La Scena Musicale

Monday, 12 May 2014

This Week in Toronto (May 12 - 18)

This Week in Toronto (May 12 - 18)

- Joseph So


We are in the final two weeks of the Canadian Opera Company's season.  It's arguably the strongest spring presentation by the COC, ever.  For me, the jewel in the crown is Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, thanks to the incredible vocalism of Canadian-American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky.  I saw the performance last Saturday and it was an unforgettable experience. The rest of the cast aren't too shabby either, with baritone Russell Braun (Nottingham), mezzo Allyson McHardy (Sara), and the debut of tenor Ernesto Ramirez (Roberto). The audience went wild at the end, on their feet cheering. We have a new tenor for the three remaining performances - Spaniard Jose Bros, who is a very well known bel canto specialist with a career focused in Europe. He has sung the title role with none other than the great Edita Gruberova. Performances this week on Thursday May 15th 7:30 pm and Sunday May 18th 2 pm.  The third production, Massenet's Don Quichotte starring the great Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, opened last Friday. The beautiful production from Seattle Opera captures the inherent romanticism and whimsy of the piece, and Furlanetto was astounding in his embodiment of the role of the quixotic knight. The audience reaction was extremely warm, for a work that probably very few had previously seen. That tells you that when something is well done and respects the spirit of the work, it is appreciated. I have written a full review which you can access through this link - http://blog.scena.org/2014/05/don-quichotte-brilliant-end-to.html  Performances this week on Wednesday May 14 and Saturday May 17. http://coc.ca/Home.aspx



Baritone Russell Braun (Photo: Johannes Ifkovits)

Baritone Russell Braun, one of Canada's best known opera singers and a Canadian Opera Company audience favourite, is currently singing Duke of Nottingham in Roberto Devereux. and a fabulous Nottingham he is! He combines powerful vocalism with dramatic intensity - the confrontation scene with Sara (Allyson McHardy) is frightening.  His Count di Luna was equally scary, come to think of it!  On Tuesday May 13, we'll get to experience another side of his art, in Journeys of the Soul, a noon hour recital at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. On the program are two deeply introspective works, Samuel Barber's Dover Beach, based on text by English poet Matthew Arnold, and Gabriel Faure's song cycle,  La bonne chanson, Op. 61.  Braun's warm and beautiful baritone is ideal in these pieces. Joining him are members of the COC Orchestra (violinists Marie Berard and Dominique Laplante, violist Keith Hamm, cellist Paul Widner, bass Alan Molitz, and pianist - also Braun's wife - Carolyn Maule. Be sure to show up an hour ahead to ensure a seat. Program details at  http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert140513.pdf

Also interesting is a chamber music concert of Handel and Albinoni, with soprano Sasha Djihanian and members of the COC Orchestra (violinists Liz Johnson and Paul Zevenhuizen, violist Keith Hamm and Brandon Chui, cellist Alastair Eng and harpsichordist Paul Jenkins). Djihanian is soon to graduate as a member of the COC Ensemble Studio. She will be featured in a Farewell recital next week, but for now, she is singing two arias from Handel's Giulio Cesare - 'Da tempeste' and 'Piangero', plus 'Moriro, ma vendicata.' Incidentally, you can hear Djihanian singing 'Da tempeste' beautifully with excellent agility at the 2011 Cardiff Singer of the World where she represented Canada - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enNuRtbPmak  Performance at Thursday May 15 noon at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.   


Soprano Sasha Djihanian (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)


To mark the Victoria Day Weekend, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting a program of (mostly) British music, Purcell's Dances from the Fairy Queen followed by Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony - never mind that Mendelssohn was actually German but visited Britain ten times in his life and had great successes there.  For a change of pace, there's also Alberto Ginastera's Harp Concerto, with TSO Principal Harp Heidi Van Hoesen Gorton as soloist. May 15 2 pm and May 17 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. The performance on Wednesday May 14 is part of the Afterworks Series, starting at 6:30 pm and no Harp Concerto. British conductor Michael Francis is the guest maestro.  http://tso.ca/en-ca/Home.aspx




Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 12 au 18 mai / This Week in Montreal: May 12 to 18

