La Scena Musicale

Monday, 27 October 2014

This Week in Montreal: October 27 to November 3

Sharon Azrieli Perez

A Masked Ball for Halloween
What better way to spend Halloween than to dress up, put on a mask and go to a ball? McGill Chamber Orchestra’s first Masked Ball fundraiser fills the bill with soprano Sharon Azrieli Perez, mezzo Julie Nesrallah and tenor Antoine Belanger singing excerpts of Bernstein’s West Side Story, Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Un Ballo in maschera and Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann. Hotel Sofitel. Oct. 31.
- Wah Keung Chan

Belles Sœurs: The Musical
Montreal’s Segal Centre presents the English-language premiere of Belles Sœurs: The Musical. Based on Michel Tremblay’s Les Belles-sœurs, the darkly comedic, bittersweet play about working-class strife in Quebec, circa 1965, is the story of Germaine Lauzon, a Plateau Mont-Royal housewife who wins one million department store trading stamps. Musical mayhem ensues when she invites her closest relatives and friends to celebrate at a raucous stamp-pasting party. Les Belles-sœurs premiered in 1968, and the musical version debuted in 2010. The book & lyrics are by René Richard Cyr, and the music is by Daniel Bélanger. The English book adaptation is by Brian Hill, while Neil Bartram penned the English lyrics. Produced by Montrealer Allan Sandler, the show features an all-female Canadian cast. Oct. 19 to Nov. 9.
- Naomi Gold

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Cette semaine à Montréal : le 27 octobre au 2 novembre

Rémi Bolduc

Rémi Bolduc, fois deux
Saxo alto de premier plan en ville, Rémi Bolduc se produira deux fois au cours du mois : le vendredi 9 octobre 18h, il sera en concert à la salle Bourgie du MBAM avec son jazz ensemble; trois semaines plus tard, le vendredi 30, il accueillera en spectacle à la salle Schulich de l’Université McGill un compatriote québécois, François Théberge. Professeur titulaire de saxophone jazz au Conservatoire de Paris, ce dernier tiendra aussi des cours de maître durant la journée sur l’essence même du jazz : l’improvisation.
Marc Chénard

L’Orchestre Métropolitain dans les arrondissements
Un concert hors série offre aux mélomanes une occasion de célébrer l’Halloween de façon originale, avec le jeune chef Jean-Michel Malouf. Vous y entendrez des œuvres rendues populaires par le film Fantasia de Disney. Solistes : la violoniste Marcelle Mallette et le flûtiste Benjamin Morency. Théâtre Outremont, 30 octobre, 19 h.
- Renée Banville

MET Live in HD
Dans le cadre de sa 9e saison, la série MET Live in HD diffusera, dans les cinémas du Québec, les opéras Macbeth de Verdi (11 octobre, rediffusions les 10 et 15 novembre), Les Noces de Figaro de Mozart (18 octobre, rediffusion les 6 et 15 décembre), et Carmen de Bizet (1er novembre, rediffusions les 29, 30 novembre et 8 décembre).
Justin Bernard

Academy of Ancient Music – pour la première fois à Montréal
Formée à Londres en 1973 par Christopher Hogwood, l’Academy of Ancient Music est un ensemble renommé, spécialisé dans l’interprétation de la musique baroque et classique de 1600 à 1850 sur instruments anciens. Depuis 2006, c’est le claveciniste Richard Egarr qui a pris la succession de Christopher Hogwood. Pour son premier concert à Montréal, l’ensemble joue l’intégrale des Ouvertures de J.S. Bach. Salle Bourgie, 5 novembre, 19 h 30.
- Renée Banville

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Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Fur Flies - and the Fun Follows - at the Centaur

By Naomi Gold
photo by David Hou  

CAPTION: Rick Miller plays Thomas/Severin; Carly Street as Vanda/Wanda

The  critically acclaimed two-hander, Venus in Fur is currently playing at Old Montreal's Centaur Theatre. Authored by American playwright David Ives, the show premiered in 2010 and debuted on Broadway a year later.  Ives' work is based on Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch's similarly entitled 1870 novella, an (in)famous work that actually spawned the neologism "masochism".  The Tony-nominated Venus in Fur employs that quintessentially dramatic play-within-a-play device.  It is the story of writer/director Thomas Novachek who's on a quest for talent --and truth.

