La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 7 February 2015

American Dramatic Tenor Issachah Savage Makes Canadian Debut in COC Die Walkure

American tenor Issachah Savage to debut as Siegmund in COC Die Walkure 

Joseph So

February 7th 2015


Tenor Issachah Savage (Photo: Kristen Hoeberman)

It was just announced at noon today by the Canadian Opera Company that due to illness of American tenor Clifton Forbis, the regularly scheduled Siegmund in the current revival of Die Walkure at the Canadian Opera Company, the role will be sung this evening by his cover, fellow American dramatic tenor Issachah Savage.

Mr. Savage is the winner of the 2014 Seattle International Wagner Competition. He was awarded the Main Prize, Audience Favorite Prize, Orchestra Favorite Prize, and a special honour by Speight Jenkins, the outgoing General Director of Seattle Opera. In 2012, Savage was the Grand Prize winner of the Marcello Giordani International Competition.

Savage is slated to make his Metropolitan Opera debut as Don Riccardo in Ernani next month, in a series of performances to be conducted by James Levine. Future engagements this season include his debut with the Orchestre national de Bordeaux-Aquitaine in Beethoven Ninth Symphony, Santa Fe Symphony in Verdi Requiem, and the Seattle Youth Symphony in Das Lied von der Erde.

In the 2013-14 season, Savage made his Houston Grand Opera debut as Radames opposite Liudmyla Monastyrska (Aida) and Dolora Zajick (Amneris).  Savage  has participated in a number of young artists programs, including that of the Emerging Singers Program of the late Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart, and Dolora Zajick's Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. His youthful dramatic tenor has been widely praised, and you can hear three samples of it, in Mein lieber Schwann from Lohengrin, Parsifal's final scene, and a Spiritual - on his website.  

Here is a link to that page http://issachah.weebly.com/listen.html

Issachah Savage with his mentor, mezzo Dolora Zajick, after the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices Concert (Photo courtesy of Issachah Savage)

















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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

This Week in Montreal: February 2 to 8

Kiya Tabassian with dancer Tom Casey ­during a performance of Śūnya. Photo Michael Slobodian
Ensemble Constantinople and Sunya
According to Kiya Tabassian, Constantinople’s artistic director, “Two years ago we collaborated with the Indo-Armenian choreographer Roger Sinha for the show Śūnya, which incorporated dance and interactive videos. I really wanted the musicians to be fully engaged, and also interact with the dancers. The premier was in April 2014, and we still do a few performances in Canada; we’re also preparing an international tour.” You can see Śūnya on February 6 at 8 pm at Salle Pauline-Julien in Sainte-Geneviève. www.pauline-julien.com

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Opus 18 - saison 2013-2014


Joël Quarrington - Crédit Anis Hammoud/CQM

Opus 18 - saison 2013-2014

par Réjean Beaucage


C'est le 1er février dernier que le Conseil québécois de la musique remettait ses prix Opus, qui soulignent l'excellence en musiques de concert (classique, contemporaine, jazz, du monde, électroacoustique ou actuelle).

Il faut bien dire que le monde de la musique au Québec est tout de même un peu plus diversifié que ce que nous en laisse entrevoir la remise annuelle des prix Opus, où l'on retrouve souvent, d'une fois à l'autre, les mêmes personnalités qui viennent (ou pas) chercher leur joli trophée. Ainsi de Yannick Nézet-Séguin, qui recevait l'année dernière le prix du « Rayonnement à l'étranger » (qu'il n'a, bien entendu, pas volé), et qui était récompensé deux fois cette année pour le même concert donné avec l'Orchestre Métropolitain et la pianiste Hélène Grimaud (« Concert de l'année – musiques romantique, postromantique, impressioniste » et « Concert de l'année – Montréal »), ou des Violons du Roy, qui règnent en maîtres dans la Vieille Capitale et qui recevaient le prix du « Concert de l'année – Québec » pour Solomon, de Haendel, dirigé par Bernard Labadie, avec Karina Gauvin et Marie-Nicole Lemieux, après l'avoir obtenu l'année dernière pour Theodora, de Haendel, dirigé par Bernard Labadie, avec Karina Gauvin et Marie-Nicole Lemieux... On ne discute pas de l'excellence des artistes en cause, ici, mais d'une reconnaissance qui pourrait être un tout petit peu moins « ciblée ». 

