The opera tenor Roberto Alagna, who started out signing in a Paris pizza bar, confessed to a huge admiration for Barbara and said he learned from her how to perform in small spaces like L’Ecluse, whichseat no more than 60 people, most of them eating their dinner through a performance.
Jonas Kaufmann really wants you to watch Faust this weekend. How can you say no to that face?
THE BIRDS TAKE UP THEIR CHARMING SONGS ONCE MORE Special guest narrator: Bruce Hunter Vivaldi - Four Seasons Musical Improvisations – The Audience becomes the Storyteller
The holidays are a time to be together with those you love. Join with friends, family and community and participate in some music making with Via Salzburg. The Baroque sounds of Vivaldi prepare our ears as Via Salzburg and our audience create music together for the first time. Friday, December 9, 2011, 8pm. Rosedale United Church, 159 Roxborough Drive, Toronto.
BACK TO BACK - CONTINUUM MUSIC Continuum Musicco-presented with the Music Gallery and Toronto New Music Projects, Back to Back is a concert of works for small ensemble by experimentalist extraordinaire Vinko Globokar. This event, together with a New Music Concerts performance on December 11, creates a rare concentration of Globokar’s work that is not to be missed. The programme includes Dos à Dos, Terres brûlées, ensuite…, a brilliantly theatrical trio for piano, saxophone and percussion with electronics by Thomas Kessler, and a group improvisation led by Globokar on trombone. Performers - Composer and trombone: Vinko Globokar (FR) With: Thomas Kessler (electronics), Wallace Halladay (saxophone), Stephen Clarke (piano), Ryan Scott (percussion), David Schotzko (percussion). December 9, 2011, 8 pm. The Music Gallery, 197 John Street, Toronto, ON, CA, M5T 1X6
"Sasha Djihanian was born in Montreal and is a graduate of the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal with honours of First Prize and Great Distinction. She is a Jacqueline Desmarais Grant Holder, winner of the Third Prize at the Czech and Slovak International Competition, and Second Prize at the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition. Ms Djihanian was a national finalist in the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a semi-finalist in the 2011 Queen Elisabeth Competition and a finalist in the 2011 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. Upcoming performances include Haydn's Die Schöpfung and Micaëla in Carmen at the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, Italy with Lorin Maazel conducting."
Gratuitous photos of ripped men covered in pizza dough. It’s art, don’t judge. Exhibition by Chris Curreri. [Daniel Faria Gallery]
Don’t know your fachs from your fermatas? Do "falcon," "dugazon" and "baryton-martin" sound like high priced cocktails to you? Want to impress that opera singer next door? You should read this article about musical terminology. [Opera News]
Pablo Heras-Cased, the young Spanish one to watch, has been named principal conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Watch out for performances at Carnegie Hall and Caramoor. [NYTimes]
“The astonishing thing about this debut album of prim and chilly Canadian synth pop is singer Katie Stelmanis—the shuddery force in her operatic voice, and the way she builds it into layers and harmonies that feel like little sculptures.” Austria’s lead singer, Katie Stelmanis sang with the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus, the band performed at Operanation 2011, and is New York Magazine’s number one album choice for 2011. [NYMag]
I spent this summer in Germany and Austria, I’d like to pay homage to those two nations with a list of the best schnitzel in Toronto. [BlogTO]
"Back in the 1970s, when Tori Amos was a pre-adolescent girl in the preparatory program at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, none of her teachers would have imagined that one day she would be recording her own compositions for the renowned classical label Deutsche Grammophon." [The Globe and Mail]
Beer, jam sessions, jeans. It’s a classical music revolution, and it’s happening all over North America. [The Globe and Mail]
Topless Ballet Lessons with Roberto Bolle: Yes, It's Really as Good as it Sounds. [Opera Chic]
Critics and artists are often dependent on each other for their careers, and can blame failure on one another as well. The critic’s job is to analyze and discuss perceived problems while acknowledging success. Amici Chamber Ensemble has decided to make the critic an integral part of the process, rather than an observer at the conclusion, by asking some of Toronto’s most influential critics to personally suggest the repertoire that Amici will play. John Terauds (Toronto Star), John Van Driel (Classical 96.3 FM) and Colin Eatock (Globe and Mail) are the three critics who have contributed by helping to program Amici’s latest project.
