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Volume 18 Issue 8 - May 2013

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
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Includes the 2013 Canary Pages choral directory.

Beat by Beat | On

Beat by Beat | On OperaOpera BuffetApril has become a month so replete with opera that May,which used to be rather quiet, is beginning to fill up withopera as well. The Canadian Opera Company’s productionof Salome continues to May 22 and its production of Lucia diLammermoor to May 24. They are joined on May 8 by the final operaof the 2012/13 season, Dialogues des Carmélites. What is usual amongthe other offerings this month is the high concentration of 20th- and21st-century operas.Dialogues des Carmélites(1957) by Francis Poulenc hasnot been seen at the COC since1997. The opera is based on thetrue story of the 16 Carmelitenuns of Compiègne who weremartyred during the Reignof Terror on July 17, 1794. Theupcoming production is notablefor its high concentration ofCanadian talent. The cast unitessuch stars as Isabel BayrakdarianCHRISTOPHER HOILEDialogues des Carmé Blanche de la Force, Judith Forst as Madame de Croissy, AdriannePieczonka as Madame Lidoine, Hélène Guilmette as Soeur Constance,Frédéric Antoun as the Chevalier de la Force and Jean-FrançoisLapointe as the Marquis de la Force. Except for the role of Mère Mariesung by Russian mezzo Irina Mishura, all the remaining roles are sungby such well-known Canadian singers as Doug MacNaughton, MeganLatham, Rihab Chaieb, Michael Colvin and Peter Barrett.The production is directed by Canadian Robert Carsen who createdit for De Nederlandse Opera in 1997 and is designed by CanadianMichael Levine, who designed the COC’s Ring cycle. The physicalstaging is minimalist, relying on a few significant props and the useof light to set the many different scenes. Carsen’s staging, however,uses more than 100 supernumeraries to evoke the constant threat ofthe French Revolution that Blanche does not escape by taking the veil.The opera runs May 8 to 25 with Johannes Debus conducting the COCOrchestra. For more information see the new operas is the welcome return of Laura’s Cow:The Legend of Laura Secord composed by Errol Gay to a libretto byMichael Patrick Albano. The 75-minute opera written for the CanadianChildren’s Opera Company (, premieredin 2012 during Luminato as part of the commemoration of the War of1812. It was specifically written to include all levels of the 200-voiceCCOC from oldest to youngest, with the addition of three professionaladult singers. Emily Brown Gibson and Mary Christidis alternatein the role of Laura Secord, Andrew Love sings the roles of Caller,Balladeer and Lt. FitzGibbon as he did last year; and Tessa Laengertsings the delightful role of the Cow. Having reviewed the opera lastyear for The WholeNote blog, I can testify that it is an ideal operafor the whole family. Laura’s Cow runs from May 3 to May 5 at theEnwave Theatre. Michael Patrick Albano directs and Ann Cooper Gayconducts the 14-member orchestra.From May 10 to 12, Toronto Masque Theatre ( presents the world premiere of The Lesson of Da Ji by Alice PingYee Ho to a libretto by Marjorie Chan. The one-act opera plays on adoublebill called “The Lessons of Love” with John Blow’s 1683 operaVenus and Adonis and thus provides a view of the masque from pastand present, West and East.The story is inspired by real events in the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 bc). In the version by Ho and Chan, Da Ji, the king’s concubine,takes music lessons from the young nobleman Bo Yi to play theguqin, a type of zither. The king becomes jealous and exacts a grislyrevenge on Bo Yi.The singers include Vania Chan, Charlotte Corwin, Benjamin Covey,Alexander Dobson, Derek Kwan, Marion Newman, Xin Wang andTimothy Wong; the dancers are Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière and traditionalPeking Opera dancer William Lau. Derek Boyes directs andLarry Beckwith conducts the TMT ensemble. Ho’s composition blendsperiod baroque instruments (recorders, violins, viola da gamba, luteand harpsichord) and Chinese instruments (guqin, pipa, guzheng,erhu, gongs and drums).On May 14 and 15, the COSI Connection will present the worldpremiere of The Wings of the Dove by Canadian composer AndrewAger based on the 1902 novel by Henry James. The story concerns KateCroy and Merton Densher who are engaged but too poor to marry. Theentrance of the rich but terminally ill Milly Theale complicates andcompletely alters the couple’s relationship.Toronto audiences will remember Ager as the composer of theopera Frankenstein, first performed by TrypTychProductions in January 2010. When Ottawa’sThirteeen Strings premiered the Interlude from theopera in 2011, the Ottawa Citizen declared, “It’sgorgeous, if intensely wistful. Ager’s writing is subtlylayered, its emotions being persistent and powerfulwithout ever venturing into a hint of melodrama.”“COSI” stands for the Centre for Opera Studies inItaly that commissioned the work. Ager’s opera willlaunch the COSI Connection ( whichintends to bring back to Canada the fruit of thelabour and training Canadians have received at thecentre in Sulmona, Italy.The staged production at the Heliconian Hall in Yorkville willfeature soprano Leigh-Ann Allen, baritone Bradley Christensen,soprano Clodagh Earls, mezzo Stephanie Kallay and baritone DimitriKatotakis. Michael Patrick Albano is the stage director and thecomposer will provide the piano accompaniment. After the productionin Toronto, the opera will be produced in July at COSI in Italy,with full orchestra, choir and soloists.Opera by Request ( has several operas-in-concerton offer in May. There is Janáček’s Jenůfa on May 5, Mozart’s Così fantutte on May 24 and Puccini’s La Bohème on May 27. The rarest of theofferings, however, is Douglas Moore’s 1956 opera The Ballad of BabyDoe on May 11. The plot is based on the true story of the “Silver King”Horace Tabor (1830–1899), who built the opera house in Central City,Colorado, his wife, Augusta, and the woman, Elizabeth “Baby Doe”McCourt, with whom Tabor had an affair before divorcing his wife.Lisa Faieta sings the title role, Keith O’Brien is Horace Tabor, EugeniaDermentzis is Augusta and Tracy Reynolds is Baby Doe’s mother. All theOpera by Request performances this month take place at the CollegeStreet United Church and are accompanied by William Shookhoff atthe piano. OBR takes a new step withBaby Doein that the performancewill not be in concert but semi-staged, with Lisa Faieta as the director.Those seeking out 20th-century operas from Spain need look nofurther than the double bill byOpera Five ( of Goyescas(1915) by Enrique Granados and El retablo de maese Pedro (1923) byManuel de Falla. The singers include mezzo Catharin Carew, sopranoEmily Ding, soprano Rachel Krehm, baritone Giovanni Spanu andtenor Conrad Siebert. Maika’i Nash is the music director and pianist.Aria Umezawa directs. Performances on May 1 and 2 take place atGallery 345 ( May 2 to May 5, Toronto Operetta Theatre ( presents Offenbach’sLa Vie Parisienne(1866) as its season finale.Last staged in 1992, the new production stars Elizabeth DeGrazia asthe Swedish baroness with Stuart Graham as her wayward husband.Adam Fisher and Stefan Fehr play Parisian rogues ready to show thetwo foreigners a good time and Lauren Segal is the glamorous comedienne,Métella, ready to gamble for love. Christopher Mayell sings therole of the billionaire Brazilian whose masked ball concludes themadcap proceedings. Larry Beckwith conducts TOT Orchestra andGuillermo Silva-Marin directs.Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera andtheatre. He can be contacted at Kusel26 | May 1 – June 7, 2013

