I had the pleasure and honour of hosting the emotionally-charged final concert of the Exultate Chamber Singers' 30th anniversary season at Grace Church on-the-Hill on Friday, May 13. The program was just over an hour long and was as close to perfection as one could hope to experience. The atmosphere was heightened due to this being John Tuttle's final concert as the choir's Artistic Director. The church was full of the choir's loyal audience, plus additional friends, colleagues and alumni who came to mark the occasion. From the opening notes of Palestrina's "Exultate Deo", it was clear that the choir was "on" and that this was to be an extraordinary night of music-making. The sophisticated and celebratory counterpoint was clear and energetic, the choir's appearance and sound was warm and relaxed, and Tuttle's signature rhythmic drive was in full flight. The celebrated Canadian composer Derek Holman was on hand for the premiere of his "A Canticle, A Prayer and A Psalm", written especially for the occasion. The choir negotiated this challenging and engaging work with seeming effortlessness and serenity. It came off beautifully and it was a moving sight to have Holman come to the front of the church at the conclusion of the piece to shake hands with Tuttle, sharing a witty aside together and smiling broadly. The choir then launched into the longest work on the program: Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, op.47, more commonly known as the "Vespers". By the second or third movement of this 15-movement work, we had all been transported to another time and place. As the piece unfolded, the choir's phrasing, burnished sound and "groove" got stronger and stronger. It was truly a first-rate performance and a gift on so many levels: from choir to conductor, conductor to choir, organization to audience. We all felt connected and elevated by the experience. As the final exultant chords of the work faded, the audience stood and cheered this first-rate choir and their remarkable conductor. Tuttle left the chancel briefly, then returned to collect his choir and take them off. We continued to applaud, and continued, and continued. Finally, Tuttle appeared at the back of the church to acknowledge us, though it was clear he was uncomfortable...for him, of course, the music speaks for itself and that's the end of it. Thankfully, we were able to continue the celebration in the Parish Hall of the church, where the choir had organized a classy reception. Giles Bryant, longtime friend and associate of Tuttle's and a frequent guest of the choir's, hosted a brief program of speeches, which included a video "greeting" from the choir's new conductor, Karen Grylls, from New Zealand. There were other speeches from Peter Tiefenbach, Michael Rowland and, finally, a gracious few words from Tuttle himself. There were more than a few tears in the room....it was the end of a special night of music-making and celebration among a close-knit community that values music-making at a high level. I left the church marveling at how expertly and beautifully Tuttle and the choir had executed a first-rate concert and party. It will live in my memory for many years to come.

Have you ever thought about learning to play a musical instrument but never got around to it because you were too busy with work or family activities? It’s never too late. If you are retired or pondering about what you will do when retired, taking up a musical instrument might just be the entry into a new phase of your life. You may have taken piano lessons and enjoy playing to entertain yourself, but that can be a solitary pastime. Playing in an ensemble could open up a new social dimension to your life as well.

Last fall Wholenote reported on the formation of two new community ensembles for beginners, or those reconnecting after many years away from music. Now, less than nine months later, both of these groups have developed to the stage where they are presenting inaugural concerts this spring.

Most recent medical research indicates that one of the keys to a healthy and fulfilling life in retirement is to keep active. In particular, it is crucial to keep the brain challenged. What better way to do that than to learn to play a musical instrument in a non-threatening situation with a group of like minded individuals who soon become part of a new social circle. For both of the groups mentioned the socializing and sharing of treats during the break in rehearsals has become an important component of their transformations into the world of performance. Visit one or both of these concerts and see what you might do with music in under a year.

The New Horizons Band, organized by Long and McQuade Music and directed by Dan Kapp, will be performing at the CBC Glenn Gould studio Thursday, May 19 at 7:30 pm. This is a full concert band which has grown to almost 50 enthusiastic members. This first public performance is appropriately titled “The Beat Goes On.” For information Phone 416-531-4506.

The other beginners’ group is Resa’s Pieces Strings, organized by Resa Kochberg and directed by Ric Georgi. Their “Gala Debut Performance” will take place Sunday, June 5 at 7:30 pm at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, 10268 Yonge Street. As the name implies, this is an all string orchestra. If trumpet or saxophone are not your thing, then perhaps a cello or viola might be more to your liking. For information go to www.strings.resaspieces.org.

The Canadian Opera Company closes its 2010/11 season on a high note with Orfeo ed Euridice, its first-ever production of an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-87).  The production created by Canadian director Robert Carsen for the Chicago Lyric Opera is beautiful in its stark simplicity and the singing by the cast and playing of the COC Orchestra under Harry Bicket is exquisite.

Gluck’s opera, the first of his so-called “reform operas”, exists in two versions--the original version in Italian that premiered in Vienna in 1762 and the second version written in French and expanded to suit French tastes that premiered in Paris in 1774.  We in Toronto are quite fortunate to have had the chance to see both versions performed by Opera Atelier--the Italian version in 1997 and the French version in 2007.  The French version with its major expansion of the ballet sequences is eminently suited to Opera Atelier’s aesthetic of integrating dance into the opera.  The Italian version, in contrast, is deliberately more severe, following Gluck’s goal of restoring opera to its origins as sung drama.