What do you think? Is it a brilliant idea to let the judges of your work contibute to the final product, or is it crazy to let an outsider have imput on your work? I'd love to hear your responses in the comments section.
The Art Life and Stilettos Performance Calendar. December 2 - December 4, 2011
To submit your event, please email email@example.com
Soulful Messiah - Ballet Creole Soulfully danced to Quincy Jones’ Grammy Award-winning R&B rendition of Handel’s Messiah, this universal holiday tradition will leave you singing “Hallelujah!” throughout the festive season! Enriched by the uplifting voices of Aretha Franklin, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight, Ballet Creole infuses tap, African-Caribbean, ballet, jazz and modern dance in this unique celebration of life through dance and music. With the eclectic energy of Ballet Creole’s Dance Company, and featuring David Cox (former Stomp member), Soulful Messiah drives its dancers and its audiences to rejoice! Now celebrating its 10th year anniversary with enhanced lighting and new costumes, it’s the perfect time to discover the magic of this season favourite. Friday, December 2, 2011, 8:00 pm - Sunday, December 4, 2011, 8:00 pm. Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West. http://www.balletcreole.org/
Eve Egoyan “Returnings” music by Ann Southam
Eve Egoyan will perform works recorded on her new CD Returnings, world première recordings of music for solo piano by Ann Southam. The performance will include three Toronto premières including the world première of Returnings II: A Meditation. Along with Simple Lines of Enquiry, this disc represents the complete works for solo piano that Ann wrote with Eve in mind. Friday, December 02, 2011. 8pm. Glenn Gould Studio. http://www.roythomson.com
Ambur Braid as the Queen of the Night - Photo by Diana Di Mauro
Against the Grain Theatre is another local company that has taken the tradition of opera and flipped it on its head, presenting classic works with a laid back attitude, and in interesting places. Against the Grain Theatre is "a collective of Toronto artists - actors, opera singers, musicians, painters, writers, dancers, and arts professionals - with a thing for performing in unique spaces. We want to take the classics and turn them sideways - that is, present them... differently. Cozily. Sometimes with beer and popcorn."
Super Villains is the performance that I attended. There was Steam Whistle on ice (Steam Whistle loves opera, don't they?) and a never-ending supply of candy and chocolates laid out. The theme of the evening was inspired by comic book super villains. Magneto, Green Goblin and the Joker would have been right at home. They presented a unique mix of opera and musical theatre pieces, performed by villainous characters but loosened them up a bit. Whips, beer and razor blades all made welcome appearances.
Smash Furniture Store made for an inspiring performance space, as their merchandise tilts the scale towards theatrical styling than conventional furniture. The exposed brick, vintage fixtures and sale tags on the audience's seats contributed to the warm and easy going atmosphere. The singers were inches from the audience, and as observers we were completely engaged into the scenes by the performers. It came across like audience members were spontaneously getting up to perform. It completely worked.
The repertoire was classic as it gets, and the character choices exposed the complex and evil personalities of Don Giovanni, Carmen, the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflote), Sweeney Todd, Esclarmonde, Tarquinius (The Rape of Lucretia), Medea Redux, and Javert (Les Miserables).
Yes, opera villains are as appealing as you think. I loved the performance.
Super Villains featured Gene Wu, Stephen Hegedus, Ambur Braid, Vilma Vitols, Christopher Mokrzewski and Noa May Dorn.
Photos are below, video will follow shortly. Don't forget to check out Against the Grain Theatre's production of La Boheme, performed in English at the Tranzac Club December 1, 2 and 3. This opera is actually being performed in a bar. Hallelujah, let's all go!
