La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Charles Richard-Hamelin en concert avec l'Orchestre symphonique de l'Agora

Charles Richard-Hamelin, Emily Ding

Écoutez Charles Richard-Hamelin en concert avec l'Orchestre symphonique de l'Agora:

Labels: , ,

Renee Fleming's Sensational Star Turn in Toronto (Review)

Renee Fleming's Sensational Star Turn in Toronto (Review)

Schumann:  Frauenliebe und leben
Rachmaninoff:  O, dolgo budu ya / Rechnaya lileya / Ne poy, krasavitsa! / Vesenniye vodi
Strauss: Das Bachlein / Ruhe, meine Selle! / Allerseelen
Canteloube: Songs of the Auvergne (Bailero / Malurous quo uno fenno / Brezairola
Patricia Barber: Higher / Scream / Hunger / Morpheus / You Gotta Go Home

Io son l'umile ancella Adriana Lecouvreur
Shall We Dance The King And I
Marietta's Lied Die tote Stadt 

Renee Fleming, soprano
Gerald Martin Moore, piano

Roy Thomson Hall, October 30th 2015

Soprano Renee Fleming and pianist Gerald Martin Moore (Photo: Joseph So)

To be sure, Prima Donna, Diva, Superstar are such overused labels today, especially with "Diva" having been usurped by non-opera folks to call almost any woman in pop, young or old - pace pop culture mavens! To me, a diva has to have had a few miles on her, having earned her stripes and have the goods - and battle scars - to show for. Renee Fleming is just such an artist, an authentic, genuine, bona fide, card-carrying Prima Donna, Diva, and Superstar.  Did I put enough adjectives in there?

Since her win in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, Fleming shot to fame very quickly, and in no time she became an authentic America's sweetheart, at least for those who follow classical music. Even her publicity material uses the label "People's Diva."  I first heard her over the airwaves of the broadcast of the 1988 Met Auditions, the same year that Ben Heppner won. Her voice was incredibly beautiful, with uncommon warmth and an exquisite gleam to her sound. Then I saw her on stage, as the Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro, in of all places, Opera Hamilton!  It was around the time she had her daughter, and wasn't quite the glamorous star she became in a mere couple of years later.  By the time I saw her Susannah and Desdemona and Arabella and Rusalka, she had morphed into an extremely glamorous (but in a very endearing sort of way) superstar. The voice was absolutely pristine.  It was only within the past couple of seasons that there were a few naysayers towards her singing. But I've never heard her sing poorly, to be honest. Only now, she needs to push her chest voice a bit more to be heard, and her B-naturals and anything above have a bit less gleam and sound a little harder. Still, we are talking a voice in excellent shape after 25+ years.

I last heard her in opera as the Countess Madeleine in Capriccio at the Semperoper Dresden almost exactly a year ago. She was supposed to sing Arabella, but withdrew and replaced by Anja Harteros. Thankfully Fleming kept her dates with Madeleine and it was wonderful. The production was gorgeous and not crazy like so many European opera stagings can be these days. On that November evening I saw her, she recalled the Fleming of yore, with that customary gleam. Her Madeleine was wistful, aristocratic, evocative and altogether endearing. Just a week or so ago, I read in the November Opera (UK) that she's now phasing out her opera career to focus on recitals and concerts. She has even taken a stab at Broadway, although not altogether successfully. Based on the recital last evening at Roy Thomson Hall, she still has many more songs in her yet, thank you very much.
Renee Fleming given a standing ovation from the enthusiastic audience (Photo: Joseph So)

The program was really a gem for song lovers - all chestnuts, with the exception of the last group, songs by Patricia Barber. She started off with Schumann's Frauenliebe und leben, a piece almost every woman classical singer tackled at some point in the career. Fleming surprisingly used the score, and stealing glances at it throughout.  She started tentatively, pecking at the notes and generally not singing with full volume. Maybe there were a bit of early jitters - she had a memory lapse more than once during the cycle. Thankfully Gerald Martin Moore was the ever supportive and alert pianist so probably few in the audience noticed!  By the Rachmaninoff, Fleming hit her stride and sang with her customary, gorgeous silvery tone, her excellent sense of pitch, smooth, even tone, and dynamic shading very much in evidence. "Ne poy, krasavitsa" was sung with the proper pathos, while "Vesenniye vodi" - my desert island Rach piece - was given the proper level of ecstasy - Brava!

