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Volume 18 Issue 5 - February 2013

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  • February
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Beat by Beat | Art of

Beat by Beat | Art of SongLife After SingingHANS DE GROOTThe swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod made his name in 1937 in thepioneering recordings of the music of Monteverdi, directed byNadia Boulanger. Subsequently he became a noted performer ofFrench song. In 1987, in his 85th year, he made his debut at the Metin New York in the role of the Emperor Altoun in Puccini’s Turandot.He continued to perform in public until he was 90; he died in 2010, atthe age of 108. Cuénod’s career was unusual but he was not the onlysinger who has gone on performing into old age. Placido Domingois now 72; he began as a baritone (like Jeande Reszke, John Coates, LauritzMelchior and Ramon Vinay) and hehas now moved back to the baritonerepertoire (while still singing tenorparts) and is performing some of thegreat Verdi baritone roles.On the other hand, many singershave retired from public performancesin middle age. I remember thesadness I felt when Elly Ameling andJanet Baker retired but, looking back, Iam sure they made the right decision.It would not have been a good thing ifsome old codger were to say “She is goodbut you should have heard her 12 yearsago.” Still, some singers retire very early.Norma Burrowes began her career in1970 (Glyndebourne, Royal Opera House Covent Garden). In 1971 shejoined the English National Opera and later in the 70s she performedin Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, the New York Met and the Paris Opéra. Iheard her several times in London and I treasure the recording of Acisand Galatea in which she sings Galatea. She retired in 1982, when shewas in her 38th year. She became a vocal coach at the University ofSaskatchewan in 1992, moved to Toronto in 1994 and now teaches atYork University. My colleague Ori Dagan writes: “Norma was alwayswarm and encouraging to me, going out of her way to suggest repertoirethat might suit my voice. I remember in particular the way hereyes lit up when talking about a particular song by Fauré —“It wouldbe so perfect for you, Ori” — Her passion for teaching this music wasundoubtedly infectious.”Another singer who retired early is the versatile soprano JennieSuch. She has sung opera, oratorio, song recitals and even musicalcomedy. I have vivid memories of her superb Susanna in Mozart’sMarriage of Figaro for Opera Ontario in Hamilton. She now has ayoung child and finds combining motherhood with a full-time performingcareer difficult. But she remains a teacher and an adjudicatorand is now exploring a new field: music therapy.Kathy Domoney was a member of the COC Ensemble Studio andthe COC chorus, gave recitals and performed with groups such asthe Aldeburgh Connection and Opera in Concert, performed at Banffand at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She no longer performs(although she is still active as an adjudicator) but has instead openedan agency. It is a small agency (a boutique agency as she calls it) andshe wishes to keep it that way as that allows her to help the artists sherepresents in a more effective way than would be the case in a biggerfirm. At present she has 17 artists on her list, ranging from the sopranoCharlotte Corwin to the recorder player-conductor-composerMatthias Maute.The soprano Adreana Braun has moved sideways, so to speak. Brauntrained as a classical singer and performed with Opera Atelier andthe Canadian Opera Company. Over the past 12 years, however, shehas established herself as a jazz singer and it is as Adi Braun that sheis now best known. You will be able to hear her on March 6 at 8pm,when she will perform at Musideum.SOME othER eventsThe French soprano Sandrine Piau sang Vivaldi and Handel withTafelmusik on January 31; there will be further performanceson February 1 and 2 at 8pm and on February 3 at 3:30pm, all atTrinity-St. Paul’s Centre.On February 9 at 8pm at the Eastminster United Church, NathaliePaulin will be the soprano soloist in a concert of music by Bach, titled“Bach’s Blessings.” According to the presenter, Academy ConcertSeries: “In the Baroque era, G major was the key of Benediction or‘blessing’ and is central to the theme of this concert.”Also on February 9, Gillian Keith, soprano, and Keith Weber, piano,will perform works by Schumann, Britten, Purcell, Lehár and othersat the Rosedale Presbyterian Church, 7:30pm.Colin Ainsworth will be thevocal soloist in the Toronto MasqueErin Walls as Clémencein the Canadian OperaCompany production ofLove from Afar, 2012.Theatre production of “Les Rosesde la Vie” at the Enoch TurnerSchoolhouse, February 7 to 9, 8pm.There will be two free vocalrecitals by the Canadian OperaCompany Ensemble Studio: “Vivel’amour,” a musical celebrationof love, on February 14, anda concert of arias and songs byRichard Strauss on February 21,both at noon in the RichardBradshaw Auditorium.On February 16 sopranoCarla Huhtanen is the soloistin “The Tapestry Songbook,” aconcert of Canadian music at 7:30pmin the Ernest Balmer Studio drawn from Tapestry Opera’s33-year history of new opera productions.The Canadian Voices series at Glenn Gould Studio, February 24 at2pm, returns with David Pomeroy, tenor and Sandra Horst, piano. Theprogram includes music by Handel, Beethoven, Duparc, Quilter andde Curtis as well as three Newfoundland sea song arrangements withclarinet obbligato. We last heard Pomeroy in the role of Alfred in DieFledermaus. That role is a parody of the operatic tenor: a randy malewith a high voice. But the part can only be performed properly bysomeone who can sing the real thing, as Pomeroy did in his superbperformance as Offenbach’s Hoffmann for the COC last season.On March 1 and 2 at 8pm, Against the Grain Theatre presents twosong cycles: Janáček’s Diary of One Who Disappeared and Kurtág’sKafka-Fragments. The performers: in the Janáček, Lesley Bouza andSarah Halmerson, sopranos, Eugenia Dermentzis and Lauren Segal,mezzos, Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and Christopher Mokrzewski, piano;in the Kurtág, Jacqueline Woodley, soprano, and Kerry DuWors.Earlier this year soprano Erin Wall took three months off on maternityleave but she returns to the stage in the TSO performance ofBeethoven’s Ninth Symphony, along with mezzo Allyson McHardy,tenor Joseph Kaiser and bass-baritone Shenyang at Roy ThomsonHall, February 13, 15 and 16 at 8pm. On March 7 at 8pm she will performwith the pianist John Hess, in a program of works by Schubert,Korngold, Strauss and Ricky Ian Gordon at the Jane Mallett Theatre.Rather surprisingly, this is part of Music Toronto’s Discovery Series—those who heard Wall’s fine performances in the COC productionsof Love from Afar and The Tales of Hoffmann must feel that she nolonger needs to be discovered.A postscript: I was privileged to attend the competition for entry tothe COC Ensemble Studio on November 29. First prize as well as theaudience prize went to the bass-baritone Gordon Bintner, the secondprize was awarded to the tenor Andrew Haji and the mezzo CharlotteBurrage won third prize. All three will be members of the EnsembleStudio for 2013/14; they will be joined by soprano Aviva Fortunata,mezzo Danielle MacMillan and baritone Clarence Frazer.Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listenerwho also sings and plays the recorder.He can be contacted at HuTCHeson12 February 1 – March 7, 2013