I like to take opportunities as they come. Most of the time I'm pleasantly surprised with the outcome, and being given the opportunity to attend Tapestry New Opera's Pub Operas was definitely no exception. When I found out about the performance I was super excited. An opera written about a pub, inspired by a pub and performed in a pub, and in the Distillery District no doubt, sounded pretty great to me. Of course I probably should have paid more attention to the description of the venue because once I was past the Distillery's toll booth of a front gate, I spent about ten minutes trying to find the Ernest Balmer Studio. For whatever reason I just couldn't get the idea of an opera taking place in Sloan’s Pub out of my head and I kept circling all the festive looking watering holes hoping that Tapestry would be warming-up inside. I soon realized that they actually have a performance space on the third floor of one of those festive looking buildings. The show was not in a pub.
Alright, I can accept that they didn't perform in an actual bar, it was their studio space dramatically turned into a Scottish pub, complete with bartenders and Steam Whistle on tap. It was pretty cool, plus it gave them control over having a stage set up that worked best for the opera, room for a small orchestra with grand piano and of course, gave the performers a generous backstage area to work with. Ah, reality. Anyway, back to the opera itself.
Tapestry provided us with the operatic equivalent of a five course meal complete with the ghost of Chopin, a crazy lady, happy and angry drunks, live country music, a robbery, a wedding, a serial killer, and a dead guy. The beer was cold, the snacks were Scottish, and the opera was undeniably satisfying. Scottish composer Gareth Williams provided the modern score that at times seemed minimalist inspired and at other moments felt more theatrical. The libretto was written by Canadian, David Brock. He was a way with words that gave the characters life and humanity.
Pub Operas was - Wayne Strongman, Music Director; Xin Wang, soprano; Heather Jewson, mezzo soprano; James McLean, tenor; Benjamin Covey, baritone.
Tapestry New Opera's next production will be, The Tapestry Songbook, January 28, 2012. "This concert will showcase bravura arias from the extensive library of Tapestry produced operas, performed by artists from the Tapestry New Work Studio Company and participants from Tapestry’s New Opera 101 Master Class/Workshop. Soprano Xin Wang, Baritone Peter McGillivray and Collaborative Pianist Christopher Foley return as both performers and master class clinicians."
Pub Opera's Assistant Director, Michael Mori, sent me some artistic rehearsal photos that really capture the mood of the night. You can watch the slide show below, or click through the pic by pic gallery.
Ten things to do in Toronto this weekend: November 18 to November 20, 2011
Alfred Hitchcock's heartwarming story of a boy and his mother is one of the most legendary shockers of all time. Screening is part of Icy Fire: The Hitchcock Blonde series, at tiff. “Both worshipped and victimized, the cool, aloof blonde was one of Hitchcock's key obsessions. Explore the Master's fair-haired fixation in such suspense classics as Rear Window, Vertigo and Psycho.” Psycho screens Saturday, November 19, 2011. 5:00pm. The series runs until December 11.
CHAGALL’S MUSICAL WORLD
Koffler Chamber Orchestra. The kick-off concert of the Koffler Chamber Orchestra season is inspired by the Art Gallery of Ontario’s stunning fall exhibition of Marc Chagall and the Russian modernist artists. The program features Chagall’s favourite composers, Mozart and Tchaikovsky in addition to composers who share the painter’s Russian Jewish background. Chagall often depicted klezmer musicians and the milieu of Eastern European Jewish culture, reflected in the original composition – Klezmer Dance Suite – created especially for the Koffler Chamber Orchestra by Toronto clarinetist, Martin van de Ven. Like Chagall, Alfred Schnittke draws upon both tradition and modernity. Schnittke’s Piano Concerto is reprised by Russian-born Toronto musician Andrew Burashko who gave its Canadian premiere. Sunday, November 20, 2011, 3:00PM.
Art Gallery of Ontario, Walker Court, 317 Dundas St. W. FREE with admission to the AGO.
