloyalties. Born in Venice he felt at home bothin Italy, the land of his mother, and in Germany,his father's country. Like his oldercontemporary, FerruccioBusoni, Wolf-Ferrarireceived his musicaltraining and spentmost of his career inGermany. No wonderthen that his musicalinfluences were dividedas well - it's Wagnerand Rossini who getthat credit. Best rememberedfor his IlSegreto di Susanna ,Wolf-Ferrari had considerable success withhis Italian operas, though they tended to bebetter received in Munich and Bremen thanin Milan or his native Venice. La vedovascaltra, one of his later operas, is based on aplay by Carlo Goldoni, a fellow Venetianwhose 18th century plots frequently inspiredWolf-Ferrari. This is where another paradoxof the composer becomes apparent. He endowedthe comedic libretti of an era gone bywith music deeply rooted in the verismo tradition.As most Goldoni tales, La Vedova is amorality play telling of a cunning Venetianwidow, who through clever disguise tests theintentions of her four suitors. Not surprisingly,she chooses an Italian Count over a Spaniard,an Englishman and a Frenchman. Themusic is unfamiliar, but lovely and performedbeautifully. The sets are sumptuousand the DVD is worth watching for a glimpseinside the beautiful Teatro La Fenice alone.Among the principals, Anna-Lise Solliedstands out, while Alex Esposito, the servantArlecchino, is not only an accomplishedsinger but also possesses great comedic timing.This is yet another example of the highquality recordings produced by Naxos.Robert TomasLorin Maazel - 1984 (Big BrotherThe Opera)Simon Keenlyside; Nancy Gustafson;Richard Margison; Diana Damrau;Lawrence Brownlee; Royal Opera House,Covent Garden; Lorin MaazelDecca 07 4 3289In transforming George Orwell's seminalnovel Nineteen Eighty-Four into an opera,composer/conductor Lorin Maazel and hislibrettists changed the title to 1984. Likewise,the story of totalitarian dystopia has beencondensed to its mostdramatic moments,leaving out any trace ofthe novel's satiric wit.Where Orwell terrifiesthe reader throughunderstated irony,Maazel, now nearingthe end of a celebratedconducting career,stuffs terror down yourthroat. The music is· Illimpulsive and jarring, vehement at times, andthe singers are often stretched to the top oftheir ranges. While Maazel employs a widerange of musical styles, most often the musicconveys a volatile, swerving tone that swellsand pops in unexpected places and from unexpectedinstruments. At times, however, heindulges in more traditional genres - there'seven a syrupy love duet. No expense has beenspared on this new commission from theRoyal Opera at Covent Garden. Canadianstage director Robert Lepage has created adark, menacing production that works wellwith Maazel 's conception of the work. Bestof all is the casting - the inhabitants of Orwell'sworld might not be encouraged topossess creative thought, but they sure cansing. Simon Keenlyside is remarkable asWinston Smith, presenting a real, fleshed-outcharacter, and Nancy Gustafson is impassionedas his lover Julia. Canadian RichardMargison creates a powerful impact as theambiguous O'Brien, while Diana Damrau hastwo striking cameos. If the music does notconvince at all moments, the singers, staging,and gripping story make up for it. An extendedinterview with Maazel makes a valuablebonus.Seth EstrinDavid Alagna - Le Dernier Jour d'unCondamneRoberto Alagna; Indra Thomas;Jean-Philippe Lafont; Richard Rittelmann;Orchestre National d'Ile-de-France;Michel PlassonDeutsche Grammophon 480 095-8The abolition of the death penalty was themost important social issue for Victor Hugo."Revenge belongs to humans, the punishment- to God." These words of the great writerresonate through all of his works, nonestronger than TheLast Day of theCondemned. Theconcept postulatedby the novel was socontroversial at thetime, that Hugoinitially published itunder a pseudonym,only acknowledgingit years later. With the death penalty still areality in most of the world, this powerfulcondemnation of killing a human being in thename of the law is as resonant as ever. Theopera, created by the Alagna brothers (Davidis the composer, Frederico the librettist andRoberto the principal performer) is a stirringwork that owes much to the music of Poulenc,especially his Dialogues of the Carmelites.David and Frederico are also accomplishedvisual artists and created thedesign for the opera, one of their many suchcollaborations. The death-row prisoners, sungby the exquisite Roberto Alagna and lndraThomas, illustrate the depth of despair in theface of inevitable demise, although from twodifferent viewpoints. Presenting the anguishof the female prisoner is particularly effectivewhen juxtaposed and overlaid against thesuffering of the male protagonist. Despite itbeing a highly political piece of art, it is artnonetheless, skilfully exploiting the best tonaltraditions of operatic music. The end result isan opera that feels classical and yet thoroughlycontemporary, where both the music andthe libretto force the listener to ponder issuesof life and death.Robert TomasEARLY MUSIC ANDPERIOD PERFORMANCELa Pellegrina - Intermedii 1589Leclair; Mauch; Bertin; van Dyck; Novelli;Fajardo; Capriccio Stravagante RenaissanceSEPTEMB ER 1 - O CTOBER 7 2008WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM55

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