The second half began with three Strauss songs, all very familiar ones of course. Her voice has the ideal timbre for Strauss and she did not disappoint. To my ears, she would have sung the songs with perhaps a fuller volume in the past.  Now, there's a bit of caution in her delivery at times. She seems to husband her resources a bit, only letting it rip on occasion, and when she does, the volume remains impressive. This was particularly true in the Schumann, but her Rachmaninoff was free and easy to my ears.  Her Allerseelen was a bit cautious again, for some reason, taken at a very slow tempo.

The Canteloube was abridged but very well chosen, with the three most beautiful and showy songs from the cycle - who doesn't like Bailero?  Her slow tempo gave it an appropriately languid quality, so appealing in this song. She spoke - with microphone - to the audience to introduce the Schumann, Canteloube and Patricia Barber,  I have to admit I knew nothing about Barber - had to google her and discovered she's a jazz singer. Fleming told the audience that this was only the second time she had performed these. Given Fleming's jazz roots - I recall reading long ago that she sang in jazz clubs to support her voice studies at the Eastman school as a young woman - her affinity to this genre is very much in evidence. These are melodically inspired, very characterful and totally accessible, a pleasure to hear. The audience responded warmly to these songs, indeed to the whole program.

Renee Fleming introducing her encore (Photo: Joseph So)

After the opening Schumann cycle, Fleming sang with her customary poise, choosing very slow tempi for the songs, showing off her exemplary legato and breath-line, holding onto high notes sometimes perhaps a bit too long. But hey, that's what make her a diva, right? This was particularly true for her encores - Io son l'umile ancella and Marietta's Lied. I wish I had a timer - it sounded almost twice as long as usual! The response from the audience was ecstatic - it's been a long time since I've heard ovations for a song recital in Toronto approaching this level of frenzy.  Maybe we have to go back to Luciano Pavarotti at Massey Hall when he sang 7 (or was it 9?) encores.  Or Leontyne Prices sing the Death of Butterfly - and acting it out, again as an encore!  Those were moments indelibly etched in my memory bank. This Fleming recital may well take up a spot in that old cerebral hard drive of mine. I hope you were there, as it was an early highlight of the 2015-16 vocal season.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Off Jazz : un festival en accord avec son époque

par Annie Landreville

Seize ans après sa fondation par le regretté François Marcaurelle, l'Off a conservé sa mission de base: mettre en valeur les musiciens montréalais et offrir du jazz contemporain,  L'événement a su demeurer convivial et accessible pour tous les portefeuilles.

L'Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal a ouvert l'événement de belle façon. La salle était pleine et le concert, rodé au quart de tour. Avec Christine Jensen à la direction, on a pu y entendre en première partie la suite Dans la forêt de ma mémoire de la pianiste Marianne Trudel, puis un bel hommage aux compositrices après la pause avec des pièces de Carla Bley et Satoko Fujii. L'orchestre a beau être composé de 16 musiciens, tous au masculin, on avait quatre femmes à l'avant plan : les deux sœurs Jensen, Marianne Trudel et Karen Young, lumineuse.

Marianne Trudel, Karen Young et Christine Jensen – Dans la forêt de ma mémoire:

Après 16 ans, la pertinence de l'événement ne se dément pas, mais, à l'instar de plusieurs autres festivals, il est fragile. Le président, Lévy Bourbonnais avoue qu'on s'ajuste beaucoup d'une année à l'autre. Le sondage distribué à tous les spectateurs devient ici un outil de travail pour bâtir la programmation. On recherche aussi les collaborations avec d'autres organismes. Le spectacle du trio Young-Guilbeault-Provost, était d'ailleurs présenté en collaboration avec les Belles soirées de l'Université de Montréal. Six ans après Électro Beatniks paru en 2009, on lançait finalement You make me feel so young, un disque qui rassemble entre autres des standards de Lester Young, Cole Porter, Joni Mitchell et une pièce en français, Mourir pour des idées, soit Brassens revisité par ces trois grands du jazz que sont Normand Guilbeault, Sylvain Provost et Karen Young. Un moment d'émotions et de bonne humeur qui est allé chercher un tout autre public que celui que l'on peut croiser au Café Résonance.

