Monday, November 7, 2011

Recent Music

The 75th anniversary of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was celebrated with country-wide concerts, covering a wide range of genres. On October 3, a delightful evening of opera offerings, entitled Prima Donna featured four of Canada's most beautiful female voices: sopranos Isabel Bayrakdarian, Marianne Fiset and Aline Kutan, and mezzo soprano Julie Boulianne. After a mainly French concert, tenor Ben Heppner made guest appearance. It was a great evening, with the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra under Johannes Debus. I was in the third row of the Glenn Gould Studio and by evening's end my ears were happy... and ringing.

They were still ringing the next evening when I was strangely again in the third row; this time it was in the Jane Mallet Theatre for an evening of music played on traditional Japanese instruments, presented by the Japan Foundation. The first half of the program offered traditional music, with the performers in a more traditional dress. The two female performers were Tsugumi Yamamoto and Ai Kajigano and they sang most hauntingly and played the koto, a large stringed instrument. Akihito Obama played the end-blown flute-like Shakuhachi and Makoto Yamamoto was on the taiko... just 10 feet away from me, and could he ever bang those drums! It was a truly delightful night. I learnt something new, and it was made more special by having sushi beforehand. Mmmm... dragon roll...

Another wonderful evening of food and music: We ate at Bar Mercurio and then strolled over to Koerner Hall for Harry Bicket (lead last season's amazing Orfeo ed Euridice at the COC) leading the English Concert. Both halves of the program featured works by Telemann, Vivaldi and Purcell, all so satisfying... I felt very grateful and was so happy to be back in this favourite hall, in its chocolate-brown seats, gazing at its suggestive ceiling. This was pointed out by a friend of mine and I get it! Seriously... does anyone else see it?

I was back just last week to see French counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky with Apollo's Fire in a splendid program of Vivaldi and Handel. The reviews were ecstatic, but the audience even more so. This was a different crowd from, say the typical opera crowd, or early music. They were very focussed; I didn't get the impression that any of them had shown up to pass the time. These were passionate people! What a program it was. Jeannette Sorrell, the music director, led from the harpsichord, as Harry Bicket had done in the earlier program. She pointed out that much of Vivaldi is yet to be published. What a thrill to know there is so much more for the musicologists to share with us! There were three encores, but I feel that if the ensemble hadn't left the stage with a sense of purpose after those three, that the audience would have happily had them playing all night.

And speaking of COC, the Canadian Opera Company raised the stakes again in two powerful productions of Iphigénie en Tauride and Rigoletto: two very different productions, both superbly done. The Rigoletto didn't engage me in Act I, but I learned a while ago to give Act II a chance in almost any production, and it was so worth it this time: it blew my away completely. The ending was brilliantly set; all the musicians were in top form. So good. And if that wasn't enough opera, in Met HD broadcasts I saw Anna Bolena (which I'm glad I saw, but I have no need to see it again); my desert island opera, Don Giovanni (I gather for those in the opera house that it felt directed for the camera, and I'm not surprised, as I loved the experience. Ramón Vargas as Don Ottavio sang "Dalla sua pace" and made me cry - a first!); and, last Saturday... Siegfried! (Jay Hunter Morris took over the role at the last minute and did a great job - what stamina, what acting, what charm! What a cast: Deborah Voigt, Bryn Terfel, Gerhard Siegel and Eric Owens and more...) I'm opera'd out for now, and won't see another Met broadcast til next 2012. I'm not doing the entire run as I did last year; that just meant too many precious Saturday afternoons gone.

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