La Scena Musicale

Friday, 20 November 2015

Canadian soprano Simone Osborne Sings Surprise WMCT Concert

Simone Osborne Makes Surprise Women's Musical Club of Toronto Debut 

Les nuits d'ete / Berlioz
Zueignung / Allerseelen / Morgen / Strauss
Love's Philosophy / Quilter
Silent Moon / Vaughan Williams
Simple Gifts / Copland
Beautiful Dreamer / Foster
When I have sung my songs to you / Charles
Encore: Song to the Moon / Dvorak

Simone Osborne, soprano
John Arida, piano
Walter Hall / Thursday Nov. 19 2015 1:30 pm

A happy Simone Osborne receiving audience applause (Photo: Joseph So)

As audience members. we are not really aware of just how much planning - and often nail-biting - that goes into concert programming.  From the signing of the contract to the actual event, a lot of stars have to be aligned for a smooth execution. I'm talking about finances, logistics, weather, venue issues, possible conflicts with competing events, etc, etc. The biggest fly in the ointment is often the health of the artist in question.

Such was the case with this week's recital featuring star American mezzo Isabel Leonard.  The originally scheduled pianist Vlad Iftinca bowed out due to commitments in Europe, and he was replaced by John Arida. Then barely thirty hours before the recital, Isabel Leonard cancelled due to illness. Usually this sort of eleventh hour cancellation is deadly for the organizers - how do you find a replacement on such short notice? Fortunately Canadian soprano Simone Osborne was available, and even better, she had worked extensively with Mr. Arida when both were young artists at the Academy of the West. So a program was quickly put together for her debut with WMCT. When she came out wearing her sensational low-cut gown and her  trademark big smile, her first words to the audience was not from "Villanelle" the first song of Berlioz' Les nuits d'ete -  but "Surprise!"

And the audience was indeed pleasantly surprised - by Osborne deputizing so brilliantly for the ailing Isabel Leonard. She began with the aforementioned, very familiar Berlioz cycle. She mentioned to the audience that Mr. Arida had not played this cycle before in public. That said, I didn't really detect any tentativeness on his part or that of the soprano. Even though she had the music on a stand, she didn't refer to it throughout. It's a cycle of six quite lengthy songs, with multiple changes of moods and dynamics. Osborne's bright and vibrant soprano resonated nicely in the intimate space of Walter Hall. I had just heard her the previous week, as soloist with the Toronto Symphony in Mahler 4th. The cavernous Roy Thomson Hall proved less than ideal for her compact-sized instrument, but Walter Hall was perfect.  If I were to quibble, it would be nice if the piano would be just a bit softer (especially in the Berlioz). Osborne observed the dynamic markings and changes of moods faithfully, a few minor pitch issues aside. Perhaps a softer piano would have allowed more of a palette of tone colours from the singer, and freed her from having to work hard at the climaxes.  

Soprano Simone Osborne and pianist John Arida (Photo: Joseph So)

After the intermission, Osborne sang three Richard Strauss songs, all chestnuts, and all affectingly sung. It's interesting that she programmed "Zueignung" to start and "Morgen" to end, while most singers would have preferred to start soft and end with a flourish. Here Mr. Arida's softer touch complemented the singer very well. The same was true with the five English-American songs that ended the formal part of the recital. To my ears, Osborne was at her best in these songs, offering a surfeit of expression and beautiful tone, not to mention admirable diction. It was so nice to hear Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts" from Appalachain Spring, a truly lovely song, given American Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  I also loved her "Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Foster.  I understand this is Osborne's mentor, American mezzo Marilyn Horne's favourite song - well, the soprano certainly learned it from the master! She ended the formal program with "When I've sung my songs" by Ernest Charles, a gem that's not performed much these days. Perhaps in our cynical 21st century, it's considered a maudlin parlour song, but it'a still a terrific song! The last time I heard this live was sung by Ben Heppner quite some years ago now. The audience gave the artists multiple ovations, and they were rewarded by an encore - Song to the Moon from Rusalka.  I had just heard Osborne sing this with the TSO, but I think she outdid herself this afternoon, beautifully rendered and capped with a marvelous final high B. It was a truly auspicious WMCT debut.