Beat by Beat | Choral SceneThe Not So GrandGood Old DaysBENJAMIN STEINIn december 2 0 1 2 a photo essay appeared in the New York Timesshowing the destruction of a piano abandoned on a New York sidewalk.A series of successive photos told a putatively moving story,accompanied by music sombre and dramatic by turns, in which thepiano was stared at, played idly by passersby and ultimately destroyedand carted away.What was more illuminating than the photos themselves were thecomments posted online as the essay travelled over the internet. Anumber could be paraphrased as “What a sad comment on the currentstate of the arts, as the piano is trashed just like the culture.” The mixtureof ruefulness and self-satisfaction was galling.In art and everywhere else, the good old days were never good,folks. Culture is always in flux, and time alters our view of art thatis initially considered trashy or meretricious — like Shakespeare,Delta blues or cable television — into something elevated and timeless.Anyone nostalgic for an Elysian epoch in which classical culturewas ascendant throughout the West and there was a piano, a violinand a Beethoven score in every humble home, simply hasn’t readany history.In 2009 American music historian Elijah Wald published How theBeatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of AmericanPopular Music. Once you get past the misleadingly quarrel-pickingtitle (good for generating a bit of buzz, anyhow), this book has manyexcellent insights about how we listen to music, and how our perceptionof it evolves over time.Wald makes the point that the ability to record music irrevocablychanged our experience of it. John Phillip Sousa coined theterm “canned music,” and felt that recorded music would degradepeople’s ability to create it themselves. In many ways he was correct.Wald states: “virtually all dancing is now commonly done to recordings.”Singing of lullabies at home and at religious services, twoareas in which live music still functions, can easily be replaced withrecorded music.At the same time, Wald observes that we now have instant accessto “the finest artists, alive or dead, who have ever been recordedanywhere in the world, and we can hear it whenever we want, whereverwe go, in whatever order and whatever volume we please.”This has given modern musicians “a breadth of experience and createda wealth of fusions that would have been unimaginable” in thepast. From the point of view of cross-cultural awareness and opportunity,you could argue that the good old days are right now. Let uslook at the stylistic mixture of several concerts coming up in the nextfew weeks.Tcc on the move: Perhaps I am not especially sympathetic topianos, abandoned or otherwise, because I regard them as such aPETER MAHONSales Representative416-322-8000pmahon@trebnet.comwww.petermahon.comFebruary 1 – March 7, 2013 13

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