Le Café Résonance, l'un des neuf lieux de diffusion de l'Off, est devenu, depuis 2013, le véritable pivot de ce festival, puisque deux séries quasi quotidiennes s'y déroulent, à l'apéro et en fin de soirée. C'est là que nous y avons fait les plus belles découvertes : la formation du batteur Mark Nelson, avec le superbe son du saxophoniste Mike Bjella arrive en tête de liste. Les compositions sont bien structurées, la démarche inspirée, l'ensemble concluant, sur scène comme sur disque. J'ai déjà hâte de les revoir. La saxophoniste Annie Dominique, bien entourée, avec entre autres le batteur Alain Bourgeois et le tromboniste Jean-Nicolas Trottier, nous a donné de très beaux échanges musicaux. Beaux moments aussi avec le contrebassiste Joel Kerr et l'énergique Andrew Boudreau au Fender Rhodes, un son à la fois moderne et rétro, dont on va suivre le développement.

Lancement de disques

Une douzaine de productions ont été lancées au cours de ce festival, dont 9 au cours d'un véritable marathon musical à la Casa del Popolo avec l'étiquette Multiple Cords Music. Neuf formations qui ont enregistré avec cette jeune étiquette se sont succédé sur scène donnant un bon aperçu du large spectre de créateurs réunis sous MCM : du duo Frédéric Alari/Jacques Kuba-Séguin (contrebasse et trompette) au très rock Andy King, en passant par le Rachel Therrien Quintet, qui a remporté Grand Prix de Jazz TD 2015 au Festival international de jazz de Montréal, le Mark Nelson's Sympathic Frequences, le Parc X trio, il y avait là une palette assez large du spectre jazz, de noms connus, mais surtout de nouveaux venus. Une très belle occasion de découvrir toute une génération de musiciens et musiciennes qui prend de plus en plus sa place sur les scènes locale et nationale.

Au Lion d'or, un vétéran, le saxophoniste Yannick Rieu, en a profité aussi pour lancer Da Li, un disque de facture plus rock et plus électronique, dans la foulée du Non Acoustic Project paru en 2002, mais inspiré par la musique et les chants traditionnels chinois. Plusieurs spectateurs sont sortis pendant la prestation, beaucoup plus rock que l'enregistrement, il faut le souligner. Après le moment intime et gracieux offert par le duo d'Adrian Vedady er Marc Copland, la coupure était radicale et le rendu sur scène pas tout à fait concluant. Le spectacle n'était pas rodé et visiblement, avec la direction, le saxophone et les bidouillages électroniques, Yannick Rieu en avait plein les bras. On aura sans doute l'occasion de le réentendre dans un autre contexte.

Trois grands ensembles

L'Off nous a présenté cette année trois grands ensembles, ce qui est plutôt impressionnant. Trois ensembles au profil fort différent. L'orchestre national de jazz de Montréal en ouverture, puis la soirée Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms +9. Il est trop rare d'entendre Jean Derome entouré d'autant de grands musiciens de la scène des musiques actuelles et improvisées: Lori Friedman, Joane Hétu, Pierre Tanguay, Bernard Falaise. Guillaume Dostaler, Jean René etc. Un programme unique, comme tous ceux de l'année Jean Derome, dont une oeuvre composée pour les 25 ans de Traquen'Art en 2007 et une oeuvre jouée pour la première fois à Montréal écrite pour un ensemble de Toronto. Un grand moment complice avec des musiciens aguerris, habitués de jouer ensemble au sein de diverses formations. À la Vitrola, Le public a pu découvrir la formation de mes compatriotes rimouskois, le GGRIL, le Grand Groupe Régional d'Improvisation Libérée, qui en était à se deuxième visite à Montréal en quelques mois, Le groupe d'une quinzaine de musiciens avait invité le grand guitariste américain Joe Morris, qui a aussi joué en solo. La pianiste et compositrice Lisa Cay Miller a par la suite dirigé la formation avec une pièce écrite pour l'ensemble de musiciens. Un concert haut en couleurs fort apprécié par le public.

