La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

This Week in Toronto (May 7 - 13)

Claudine Domingue, COC Director of Public Relations and Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, briefing the press during a media preview of the 450 year old temple used as the set for Handel's Semele (Photo: Joseph So)

Handel's Semele, the third and final production of the Canadian Opera Company's spring season opens on May 9 at the Four Seasons Centre. This Theatre Royal de la Monnaie 2009 production is directed by Chinese visual and performance artist Zhang Huan that places a western work in an eastern setting.  The centerpiece of the production is a 450 year old temple, which he purchased in 2007. In a media event hosted by the COC, the press were given the background information on this unique set. After its Brussels premiere, it was staged in Beijing in 2010, the first major staging of a Baroque opera in China. Zhang's Semele draws on parallels between Western and Chinese mythologies, so it promises to be a uniquely entertaining show. Canadian coloratura Jane Archibald is Semele, and Allyson McHardy is Juno. American tenor William Burden sings Jupiter in his COC debut. Canadian soprano Katherine Whyte, who sang Iphigenie last fall, is back as Iris. Baroque specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini conducts.  There are a total of eight performances plus a special COC Ensemble Studio performance on May 23. At the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on May 10 noon, members of the COC Orchestra are playing a free concert of French Salon Music for Wind instruments, as part of the COC Orchestra Chamber Series. Johannes Debus is at the helm. Be sure to show up an hour ahead for a seat.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Holst The Planets, a piece that used to be more frequently programmed.  Joaquin Valdepenas is solo clarinet in John Corigliano's Clarinet Concerto. A third piece on the program is new to me - Canzon per sonare No. 27 by Gabrieli. Peter Oundjian conducts. Two performances, May 9 and 10 8 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall.  If you have kids at home who are hockey nuts, take them to The Hockey Sweater, written and narrated by Roch Carrier. According to the TSO website, it's about a boy who had to wear a Maple Leafs sweater in a Quebec town - yikes! It's conducted by Alain Trudel and hosted by Ken Dryden.  Given the short attention span of kids, the two performances on Saturday May 12 are short, at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.

On May 11 8 p.m. at the Glenn Gould Studio, Sinfonia Toronto under the baton of its music director Nurhan Arman is presenting pianist Anya Alexeyev in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 (chamber version). Other pieces on the program are Dvorak's Quintet Op. 77 (orchestral version), plus a new work by Teehan called Lament for Lost Hope

The great pianist Emanuel Ax is making one of his frequent - and very welcome - return to Toronto. This time he is appearing at Koerner Hall in a recital featuring the works of Copland, Haydn, Beethoven, with the centerpiece being Schumann's Symphonic Etudes. Performance on Sunday May 13 at 3 p.m.

Finally, I want to mention the special Met in HD presentation of Wagner's Dream, which documents the making of the Lepage Ring which has captured the imagination of opera lovers world-wide.  I attended a media preview of this 1 hour 50 minute documentary on Wednesday morning (May 2) in Toronto.  Having seen all four operas as their were transmitted by satellite over the last year and a half, I must say that my own reaction has been quite mixed.  There were moments when I was totally blown away by the technological wonderment of it all, and other times when I felt that the "machine" was a bit of a double-edged sword, almost a straitjacket preventing any but the blandest attempt at a directorial concept staging.  Now having seen the documentary, I have come to a greater appreciation of the enormity of this project.  Some of my original thoughts still stands, such as the lack of a directorial interpretation.  But I feel that this production can be further tweaked to improve it in future revivals.  As each segment of the Ring was premiered, I noticed an improvement - Rheingold wasn't so great, but with each subsequent segment, the staging improved.  Walkure was wonderful and so was Goetterdammerung. Visually it is stunning in all segments. And the Met benefited from the participation of excellent singers - Voigt an emotionally engaged Brunnhilde, Jay Hunter Morris an impossibly visually perfect Siegfried, and most of all Bryn Terfel a vocally magnificent Wotan.  Anyone interested at all in Wagner and the Ring, this documentary is an absolute must-see.  It will be screened on May 7 6:30 p.m. at all participating theaters in Canada.



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