Ted & Richard's 2 Pianos 4 Hands
Canada's highly successful musical, 2 Pianos 4 Hands opens at Montreal's Centaur Theatre on April 29th. Co-written by Alberta-born Ted Dykstra and ex-Montrealer Richard Greenblatt, the play has garnered critical acclaim since its creation in 1996. Four thousand performances and 200 cities later, the show has been seen by some 2 million people worldwide. 2 Pianos 4 Hands is about two kids who yearn for stardom. Amidst pushy stage parents, eccentric pedagogues, endless hours of piano practice and brutal competitions, the boys finally confront - if not accept - life's tough realities. Great talent is sometimes a burden and when the dream dies, it can be heart-wrenching. But the co-creators have fashioned an uproarious comedy that ultimately imparts poignant life lessons. The hilarious play features varying musical genres, from Bach and Beethoven to Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Joel. For every parent who thinks that their tyke might be the next Lang Lang, this is a must-see production. Its universal themes will also resonate with anyone who's ever dreamt of fame and fortune. April 29 to May 25. Centaur Theatre. www.centaurtheatre.com
- Naomi Gold


André Laplante
FESTIVAL DE MUSIQUE DE CHAMBRE DE MONTREAL (FMCM)
Du 8 au 31 mai se déroulera à l'église St. George la 19e édition du Festival de musique de chambre. Parmi les grand moments, il faut souligner le menu gastronomique du concert d'ouverture qui comprend la soprano Karina Gauvin, le pianiste André Laplante et le lauréat du premier prix au Concours international de quatuor à cordes de Banff en 2013, le Qatuor Dover, dont c'est la première visite au Québec. On l'entendra de nouveau le lendemain en concert conjoint avec le Quatuor Cecilia. Le marathon traditionnel de la soirée de clôture offre cette année l'intégrale des cinq concertos pour violon de Mozart qui seront interprétés par le violoniste Cho-Liang Lin.
Le festival présente le mardi de grands pianistes canadiens : André Laplante, le 13 (Ravel et Liszt), Angela Cheng, le 20 (Haydn, Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven) et Jon Kimura Parker, le 27 (Stravinski, Arlen et Hirtz). Un concert en hommage aux grands trompettistes regroupera le trompettiste Jens Lindemann et une douzaine d'artistes dans un programme très varié (le 17). Les Saisons de Vivaldi seront associées à celles de Piazzola (Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas) et interprétées par le violoniste Martin Beaver, le claveciniste Hank Knox et l'Ensemble à cordes du Festival (le 29).
www.festivalmontreal.org
- Renée Banville

Montreal West Operatic Society Celebrates a Diamond JubileeMWOS’s seventy-fifth satirical season of G&S features Patience or, Bunthorne's Bride, the sixth operetta (of 14) co-written by William S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan. Patience parodies the pretensions of England's aesthetic art movement (circa 1880), and its most prominent proponents such as poets A.C. Swinburne, D.G. Rossetti and wildly popular playwright, Oscar Wilde. Pining away for pretty milkmaid Patience, Reginald Bunthorne attempts to woo her with his poetic musings, which she finds rather pompous. Particularly pleasing is the patented G&S patter song. Savoyards and historians take note: Patience inaugurated London's Savoy Theatre in 1881, and the legendary theatre actually pioneered the use of electricity in a public auditorium. May 7, 10, 11, Victoria Hall, Westmount, May 15, 16, 17, The Hudson Village Theatre, May 31, The Piggery, North Hatley. www.mwos.org
- Naomi Gold

LE RÊVE DE GRÉGOIRE – UNE COPRODUCTION SMCQ ET CHANTS LIBRES
Dans le cadre de la 4e saison du Vivier, la compagnie lyrique de création Chants Libres, sous la direction artistique de Pauline Vaillancourt, présente son 15e opéra, Le rêve de Grégoire de Pierre Michaud qui signe également le livret. Mise en scène de René-Daniel Dubois et scénographie de Gabriel Tsampalieros. Un voyage à la croisée des chemins entre le fantastique et la réalité, interprété par le quatuor à cordes Bozzini, le quatuor de saxophones Quasar et l’ensemble à percussion Sixtrum, sous la direction de Walter Boudreau. Avec les chanteurs François-Olivier Jean (ténor), Marie-Annick Béliveau (mezzo-soprano), Dion Mazerolle (baryton), Andrzej Stec (ténor), Rebecca Woodmass (soprano colorature), Michiel Schrey (ténor) et Dorothéa Ventura (soprano). Monument-National, 15-16-17 mai, 20 h, www.chantslibres.org
- Renée Banville

DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY EN RÉCITAL
Le grand baryton russe revient à Montréal. Acclamé sur les scènes internationales pour ses interprétations de rôles verdiens, habitué du Metropolitan Opera de New York, il offrira un récital unique à la Maison symphonique. Dmitri Hvorostovsky sera accompagné par le pianiste estonien Ivari Ilya, avec qui il poursuit une tournée internationale. Le programme du récital est à forte consonance russe – on entendra des œuvres de Tchaïkovski, Rachmaninov, Medtner et Liszt. Montréal marque le début d’une tournée nord-américaine qui prendra fin en juin à Toronto, après une boucle aux États-Unis. Maison symphonique, 16 mai. www.hvorostovsky.com
- Justin Bernard

VISITES DES VIOLONS DU ROY EN MAI
Les Violons seront de retour pour L'effet Marwood, un concert où le violoniste britannique Anthony Marwood agira comme chef et violoniste. Au programme : Enesco, Suk et Dvořák. Salle Bourgie, 16 mai, 19 h 30. www.violonsduroy.com
- Renée Banville

Kamen Chanev
TURANDOT DE PUCCINI À L’OPÉRA DE MONTRÉAL
Pour sa quatrième et dernière production de la saison 2013-2014, l’Opéra de Montréal présentera Turandot, l’ultime opéra de Giacomo Puccini. Galina Shesterneva jouera le rôle-titre et Kamen Chanev, celui du prince Calaf. Hiromi Omura et Grigori Soloviov interpréteront, quant à eux, incarneront respectivement Liù et Timur. Trois membres de l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal complètent la distribution : Josh Whelan, Jean-Michel Richer et Aaron Shepperd.
La mise en scène et la chorégraphie ont été confiées à Graeme Murphy. Les décors et les costumes seront de Kristian Fredrikson. Enfin, Paul Nadler dirigera l’Orchestre Métropolitain et le Chœur de l’Opéra de Montréal. Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, 17, 20, 22 et 24 mai. www.operademontreal.com
- Justin Bernard

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Don Quichotte a brilliant end to a satisfying COC season (Review)

Don Quichotte a brilliant end to a satisfying COC season (Review)

by Joseph So


With Massenet's Don Quichotte, the final production of the Canadian Opera Company 2013-14 season had its opening Friday evening.  The three operas of the COC spring season this year have been unusually adventurous, as none of them (Hercules, Roberto Devereux and Don Quichotte) are all that frequently performed.  Given the current reported downturn in attendance at many opera houses including the Met, how would this impact on ticket sales?  I am a firm believer that if the product is good and it's properly promoted, the audience will come. Having seen all three shows, I feel that on balance this is the strongest COC spring season, ever.  The pleasures are plentiful - with Don Quichotte, we get to experience the artistry of the great Italian Ferruccio Furlanetto for the first time in one of his signature roles.  His professional debut was in 1974, meaning he's been singing for forty years, an exceptionally long career in opera. Having heard him several times over the years in my travels, it's immensely satisfying to be able to hear this great singer in Canada. The extremely warm reception accorded the whole creative team but particularly Furlanetto was very well deserved.


Bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quichotte (Photo: Michael Cooper)

Among the creative output of 33 operas by Jules Massenet, Don Quichotte' s position is middling - more or less at the fringes of the standard repertoire, without the popularity of Manon and Werther.  Perhaps its marginality is due to the rather quaint story with few twists and turns, and its strong dose of old-fashioned sentimentality, far removed from the cynical 21st century sensibility towards love and romance. Others have pointed out that by the time Massenet composed this, he was near the end of his life and was arguably not at his most musically and melodically inspired. For better or for worse, opera lovers go to hear high notes, and Don Quichotte is dominated by low voices!  Here you have a bass and a baritone (DQ and Sancho Panza) and a low mezzo (Dulcinee).  A quick glance at the standard repertoire and you won't find many operas with this peculiar distribution of voice types. So it's not surprising that Don Quichotte is ranked below Manon, Werther, and maybe even Thais, Le Cid or Herodiade in the popularity sweepstakes. That being said, when the title role is assumed by a singing actor of stature and experience, in a well thought out production that is faithful to the spirit of the work, this opera will reward the audience with an abundance of pleasurable moments.   