Jean Derome

L'Off a su, au fil des ans, malgré sa précarité, rester fidèle à l'esprit qui a animé sa fondation : présenter des musiciens québécois, des musiciens accomplis, comme Marianne Trudel ou Jean Vanasse, l'un des fondateurs de l'événement, et de nombreuses nouvelles voix. Aussi, peu de spectacles se chevauchent pendant ce festival, ce qui permet aux amateurs de ne rien manquer. Cependant, les déplacements entre les différentes scènes obligent à parcourir plusieurs arrondissements, ce qui est peu pratique, que ce soit en voiture, à vélo ou en transport en commun. C'est à la fois la force et la faiblesse de ce festival : le public d'un concert de Marianne Trudel en solo à la salle du Bon Pasteur n'est pas le même que celui de l'avant-garde de la Vitrola, ce qui rend la fidélisation du public un peu plus ardue. Soulignons en terminant que l'on a remis au saxophoniste Yves Charuest le Prix François-Marcaurelle 2015. 

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, 26 October 2015

Lights - Camera - Auction & Song: Centaur stages scintillating benefit soirée

by Naomi Gold

Old Montreal's 46-year-old Centaur Theatre illuminated in spectacular fashion for its 11th annual fundraising gala. As torrential rains engulfed the city, supporters arrived with ark-loads of party cheer and posed for red carpet photos in a sheltered booth.

Theatre Luminaries from left to right: Centaur board chair Howard Golberg; Artistic director Roy Surette; gala honouree Dennis Sharp; Jackie Richardson, gala star; RBC's Michael Palermo; Centaur founder Maurice Podbrey

A festive dînatoire featured freshly shucked PEI oysters in a sea of savory eats, that were served with smooth SAQ spirits. Some 200 revellers also bid on lots of lavish silent auction loot, which ranged from hockey memorabilia to luxury vacation packages, including an exotic African safari.

Artistic director Roy Surette entered stage right and welcomed all before introducing municipal culture councillor and ex-Segal Centre director Manon Gauthier. She lauded Centaur's success and importance in Montreal's cultural scene, adding, "we were never in competition with one another." Gala chair Tony Loffreda bowed out due to business commitments, but dispatched RBC understudy Michael Palermo, who saluted the theatre's board chair, Howard Golberg.

Luminous luminary Dennis Sharp was honoured for his longstanding support and urged all to be generous with their bids, "my wife says we won the auction, while I prefer to view it as an expenditure," he joked. Assuming auctioneering duties was CJAD's afternoon announcer, Aaron Rand, who conducted sans baton. His wryly sarcastic obbligato—uttered and muttered throughout the vaudevillesque auction—propelled one theatregoer into bidding euphoria. He quipped, "Did you put your hand down at all?" Coveted cruises netted thousands and a private Bowser & Blue performance chez vous launched a bona fide bidding war, as Rand happily separated many from their money. The denouement proceeded with Luminous's main event.

Centaur's stage ignited with sultry jazz sensation Jackie (mom of Kim) Richardson. Currently starring in The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, the jubilant Richardson and her band wowed spectators with a polyphony of genres. Her act was interspersed with over-the-top, "into-the-crowd" forays, along with an audience singalong, which delighted fans. Richardson's set segued perfectly into the soirée's final act.

Decadently delicious desserts thoroughly satiated guests as they eagerly anticipated the icing on Luminous's cake: the announcement of funds raised. With $182,000 generated and (great) expectations exceeded, buoyant fans collected their auction expenditures, er, winnings, and floated home.

Centaur Theatre's production of Djanet Sears' play ran until October 18th. It was the largest in their history, featuring a 22-member cast, including singer-dancers who metamorphose into the landscape itself. It is followed by Nicolas Billon's spellbinding thriller, Butcher, on November 3rd.; 514-288-3161.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Cette semaine à Montréal (26 à 31 octobre) / This Week in Montreal (October 26 - 31)

Music / Musique

Mathieu Père et Fils avec la Trio Hochelaga

En lien avec l’exposition sur nos années vingt présentée par le Musée des beaux-arts, Arte Musica propose des œuvres dénichées dans les archives de l’époque. Le Trio Hochelaga interprète trois œuvres québécoises qui nous plongent dans la musique des années 1920 à 1940 : un trio de Rodolphe Mathieu, un trio d’André Mathieu et un quatuor avec piano d’Auguste Descarries. Invité : Victor Fournelle-Blain, alto. Salle Bourgie, vendredi 30, 18 h 30.