Novachek has just adapted a new play called Venus in Fur and is auditioning actresses for the role of "Wanda von Dunaiev", a wealthy young widow.  After a disappointing day of lacklustre auditions, Thomas despairs of finding a suitable candidate and calls his fiancée to complain.  Alone in his studio while a thunderstorm rages, he is taken by surprise when wannabe Wanda, Vanda Jordan, suddenly stomps in.  The tacky, obnoxious ditz spews profanities whilst explaining her tardiness, and an increasingly exasperated Thomas prepares to leave.  Vanda persists nonetheless and convinces him to give her a chance.
The ostensibly vapid Vanda soon beguiles Thomas with her prodigious acting talent and she asks him to read the part opposite hers.  As "Severin Kusiemski" -- a Polish aristocrat who craves female domination -- Thomas channels his inner submissive and the metatheatrical plot deepens.  V(W)anda has similarly embraced her dominant role as she imparts profound and incontrovertible truths about women. The fun continues as she consistently and irrefutably challenges Thomas' hypocrisy and preconceived notions of gender roles and power in relationships.  Vigorously defending her gender politic dialectic, she lands blow after intellectual blow by exposing androcentric and misogynist archetypes in both the play and the director's psyche. As Vanda's spectacular transformation from crass dilettante to serious thespian unfolds, Thomas is mesmerized.  More compelling however, is her brilliance in dismantling and reversing the underlying power paradigm inherent in audition scenarios --especially ones where male directors, writers or producers are casting women. The show is popularly billed as a sado-masochistic power, but -- crops and (BDSM) props aside -- it evokes relationships of all types.   

Centaur Theatre's Canadian Stage Production stars Carly Street and Rick Miller. Earlier this year Street won Dora Mavor Moore and Toronto Theatre Critics awards for best actress. Both deliver outstanding performances.  They are directed by Jennifer Tarver. Runs until November 9th. Ticket prices begin @$27.00; 514-288-3161

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This Week in Toronto (Oct. 27 - Nov. 2)

My concert picks for the week of October 27 to November 2 - Joseph So

Opera Atelier's Alcina (Wallis Giunta, Allyson McHardy, Meghan Lindsay) Photo: Bruce Zinger

The big news in opera this week is Opera Atelier's Alcina, which opened last Thursday at the Elgin Theatre.  Given OA's specialty is baroque opera, it doesn't seem possible that this is OA's first staging of a Handel opera. Well, apparently it is, but better late than never!  I attended the opening night last Thursday Oct. 23, and it was a knockout of a production. For the first time, OA is using video projections to augment its excellent painted tableaux expertly executed by Gerard Gauci. Given its a fantastical story about the sorceress Alcina, moving images make it that much more visually striking. The subtle transformation of landscape and architectural columns into male nude bodies create quite a sensation in the media, although it must be said that there is really no more nudity than one would find in an evening at the ballet!  The true sensation of the evening was the singing.  I will write a full review of this show for a future issue of the British magazine, Opera. For now, I can say this is a show not to be missed!  Excellent singing from everyone, but particularly Allyson McHardy (Ruggiero), Meghan Lindsay (Alcina), Wallis Giunta (Bradamante), and Mireille Asselin (Morgana). Three more shows this week on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Elgin Theatre.