Ryan MacPherson as Alfredo and Malcolm MacKenzie as Giorgio in Glimmerglass Opera’s 2009 production of Verdi’s La traviata
Photo by Richard Termine/Glimmerglass Opera
Anne Midgette wrote the New York Times article that opera enthusiasts often refer to when commenting on the decline of "the big voice." Her article mentioned problems in the structure of the university system which may have contributed to the decline in full bodied singers, and questioned the trend towards lighter voices. Olivia Giovetti has written a counter article that recently appeared in Classical Singer Magazine, that asks whether we are focusing on the wrong question when we wonder where the big voices have gone. She comes up with a number of reasons why the industry may be looking for lighter, more agile voices. She cites examples of voices being destroyed from strain, anxiety, drug addiction and fatigue, and claims that the necessity of having a large voice for the sake of filling a big opera house is the real problem, and that perhaps we need to instead look at the small house model that had nurtured many of the voices of the past.
Operanation 8: A Muse Ball, the fundraising gala thrown by the Canadian Opera Company in support of the Ensemble Circle was definitely the highlight of my fall event season. It was my first time attending the bash and I was blown away by how many people (over a thousand) came out to support our great musical talent. I have a bunch of photos that I'll be putting up in a future post, but for now I hope you enjoy this video I produced. The best part is the amazing clip of Rufus Wainwright performing "The Art Teacher." I was standing so close I felt like I could reach out and play some upper harmonies with him on his baby grand. Look out for cameos by the outstanding COC Musical Director, Johannes Debus, and the ever charming General Director, Alexander Neef.
Lang Lang is in Toronto for a 10-day engagement. He takes on all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos, plus works by Mendelssohn, Smetana and Martinů, and he will be premiering a piece by Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng. To November 19. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. http://www.tso.ca/Concerts-And-Tickets/Residencies/Lang-Lang.aspx
I was invited to the launch of Maya Chendke's new book, Awake but Dreaming, at the Shangri-La in Toronto. Awake but Dreaming explores the pitfalls of fame and the cult of celebrity. The main characters hail from Toronto and Maya made sure to include as many local favourites as she could, and even had these Toronto gems show off their goods her launch. Boutiques, bakeries and custom made cocktails all told the story of Awake but Dreaming from Maya's and her characters' perspective. I just started reading the book, and so far I'm loving it. It's a fun, easy read that has already taken me on a worldwide adventure and reminded me of how great it is back home. Check out the photo gallery and slideshow below, and don't forget to check out Maya's new book. You can read a chapter for free on her website or purchase it here and here.
Rosemarie Umetsu and Diana Di Mauro - Photo by Enzo Di Mauro
There are few things I love more than music and fashion, as you may have guessed, so when the fabulously talented and classical music loving designer Rosemarie Umetsu got ahold of me to cover both the reopening of her Atelier on Davenport Road and the launch of Soundstreams Encore, who was I to refuse? I took a video of the evening that features an interview with Rosemarie about her fashion designs, an interview with Soundstreams Founder and Artistic Director Lawrence Cherney about his work and music in Toronto, and a bunch of info about Encore. I think it's a fun initiative that will help draw younger audiences to more creative musical programming. Percussionist Ryan Scott did a very unique demonstration and had a special surprise for all the guests. A surprise that had me giggling with delight, that's for sure.
To further celebrate the birthday of Franz Liszt, I thought I'd share some of the photos I took during my visit to his home, which has been converted into a small museum in Bayreuth, Germany. You can press play below to watch the slideshow, or follow this link to see the gallery with captions.
There was no flash photography allowed in the museum, so please disregard the poor quality of some of the images.
I love the sound of Diana Damrau's voice. I'm less than pleased with the way our names look strikingly similar and how close our voice types are, but I digress. This week we're celebrating the birth of a brilliant composer, a virtuosic pianist who has made history for both his music and for the size of his huge hands and feet. This week we say Happy Birthday to Franz Liszt. What better way to celebrate the man than with a sumptuous recording of some of his vocal music sung by the scintillating soprano Diana Damrau and accompanied on the piano by the masterful Helmut Deutsch.
Diana's latest album, thoughtfully titled "Lizst Lieder" is now available for order in Germany. Fortunately you can also purchase the digital album from Amazon. Not sure if this recording is for you? You can sample the album online.