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Monday, 16 November 2015

Cette semaine à Montréal (16 à 22 novembre) / This Week in Montreal (November 16 - 22)

Mireille Lebel, crédit photo: Lutz Edelhoff

Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur

Dimanche 22, 15 h, au tour du soliste, chambriste et pédagogue Jean Saulnier de nous offrir des œuvres de Bach, Fauré et Schumann.

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Nov. 22, 3 pm. Jean Saulnier – soloist, chamber musician and ­educator. Pieces by Bach, Fauré, and Schumann.

Jean Derome in Concert

SuperMusique présente Phèdre de Racine, sans paroles, une transposition en musique de Derome, en rassemblant 8 improvisateurs de l’Ensemble SuperMusique et la chorale bruitiste Joker, dirigés par Joane Hétu. Amphithéâtre du Gesù, vendredi 20, 20 h.

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SuperMusique offers Phèdre de Racine, sans paroles, a musical transposition by Derome, with 8 of the Ensemble’s musicians and the noise music choir Joker, led by Joane Hétu. Amphithéâtre du Gesù, Nov. 27, 8 pm.

Neuvième Édition du Festival Bach Montréal 2015 / Ninth Edition of the Montréal Bach Festival 2015

Très attendu des amateurs, le Festival Bach Montréal se tiendra du 22 novembre au 5 décembre et offrira aux mélomanes 24 spectacles présentés dans 12 salles.

On remarque, entre autres ensembles célèbres de retour à Montréal, Europa Galante, la « Ferrari de la musique baroque italienne » et l’ensemble de musique ancienne allemand l’Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (AKAMUS). Fondé en 1982 en RDA, AKAMUS, qui joue le plus souvent sans direction d’un chef, ouvre le festival à la Maison symphonique le 22 novembre, tandis qu’Europa Galante, créé en 1990 par le violoniste Fabio Biondi, est présenté en prélude à la salle Bourgie le 14 novembre.

L’Ensemble Caprice et le Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal se joignent pour offrir, le 27 novembre à la Maison symphonique, deux œuvres de circonstance de Haendel, l’Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne et l’Anthem for the Foundling Hospital, ainsi que le quatrième Concerto Brandebourgeois de Bach et le Magnificat de son fils, C.P.E. Bach. Les trois grands B (Bach-Beethoven-Brahms) seront présents le 23 dans un concert qui réunit le pianiste Serhiy Salov, le violoniste Axel Strauss et la violoncelliste Kateryna Bragina.

Des solistes parmi les plus acclamés dans le monde participeront à cette édition du festival. On signale la venue du maître du pianoforte Kristian Bezuidenhout, deux concerts de la pianiste chinoise Zhu Xiao-Mei qui offrira les Variations Goldberg et l’interprétation des Suites pour ­violoncelle seul de Bach par le jeune prodige allemand Isang Enders.

Pour le dernier concert du Festival à la basilique Notre-Dame, Alexander Weimann et Arion Orchestre Baroque proposent un programme raffiné, dans lequel figure le Magnificat de Bach.

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The much-anticipated Montréal Bach Festival takes place Nov. 22 to Dec. 5, offering music lovers 24 concerts presented in 12 different venues.

Notable among other renowned ensembles returning to Montréal is Europa Galante, the “Ferrari of Italian Baroque music”, and ­Germany’s early music ensemble, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (AKAMUS). Founded in East Germany in 1982, AKAMUS, which most often plays without a conductor, opens the festival at the Maison Symphonique on Nov. 22, while Europa Galante, ­created in 1990 by violinist Fabio Biondi, is presented as a prelude at Bourgie Hall on Nov. 14.

