Soprano Barbara Hannigan scintillating in North American Conducting Debut
Nono: Djamila Boupacha for solo voice
Haydn: Symphony No. 49 in F Minor
Ligeti: Concert Romanesc
Mozart: Bella mia fiamma...Resta, o cara, K 528
Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements
Barbara Hannigan, soprano/conductor
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Roy Thomson Hall, October 7th 2015
One of the most talented of Canadian classical artists, soprano Barbara Hannigan has wowed audiences on both sides of the Atlantic in repertoires from Baroque to 21st Century. A specialist in contemporary music, she has served as the 'muse' for many composers who created works specifically for her. Last March, she brought one of her signature pieces, Benjamin's Written On Skin to the New Creations Festival of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Even though it was performed in concert with minimal staging, the musical and dramatic qualities were so powerful one couldn't help being swept away.
Now a few months later, Hannigan is making a welcome return to the TSO, in a program designed to showcase the multi-talented singer, as soprano soloist and conductor. I attended the opening performance last evening and it was indeed a marvelous demonstration of her versatility. She began with a unaccompanied piece by Nono, showing off her purity (and beauty) of tone as well as accuracy of pitch, in a very challenging modern piece that most singers would find difficult to learn. But Hannigan tossed it off with aplomb, testament to her special affinity to this repertoire. Then it was followed by an energetic rendition of the Haydn symphony, leading the orchestra with vigour and a lightness of touch. This was followed by Gyorgy Ligeti's Concert Romanesc, a piece unfamiliar to me. One of his early works, it's very lyrical and accessible, with lots of folk dance elements. The first two movements are actually very conservative musically and it grows gradually more challenging, but nothing like the later Ligeti, a very enjoyable work that I hope to hear again.