De nombreux facteurs font en sorte que l'on revoit les mêmes visages sur la scène d'une édition à l'autre, mais ça prouve généralement surtout que les personnes en question ont des carrières actives, ce dont on ne peut évidemment que se réjouir. Pensons au pianiste Yves Léveillé, qui recevait l'Opus du « Concert de l'année – jazz et musiques du monde » (nouvelle fusion de ces deux catégories) après avoir reçu le même prix l'année dernière (catégorie « jazz ») pour le concert En trois couleurs (trio Simard, Bourassa, Léveillé). Pensons aussi à Maxime McKinley, « Compositeur de l'année » en 2012-2013 et auteur de l'« Article de l'année » cette fois-ci, pour un texte paru dans la revue Circuit, musiques contemporaines, dont le rédacteur en chef, Jonathan Goldman, montait lui aussi sur scène, mais à titre de musicien au sein de l'ensemble Quartango (« Disque de l'année – musiques du monde », avec Encuentro).

Comme l'OM, le festival de musique de chambre Concerts aux Îles du Bic a également reçu deux prix pour le même concert, soit le programme L'extase française, qui offrait des œuvres de Fauré, Emmanuel, Hahn, Debussy, Poulenc et Franck (« Concert de l'année – régions » et « Répertoires multiples »). Notons enfin que la fondatrice du Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Lorraine Vaillancourt, est aussi montée deux fois sur scène pour recevoir le prix remis au « Concert de l'année – musiques moderne, contemporaine » (pour le programme célébrant le 25e anniversaire du NEM) et pour celui remis à la « Direction artistique de l'année ». 


Crédit: Anis Hammoud/CQM














Création

C'est à l'opéra Le rêve de Grégoire de Pierre Michaud, une coproduction de Chants Libres et de la Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, que l'on a remis l'Opus de la « Création de l'année », tandis que le quatuor de saxophones Quasar, qui lançait tout récemment sa 20e


saison, recevait le prix du « Concert de l'année – musiques actuelle, électroacoustique » pour son programme De souffles et de machines, coproduit avec le Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en musique, médias et technologie (CIRMMT) dans le cadre du premier Printemps numérique. Le compositeur Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, qui avait une œuvre en création lors de ce concert de Quasar, a quant à lui reçu l'Opus du « Disque de l'année – musiques actuelle, électroacoustique » pour La marée, chez empreintes DIGITALes (son disque précédent avait aussi remporté ce prix en 2010-2011).


C'est à Samy Moussa que sont allés l'Opus du « Compositeur de l'année » et les 10 000 $ qui l'accompagnent (gracieuseté du CALQ). Moussa était aussi en lice pour la création de l'année avec sa pièce A Globe Itself Infolding, créée par l'OSM au concert d'inauguration de l'orgue Casavant de la Maison symphonique; l'OSM donnera le 17 février prochain la création d'un Nocturne qu'il a commandé à Moussa. Par ailleurs, les inaugurations du Casavant de l'OSM et de celui du Palais Montcalm à Québec constituent un autre doublé, qualifié d'« Événement musical de l'année ». Et c'est l'OSM qui repart avec l'Opus du « Rayonnement à l'étranger » cette année.
Chez nous, c'est la pianiste Louise Bessette qui rayonnait en 2013-2014 en offrant en quatre concerts un programme de 25 œuvres couvrant les 25 dernières années pour saluer le 25e anniversaire de la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur et, par le fait même, les 25 ans de Guy Soucie à la barre de l'institution montréalaise. La pianiste est repartie avec l'Opus de l'« Interprète de l'année » et les 5 000 $ que le CAC y attache. La « Découverte de l'année » est le chef d'orchestre Andrei Feher que l'on a vu à l'OM et qui est aussi chef assistant à l'OSQ. Enfin, le Prix Hommage état remis cette année à Johanne Goyette, fondatrice de la maison de disque ATMA Classique.