Labels: , , , , ,

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 26 - Nov. 1)

My Toronto Concert Previews for the Week of October 26 to November 1

~ Joseph So

COC's Pyramus and Thisbe (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The fall season of the Canadian Opera Company continues with La traviata and Pyramus and Thisbe. Last week, I attended the premiere of P&T, a triple bill that combined two Monteverdi fragments with a new opera composed by Canadian Barbara Monk Feldman, an interesting juxtaposition.  In the early publicity material put out by the COC, they used the Nicolas Poussin painting which inspired Monk Feldman to compose this opera.  Visually the production with its Rothko-inspired backdrop has absolutely nothing to do with the Poussin painting (see above). Similarly, the music as expected is decidedly contemporary. I will have a full review to appear in an upcoming issue of Opera from London, UK. For now, I can say it's a challenging score and stylistically unlike any opera one would have heard in an opera house. The three principals, mezzo Krisztina Szabo, baritone Phillip Addis and tenor Owen McCausland were outstanding on opening night, as was the chorus and orchestra under Johannes Debus.  Kudos to the chorus particularly for learning the sparse yet difficult vocal parts. Performance of Pyramus and Thisbe this week on Wednesday Oct. 28 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre. Meanwhile, La traviata conducted by Marco Guidarini continues with soprano Ekaterina Siurina, tenor Charles Castronovo and baritone Quinn Kelsey on Oct. 29 and Nov. 1, this last a matinee at 2 pm. The Canadian cast (soprano Joyce El-Khoury, tenor Andrew Haji, and baritone James Westman) can be heard on Oct. 30 7:30 pm.

Opera Atelier's production of Armide by Lully (Photo: Bruce Zinger)

Opera Atelier's eye popping production of Lully's Armide concludes this week at the Elgin Theatre on Oct. 27, 30, 31. One of the most successful of OA productions, it premiered in 2005 and revived in 2012. Like 2012, it travels to Versailles after the Toronto run. Here's my review of the current revival -  It stars OA frequent guest American soprano Peggy Kriha Dye in the title role and Canadian tenor Colin Ainsworth as Renaud. David Fallis leads the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

Soprano Renee Fleming

America's prima donna Renee Fleming returns to Toronto in recital at Roy Thomson Hall on Oct. 30 8 pm.   The 56 year old soprano is gradually phasing out her operatic career in favour of concerts and recitals. She shot to fame as one of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions winners in 1988, the same year as Canada's own Ben Heppner. I still recall her beautiful Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro in 1991, at Opera Hamilton!  In the interview in the November issue of Opera (London, UK), she reveals that the only opera performances left on her upcoming schedule is the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier.  This is a role many prima donnas in the past have chosen as their farewell - two I've seen were Evelyn Lear and Elisabeth Soderstrom. I feel fortunate to have caught Fleming as Madeleine in Capriccio at the Semperoper Dresden last year, even though she sadly cancelled her originally scheduled Arabella. This Roy Thomson Hall appearance is likely one of the few opportunities left to hear her.  On the program is Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne. plus Rachmaninoff, Schumann and Strauss with pianist Gerald Martin Moore.

Baritone Quinn Kelsey

Opera fans can catch the great voice of baritone Quinn Kelsey in a free noon hour recital, Songs From the Heart, at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on Tuesday Oct. 27 singing a selection of English songs and German Lieder, including Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel, a desert island song cycle for me. Kelsey is in town as Germont in La traviata, and he sang magnificently on opening night. His Rigoletto and Sancho Panza at the COC were equally terrific. This is really a recital not to be missed. Be sure to get there an hour ahead to line up for a seat.

Conductor John Storgards (Photo: Marco Borggreve)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting Sibelius' Symphony No. 2, as part of the TSO's Decades Project.  Also on the program is the Bartok Violin Concerto No. 1, with Austrian violinist Benjamin Schmid.   On the podium is guest conductor Finnish maestro John Storgards.

Given this is Halloween weekend, the string musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is playing the soundtrack of the Hitchcock mega hit Psycho. I recall seeing it in the cinema when it first came out and that shower scene with Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins scared the bejesus out of me!  Sure this film is available on DVD, but it's nothing like experiencing it with a live orchestra playing the Bernard Herrmann score. The conductor is Constantine Kitsopoulos. Saturday Oct. 31st 7:30 pm.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,