Bass John Relyea (Photo: Shirley Suarez)

At the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week is a comparative rarity, Elgar's "oratorio" Dream of Gerontius.  I put oratorio in quotation marks as it was said that Elgar didn't want this label for the work, but if truth be told, that's what it is, given its strong Catholicism. This is considered to be among the finest of the genre of British choral music.  Canadian heldentenor Ben Heppner was originally scheduled to sing the title role, but he announced his retirement last April.  In his place is a very suitable replacement in terms of the vocal demands of this dramatic tenor role, Australian tenor Stuart Skelton.  Joining him are British mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers, and Canadian bass John Relyea, one of the finest basses in the world today, although he's still relatively young at 42,  I recall with pleasure seeing his Figaro last August in Ravinia.  Compared that to the first time I saw his Figaro in Santa Fe Opera when he was only 28, he's better than ever.  This is a superb trio of soloists and this is a show not to be missed by all Elgarians. Peter Oundjian conducts the TS forces, Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers.

The Canadian Opera Company's fall season comes to an end this week, with its production of Falstaff and Madama Butterfly. The last Falstaff  is on Nov. 1, your last chance to see and hear the magnificent Falstaff of the great Canadian bass baritone Gerald Finley. There are three more performances of Madama Butterfly on Oct. 28, 30 and 31.

Ukrainian Art Song Project: Galicians I

Ukrainian bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka is no stranger to Toronto audiences, having appeared with distinction in several leading roles with the Canadian Opera Company back in the Richard Bradshaw era. In recent years, Hunka continued his association with Toronto (and Canada) through his Ukrainian Song Project. Hunka's goal is to commit to recording the vast repertoire of songs by Ukrainian composers. Back in 2011, I interviewed Hunka about this project, the article, together with a review of the Lysenko recordings, can be found below (click to enlarge image). On Sunday Nov. 2 3 pm, Hunka and several Canadian artists - soprano Monica Whicher, mezzo Krisztina Szabo, baritone Russell Braun, and pianist Albert Krywolt, will be giving a recital at Koerner Hall. This concert, Galicians 1, presents the recently discovered compositions of four Ukrainian composers - the late romantic Denys Sichynsky, post-romantic Stanyslav Liudkevych, impressionist Vasyl Barvinsky and the modernist (and also Ukraine's first female composer) Stefania Turkewich. The event is hosted by Stuart Hamilton and produced by composer Roman Hurko. It is presented under the auspices of  the Ukrainian Art Song Project, an endeavour spearheaded by Pavlo Hunka and supported by Ukrainian communities in Canada and worldwide.

   My 2011 interview with Pavlo Hunka about the Ukrainian Art Song Project (click on image to enlarge)

Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska

Music Toronto is presenting Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska in recital on Tuesday Oct. 28th 8 pm, at its usual venue, Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre. On the program are works by Grieg, Schubert, Ravel and Chopin.

Talisker Players (Photo: )

One of my favourite song cycles is Songs of Travel by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It's tailor made for the baritone voice. Last week, baritone Robert Gleadow sang it at the COC noon hour concert, and this week, another fine baritone Geoffrey Sirett is singing this wonderful cycle in a joint recital with soprano Virginia Hatfield and the Talisker Players. The long title is appropriately Songs of Travel: reflections on travel, movement, departures, arrivals and wanderlust. In addition to Vaughan Williams, the program also features works by Louis Applebaum, Vally Weigl, and Elisabeth de la Guerre. Graham Abbey is the actor and reader. The concert is at Trinity St. Paul's Centre on Oct. 29th 8 pm.

Another noteworthy event this week is the Second Toronto International Piano Competition, spearheaded by the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto and sponsored by Rolex, Steinway and Sons, as well as the Ontario government.

First Round has already begun, starting Oct. 25th and continues this week, culminating in the Finals to take place at Koerner Hall on November 1st. The high-powered jury panel includes Irish pianist John O'Conor, Canadian James Anagnoson, Italian Fabio Bidini, and the chair is Yoheved Kaplinsky (USA).

Jury panel member Fabio Bidini performs at Opening Ceremony (Photo: Toronto International Piano Competition 2014)

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