Pour tous les détails, consultez le site du CQM à http://www.cqm.qc.ca

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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Die Walkure Revival A Triumph at the COC

Revival of Die Walkure a Triumph at the COC (Review)

Joseph So

Christine Goerke (Brunnhilde)
Johan Reuter (Wotan)
Clifton Forbis (Siegmund)
Heidi Melton (Sieglinde)
Dmitry Ivashchenko (Hunding)
Janina Baechle (Fricka)
Rihab Chaieb (Waltraute)
Elaine McKrill (Gerhilde)
Aviva Fortunata (Helmwige)
Lindsay Ammann (Schwertleite)
Mona Somm (Ortlinde)
Laura Tucker (Siegrune)
Megan Latham (Rossweisse)
Charlotte Burrage (Grimgerde)

Johannes Debus, conductor
Atom Egoyan, director
Michael Levine, set/costume designer
Four Seasons Centre, Jan. 31st 2015

Soprano Christine Goerke as Brunnhilde (Photo: Michael Cooper)


Wagnerites rejoice, the Ring is back in town!  Well, sort of... After an absence of eight and a half years, the Ring Cycle, albeit minus Das Rheingold and spread out over three seasons, is back at the Canadian Opera Company. The first installment opened last Saturday at the Four Seasons Centre.  I recall seeing this production for the first time in 2004. I attended several performances including one of the rehearsals. My companion on that occasion was none other than the late, great comedienne Anna Russell. Who can forget her brilliantly funny Analysis of the Ring? Long retired at the time and living in Unionville in a seniors complex close to her ancestral farm, Anna had not attended a Wagner performance in years. I picked her up and drove her to the Hummingbird Centre.  Many of the cast members plus Atom Egoyan came down to meet her at the break. Here's a photo I took of that historic meeting (see below).  Of the cast in the photo, only mezzo Laura Tucker is in the current run as Siegrune. The only other holdover is American heldentenor Clifton Forbis reprising his celebrated Siegmund.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: The great Anna Russell meets the cast of the COC Die Walkure  in 2004 (back - Adrianne Pieczonka, Frances Ginzer, Laura Tucker; front - Elizabeth Stannard, Anna Russell, Buffy Baggott) Photo: Joseph So

The COC opened the Four Seasons Center with three Ring cycles in August-September of 2006. I managed to see two of the three, and the experience remains as vivid as yesterday. Of the four operas, Die Walkure is arguably the most melodic and accessible. For this revival, the COC has assembled an outstanding cast, with many important Canadian and/or role debuts. Danish baritone Johan Reuter is a wonderful singer. I heard him in Munich and at the Met as Barak in Die Frau ohne Schatten not too long ago, and I was looking forward to his Sachs last December. Naturally I was disappointed when he withdrew from the Met Meistersinger, but the upside was that it allowed him to concentrate on preparing the Wotan here.  American soprano Christine Goerke makes her role debut with this Walkure.  I heard her way back in 1998 in Glimmerglass as Iphigenie in Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride!   It boggles the mind to think that 17 years later, a singer with Baroque beginnings is scaling Valhalla as Brunnhilde, one of the most demanding of dramatic soprano roles in all opera. Her Farberin at the Met and Elektra in Detroit last summer were both fantastic. The Walsung Twins are Heldentenor Clifton Forbis and American soprano Heidi Melton. Finally, two more major Canadian debuts, that of Dmitry Ivashchenko as Hunding and Janina Baechle as Fricka.  