Sian RichardBeat by Beat | Art of SongA Woman’s LifeHANS DE GROOTIn virginia woolf’s novel, To the Lighthouse, the painter LilyBriscoe is much troubled when she recalls a young ambitious maleacademic saying: “Women can’t write; women can’t paint.” Nobodyhas ever doubted that there have been great women performers. Justthink of the concerto delle donne in late 16th-century Ferrara or thegirls who were trained at the Ospedale della Pietà in 18th-centuryVenice, of actresses like Sarah Siddons, Sarah Bernhardt and EleanoraDuse or dancers like Anna Pavlova. But the ability of women tobecome creative artists has in the past been questioned. It was sometimesasserted that women could never become great poets since theylacked creative power. I suspect that this attitude goes back to a longdiscredited physiological theory that held that only men could create,since the homunculus was already present in the sperm and that awoman simply provided a space where the embryo could develop.Of course, there have been a number of important womencomposers from Hildegard von Bingen in the 12th century toGermaine Tailleferre and Lili Boulanger in the early 20th and KaijaSaariaho, Sofia Gubaidulina and Ana Sokolović in our time. I alsosuspect that there would have been others had the intellectual climatebeen more sympathetic to the female composer. Several womencomposers have been close relatives of more famous men: FrancescaCaccini was the daughter of Giulio Caccini; Clara Schumann was thewife of Robert Schumann; Fanny Mendelssohn was the sister of FelixMendelssohn; Pauline Viardot was the daughter of Manuel García. Asa consequence they are sometimes seen as pale reflections of the malefigures to whom they were related.Sometimes too, a woman may have been content to be a “helpmeet.”There are two extant manuscripts of Claudio Monteverdi’s last opera,L’incoronazione di Poppea; one of these shows that Francesco Cavalli,Monteverdi’s pupil and successor, had made a number of revisions.But two-thirds of the manuscript is in the hand of Cavalli’s wife Maria.We know little about her: she was a widow when Francesco marriedher in 1630; she began copying in 1650 (her hand has been detectednot only in the Monteverdi but also in several of Cavalli’s own operas);she died in 1652. She must have been musically literate to be able todo this work. Could she have become a composer herself? We shallnever know. When Gustav Mahler courted Alma Schindler (who hadstudied composition with Alexander von Zemlinsky), he insisted thatshe could not be a composer, as it would be wrong to have more thanone composer in the family. Like Maria Cavalli, she became a copyistof her husband’s music. (Mahler was to change his mind about Alma’scompositions later.)Alison Mackay has played violone and double bass for Tafelmusiksince 1979. For Tafelmusik she has created several highly successfulmulti-media projects: “The Galileo Project;” ‘The Four Seasons;”“The House of Dreams.” Her next project is for the Toronto Consort:“A Woman’s Life” on May 24 and 25 at 8pm and May 26 at 3:30pm atTrinity-St. Paul’s Centre. The program will explore the lives of womencomposers and singers from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and theearly Baroque. It will feature vocal music by von Bingen, FrancescaCaccini and Barbara Strozzi.Other events: Tafelmusik presents arias and choruses fromHandel’s oratorios with Sophie Daneman, soprano, and Rufus Müller,tenor, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, May 1to May 4 at 8pm and May 5 at 3:30pm,and at the George Weston Recital Hall,May 7 at 8pm.The Aldeburgh Connection continuesits Britten Festival of Song with “The SongCycles,” with Shannon Mercer, soprano,and Susan Platts, mezzo at the GlennGould Studio, May 7 at 8pm and “A TimeThere Was,” with Virginia Hatfield,soprano, Scott Belluz, countertenor,Colin Ainsworth, tenor,and Geoffrey Sirett, baritone,at Walter Hall May 26at 2:30pm.On May 7 and 8 theTalisker Players presentsa program of works thatevoke birds. It includesmusic by Telemannand Arvo Pärt. Thesingers are ErinBardua, soprano,and Vicki St.Pierre, mezzo, atTrinity St. Paul’sCentre at 8pm.I met R.H.Thomson morethan 40 yearsago when wewere both in aproduction ofthe crucifixionscene from theYork Mysteryplays. Thomsonplayed Pilate andI was one of themalefactors whotorment Christ.This may havebeen the highAlisonMackay.Lucia di LammermoorGaetano DonizettiApril 17 – May 416-363-8231TICKETS FROM 2012·2013Production May 1 – June 7, 2013 | 27anna Christy. Photo: Clive Barda. Creative: Bt/a

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