Don Quichotte, Sancho Panza and their beasts of burden (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The title role is often referred to as a star vehicle for a bass of a certain age, from Feodor Chaliapin, for whom Massenet created this work, on down to Nicolai Ghiaurov, Samuel Ramey, Jose van Dam, and now Ferruccio Furlanetto. But it is important to remember Chaliapin was only 37 years old when he sang the premiere in 1910, hardly an old man. And this production from Seattle Opera was previously sung by Canadian bass John Relyea, who is in his early 40's, Perhaps it's because the character is a old man, basses like Ghiaurov, van Dam and Ramey and now Furlanetto take it on in late career, at a point when the voice is still in healthy shape but the singer has the benefit of the accumulated wisdom of life experience.  Based on the opening night performance on Friday, Furlanetto met the multifaceted requirements of this role splendidly. He will turn 65 years old this week during the run in Toronto, and he is sounding decades younger. Sure there was some rustiness in the beginning, but he warmed up quickly and what we got by act two was the Furlanetto of old.   His nuanced characterization of a deceptively simple/naive but in reality a complex character is fascinating. He lavished care and affection on the character, bringing charm, warmth, humour, subtlety, gravitas (with just the right amount of bluster), sentimentality and a world-weary melancholia so much so that the death scene took on dimensions of high tragedy. It was a performance to cherish, honour, and enjoy. 


Ferruccio Furlanetto and Anita Rachvelishvili (Photo: Michael Cooper)

Dulcinee, the object of Don Quichotte's affection, was sung by Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili. Opera fans will remember she was plucked out of the young artist program at La Scala to take on Carmen in that house. COC was fortunate to have her sing three performances of this role here. It's good to have her back as a result of the cancellation of the original Dulcinee, Russian mezzo Ekaterina Gubanova. Rachvelishvili has a huge voice with plenty of squillo.  She sang beautifully, with power and vocal gleam. Ironically, I find her powerful vocalism almost too much of a good thing, making Dulcinee sounding older and a bit too hard-edged, particularly during the Act 4 rejection scene. To be fair, Rachvelishvili scaled the voice down and softened her persona - it was touching. Perhaps one could "blame" Massenet for not composing a soprano Dulcinee or at least a high mezzo, but it is what it is!  When it comes to Quinn Kelsey, there was zero reservation - he is a perfect Sancho Panza.  This singer was a sensational Rigoletto here three seasons ago, and now he is equally impressive, singing with rich, firm tone and acting with great sensitivity. His embracing his master in the death scene was unbearably poignant. The minor roles were all taken with skill, verve and beauty of tone. I am thinking of Rodriguez (Andrew Haji) and Juan (Owen McCausland). In the case of Tenebrun, Michel Corbeil sadly didn't get to sing a note in the role of the bandit chief, but he displayed an impressively clarion speaking voice. 

Death of Don Quichotte (Ferruccio Furlanetto and Quinn Kelsey) (Photo: Michael Cooper)


The Seattle Opera production by Linda Brovsky is a paen to the power of the written word. There was no attempt to modernize, update or re-situate the story, for which I am grateful. The quaint romanticism is presented "straight" without parody or commentary, allowing the music to speak for itself - a supremely sensible approach. The set is made up of giant books in various configurations as necessitated by scene changes. The set includes two extremely well behaved horses - or is one an exceptionally large donkey? An interesting touch is the use of projections. I particularly love the windmills that morph into the quills of the pen, a strikingly symbolic and inspired touch. For me, this transformation signifies the power of poetic imagination that one takes for granted in literature. I hear someone asking after the opera - what kills Don Quichotte?  Why, a broken heart, of course!  Interestingly in the news this week is some researcher in the UK saying that one can actually die from a broken heart.  Excuse me, but science has just realized something that the arts with all its creative imagination have known for centuries. The gorgeous final scene of a starry sky adds just the right atmosphere - full marks for set designer Donald Eastman and lighting designer Connie Yun. Productions of Don Quichotte always involve plenty of dancing, and this one is no exception. The choreography for the five dancers is well conceived and set the right mood at the beginning of the opera. While I don't know for sure, but my guess is that this is COC Music Director Johannes Debus' first Don Quichotte.  We tend to think of him as a German conductor, but his work here amply demonstrates his versatility, drawing lovely sounds from the orchestra. Also of note was the terrific COC chorus. But the evening belonged to Ferruccio Furlanetto. Even at an age when so many singers are contemplating retirement, this singer still has a lot to give. Let's hope the COC will bring him back in the future.  Boris, anyone?

Performances continue on May 14, 17, 20, 22, 24 at the Four Seasons Centre. 










Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,