Siegmund (Clifton Forbis) and Sieglinde (Heidi Melton) Photo: Michael Cooper

Musically there were plenty of  highlights on opening night Jan. 31. First and foremost, Goerke as Brunnhilde exceeded my already high expectations. Her Hojotoho was simply the best I've heard - the timbre has the colour of dark mahogany, and it is huge, equal to if not surpassing Gwyneth Jones who had one of the biggest voices I've heard, and better focused than Jones. Goerke's dramatic soprano also reminds me a little of the great Australian Rita Hunter, my first Brunnhilde. Many singers scoop up to the B's and C's, but Goerke attacks these notes with vocal knockout punches. Her characterization of the warrior maiden  is sympathetic and heart-felt, capable of both fearsome strength and womanly warmth.  Johan Reuter sang with a gorgeous baritone, even from top to bottom, his Abschied supremely moving. I found myself almost in tears at the moment when Wotan took off his coat, rolled it up and tenderly put it under the head of the sleeping Brunnhilde, a brilliant directorial touch by Atom Egoyan. Heidi Melton (Sieglinde) has a huge and luscious soprano with a very big middle voice, ideal for Sieglinde, a soprano role with an unusually low tessitura. She sang very beautifully on opening night, only falling a little short above the stave where the notes were produced with a lot of force. Clifton Forbis has hardly aged since his first Siegmund in 2004 - if anything, his top is more brilliant, focused and trumpet-like than ever. Only the middle and lower notes betray some widening of vibrato. Dmitry Ivashchenko's dark-hued basso was most impressive as Hunding. Janina Baechle doesn't have the sweetest tone -which I suppose is not required in this role! - but she made the most of the short role of Fricka. The valkyries were a combination of COC Ensemble singers and outside guest artists. They all moved well and sounded good, with the exception of the first voice in the Ride of the Valkyries, Gerhilde, who I'm sorry to say sounded strident and wobbly.     


Dmitry Ivashchenko (Hunding) and Heidi Melton (Sieglinde) Photo: Michael Cooper

Seeing this production after eight years is like meeting up with an old friend after a long absence - you think of the good times and gloss over the idiosyncrasies.  The Atom Egoyan-Michael Levine design for Walkure has a vaguely post-Apocalyptic feel to the strikingly chaotic set. I've often wondered why Levine chooses to make his statement with this visual jumble. Interestingly, this aesthetic is not carried over to the other three operas in the COC Ring, perhaps because this is a "Ring by Committee" with different stage directors responsible for the individual parts.  I'd like to think that the physical and visual chaos of Walkure reflect the inner turmoil of the principal characters, particularly Wotan and Brunnhilde, Siegmund and Sieglinde.  The rubble in front, framed by the crisscross of cat walks on top and on the sides, contrasts sharply with the enormous, stately white panels at the back, behind which presumably leads to Valhalla, the domains of the gods, On a practical level, it's likely a treacherous set to negotiate for the singers, particularly the women wearing Victorian style long skirts complete with bustle!  Indeed there were a few instances of costumes being caught by the various jagged edges onstage. I recall vividly Frances Ginzer slipping on the tree trunk during Todesverkundigung. Even with the physical limitations, Egoyan managed to make it interesting, perhaps not so much Act 1, but I love the staging of Act 3 Scene 1 - the bodies coming down from the flies sure make an impression!  If I were to voice one objection, it would have to be the extremely dim lighting of Act 1, for sure one of the murkiest I've ever experienced.    

The Valkyries place the magic fire to surround the sleeping Brunnhilde (Photo: Michael Cooper)

COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducted his first performance of Die Walkure in a well paced reading of the score, with a good balance of drama and lyricism. The orchestra, while not quite note perfect as there were a few moments of balance issues, acquitted itself wonderfully. All in all, it was a major achievement all round and bodes well for the Siegfried and Gotterdammerung coming up in the next two seasons. Now with the Company since 2009, Debus really knows how to bring out the best from the orchestra.  On this evening, the brass and horns were marvelous. Principal cello Bryan Epperson's brief solo early in the opera was a highlight.  Wagner at his best is like an addiction - the more I see, the more I want. This is really a show not to be missed. Six more performances on Feb. 4, 7, 10, 13, 19, 22 at the Four Seasons Centre. http://www.coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/1415Season/DieWalkure.aspx
 
Johan Reuter (Wotan) and Christine Goerke (Brunnhilde) Photo: Michael Cooper




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Sunday, 1 February 2015

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 2 - 8)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of Feb. 2 to 8