The Ensemble Caprice and the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal unite to offer two pieces from Handel’s occasional works, Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne and the Anthem for the Foundling Hospital, as well as Bach’s fourth Brandenburg ­Concerto and C.P.E. Bach’s Magnificat, on Nov. 27 at the Maison Symphonique. The three great Bs (Bach-Beethoven-Brahms) are presented on the 23rd in a concert bringing together pianist Serhiy Salov, violinist Axel Strauss, and cellist Kateryna Bragina.

Some of the most celebrated soloists in the world will participate in this edition of the festival. Worth mentioning are pianoforte ­master Kristian Bezuidenhout, two concerts by Chinese pianist Zhu Xiao-Mei who will perform the Goldberg Variations, and the ­performance of Bach’s Cello Suites by young German prodigy Isang Enders.

For the Festival’s final concert at Montréal’s Notre Dame Basilica, Alexander Weimann and Arion Baroque Orchestra offer a refined program featuring Bach’s Magnificat.

Elektra – Opéra de Montréal

La présentation par Opéra de Montréal de l’opéra en un acte Elektra de Richard Strauss marque le retour du chef Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Le rôle titre sera interprété par la soprano étatsunienne Lise Lindstrom, qui a tenu la vedette dans la récente production de Turandot au Met. La distribution, brillante, inclut Nicola Beller Carbone en Chrysothémis, Agnes Zwierko en Clytemnestre et Alan Held en Oreste. La mise en scène est assurée par Alain Gauthier. Les 21, 24, 26 et 28 novembre à 19h30.

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Opéra de Montréal’s presentation of Richard Strauss’s one-act opera Elektra features the return of the Orchestre Métropolitain under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. American soprano Lise Lindstrom, who recently starred in the Met’s production of ­Turandot, will also play the title role in this production. The distinguished cast includes Nicola Beller Carbone as Chrysothemis, Agnes Zwierko as Klytemnästra, and Alan Held as Orest. The staging is by company regular Alain Gauthier. Nov. 21, 24, 26, and 28, 7:30 pm.

Opéra comique de Johann Strauss 

Le Théâtre d’art lyrique de Laval entame sa 35e saison avec Die Fledermaus de Johann Strauss, mis en scène par Frédéric-Antoine Guimond. Au pupitre, Sylvain Cooke qui dirigera une distribution incluant Millie Thivierge, Jean-Claude Bourdeau et Luc Major. Le 27 novembre à 20h et le 29 novembre à 14h.

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Théâtre d’art lyrique de Laval’s 35th season begins with Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus staged by Frédéric-Antoine Guimond. ­Sylvain Cooke conducts a cast that includes Millie Thivierge, Jean-Claude Bourdeau, and Luc Major. Nov. 27 at 8 pm and Nov. 29 at 2 pm.

Les mamelles de Tirésias – Université de Montréal

Sous la direction de Robin Wheeler, l’Atelier d’opéra de l’Université de Montréal présente une représentation semi-scénique de la version concert de l’opéra bouffe de Poulenc, Les mamelles de Tirésias. Wheeler et Francis Perron accompagnent 25 chanteurs sur scène dans la version pour deux pianos de Benjamin Britten. La mise en espace est de François Racine. Les 18 et 19 novembre à 19h30.

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Under the direction of Robin Wheeler, Université de Montréal’s Opera Atelier program is presenting a semi-staged concert version of ­Francis Poulenc’s comic opera Les Mamelles de Tirésias. Wheeler and ­Francis Perron accompany the 25 singers in the production, playing the ­orchestration for two pianos by Benjamin Britten. The minimal staging is by François Racine. Nov. 18 and 19 at 7:30 pm.

I Musici – Mireille Lebel

La mezzo canadienne Mireille Lebel interprétera des extraits de Didon et Énée de Purcell et de Phaedra de Britten avec Zeitouni et I Musici. Les 19, 20 et 22 novembre.

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Canadian mezzo Mireille Lebel lends her warm voice to excerpts of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and Britten’s Phaedra with Zeitouni and I Musici. Nov. 19, 20, 22.

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