Joseph So

The big news this week continues to be the two productions of the Canadian Opera Company's winter season, Don Giovanni and Die Walkure.  The Wagner opened on Saturday at the Four Seasons Centre. It was good to revisit the Atom Egoyan/ Michael Levine production once again. I saw it when it first premiered in 2004, and then again - twice - in 2006 FSC inaugural season. The principals have largely changed in the intervening 11 years with one exception, American tenor Clifton Forbis as Siegmund.  The current Brunnhilde, COC's third for this production after Frances Ginzer and Susan Bullock, is American soprano Christine Goerke. I will write a full review soon but for now, I can say she was sensational on opening night, singing the best Hojotoho I've ever heard. The rest of the cast was superb - bass-baritone Johan Reuter (Wotan) and bass Dmitry Ivashchenko (Hunding) were both outstanding. As the Walsung twins, the trumpet-like top of Forbis was most impressive, and Heidi Melton's huge, luscious soprano was ideal as Sieglinde. In his first-ever Die Walkure, conductor Johannes Debus gave an exciting reading of the score. This is a show not to be missed - in fact I'm tempted to go back to see it again. I was a bit sad to see some people leaving at each intermission. Yes, Wagner is an acquired taste, but once you 'get it' it is uniquely rewarding.  Most of the principals will appear in a singers' round-table at a meeting of the Toronto Wagner Society on Thursday Feb. 5 8 pm at the Arts and Letters Club on Elm Street in downtown Toronto. Non members are welcome with admission charge. You can find out more at   http://torontowagner.org/OurEventsTab.html    Performances of Die Walkure continue on Feb. 4 and 7.  Don Giovanni performances on Feb 3 and 6 with a fine cast led by Russell Braun. http://www.coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/1415Season/DieWalkure.aspx


COC Die Walkure Act 3 Final Scene (Photo: Michael Cooper)

On Feb. 4 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra continues with its Mozart@259 programming, this time combining Mozart with Chopin. Honens laureate Pavel Kolesnikov and veteran pianist Emanuel Ax are the soloists. On the program are Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 14 K.449, and Chopin's Grande Polonaise.  Also on the program is Rachmaninoff's Symphony Dances. TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian conducts.  On Feb. 6, Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, under the baton of Rob Kapilow. Details at   http://tso.ca/en-ca/concerts-and-tickets/2014-2015-Season/EventDetails/Mozart-Chopin.aspx
Honens Laureate Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov


This piano-centric week continues on Feb 07 2:00 when the TSO presents Piano Extravaganza: Pianorama. plus Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals. Peter Oundjian conducts with pianists Emanuel Ax and Pavel Kolesnikov. Also appearing are pianists Patricia Krueger, Richard Chao Gao, Amadeusz Kazubowski-Houston, Kyoko Kohno, Coco Ma, Artun Miskciyan, Marko Pejanovic, Anastasia Rizikov, Anna Vertypolokh, Sunny Zhai, and Annie Zhou. Also appearing is organist David Briggs.

Now, if you want to hear Ax and Kolesnikov for free, you can show up at the COC noon hour concert at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheater at the Four Seasons Centre on Feb. 5. (Actually I believe Ax is the host and not playing.) Joining Pavel Kolesnikov is pianist Orion Weiss. On the program are Opera Transcriptions for Piano. Be sure to show up an hour ahead for a seat or a standing spot! http://www.coc.ca/Home.aspx

Soprano Karine Boucher

Another interesting free event is the noon hour concert at the RBA on Tuesday Feb. 3. COC Ensemble sopranos Aviva Fortunata and Karine Boucher sing Messiaen's Poemes pour Mi. I heard this once, with Adrianne Pieczonka in Montreal several years ago. It's a cycle well worth experiencing if it's new to you. Also on the program is Theme and Variations for violin and piano, performed by violinist Kerry DuWors and pianist Liz Upchurch. Program details at http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert150203.pdf

The singer-driven Opera by Request under the direction of pianist William Shookhoff is presenting Cosi fan tutte on Feb. 7 at 7:30 pm. Soloists are sopranos Jami-Lynn Gubbe and Andrea Nunez, mezzo Melissa Peiou, tenor Jan Nadal, baritone Janaka Welihinda, and bass-baritone Lawrence Shirkie. William Shookhoff is at the piano. This concert takes place at College Street United Church on 452 College Street in downtown Toronto. http://operabyrequest.ca/wordpress/


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