Carsen’s production reflects the severity of Gluck’s vision in Tobias Hoheisel’s set that consists only of a raked gravel-covered rectangle backed by a blank cyclorama, reminiscent of the minimalist productions of the Wagner operas by Wieland Wagner in the 1950s.  Carsen has updated the action to sometime in the present and to somewhere where women still wear headscarves daily.  Hoheisel’s palette throughout is entirely black, white and grey, with the only colour coming from the the flowers strewn on Euridice’s grave or the yellow of the flames seen in all three acts.  The austerity of the production is reinforced by Peter van Praet’s lighting which set low in the wings causes the singers to cast shadows across the entire stage or through frequent backlighting that makes us see much of the action in silhouette.  Both techniques, of course, underscore the imagery of the opera about a man who travels among the shades of the underworld to bring back his dead wife.

Carsen has made the work more abstract than Gluck’s original.  Gluck’s librettist Raniero de’ Calzabigi did not follow the Greek myth when he gave the story a happy ending.  So Carsen is justified in modifying the story further.  His Orpheus is no longer a semi-divine musician, but rather an Everyman responding to the death of a beloved wife.  He has no lute or musical instrument of any kind.  The one object associated with him is a switchblade that represents his recurring despair and desire to take his own life.  He subdues the shades of Hades not through the magic of his song but through the intensity of the love it represents.

Counter-tenor Lawrence Zazzo, last seen as Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2009, gives a magnificent performance vocally and dramatically.  His voice is rich, strong and full of expressiveness and his acting is as highly detailed as that of a fine actor.  Though Harry Bicket’s intent was to conduct the work without breaks for applause except at the ends of acts, the audience could not restrain itself after Zazzo’s moving account of “Che farò senza Euridice?” in Act 3 and burst into bravos and applause.

Isabel Bayrakdarian, seen earlier this year as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, is a radiant Euridice, darkness beneath the bright tone of  her voice well-suited to conveying the character’s confusion and distress.  Ambur Braid, a new member of the COC Ensemble Studio, was a genial crystal-voiced Amore, dressed to reflect Orfeo’s inner self in Act 1 and as Euridice’s inner self in Act 3.

Under Harry Bicket, the COC Orchestra made their modern instruments sound  as much like period instruments as is possible and played with the same precision and lightness of touch as the finest period ensembles.  It was almost impossible to believe the orchestra also plays Verdi and Wagner, but then one of the late Richard Bradshaw’s great achievements was to make the COC Orchestra so adaptable.  As usual, the contributions of the COC Chorus were beautifully judged and full of emotion.  The 2011/12 season opens with another Robert Carsen production of Gluck, Iphigénie en Tauride.  If it is as deeply considered as his Orfeo, the next season should begin as nobly as the present season as ended.

 

 

photoIt was raining when we got off the Spadina streetcar at “Knox Church” to go see an organ that ended up being bigger that my whole bedroom which, by the way, isn’t too small. Well, anyway, once we got into the church we all walked down a long hallway leading to the chapel. The organ was gigantic and wonderful.

What I already knew about organs is that there are more or less four keyboards for every one, that they are not the same at all as pianos because pianos are string instruments and organs are wind instruments and that they are usually played in Churches or vampire movies. That’s about it.

Well, what I learned is that an organ is a medieval instrument that can sound like a whole choir or a flute or a bassoon etc. if you pull certain levers. This is what the levers look like…

Also that one of the keyboards is played by your feet (you can also see that in the picture).  At the Knox church and at churches that have great big organs in the basement there are lots and lots of metal tubes everywhere and that’s what pushes the air through to make the noises of the pipe organs.

I think that organs are lovely because they make the most wonderful sound, they are beautiful to look at and strangely I like them because they seem like a challenge to learn how to play them.

(SPO = Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra)

1)  There have been many composers who were also conductors throughout the history of Western music – Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and Leonard Bernstein come to mind as being among the most famous. How do the two roles fit together for you?  Do they feed one another?

First of all, I started my career as a professional cellist playing a lot of orchestral work, and not as a conductor or composer.  I believe this gave me a lot of practical experience to facilitate both composing for and conducting an orchestra.  Performing cello with the Toronto Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra in Los Angles, touring for Columbia Artists and performing at the Grammy Awards, all gave me different, but interesting viewpoints on music.  Having the opportunity to conduct and compose has given me even more varied experiences.  All these musical experiences have really helped keep me enthusiastic and growing as a musician.

2)  How does composing for orchestra inform or affect the way you look at and study an orchestral score?

I believe that composing gives a particular perspective on understanding the construction of music, which can’t be learned from just score study.  I wanted to study composition to better understand the music of great composers (both past and present).  Learning to compose a fugue in the style of J.S. Bach is the best way to really understand and appreciate Bach’s achievement.  Therefore, it is common for conductors to study at least some composition.  It is interesting to see how many of the top conductors have also composed or arranged music for orchestra.  For example, Vancouver Symphony music director and conductor Bramwell Tovey is an excellent composer and premiered an opera this season.

3)  Is there conflict – evenings when you would like to stay home and write but have to go out and lead a rehearsal?

Conductor Simon Streatfeild (who knew Benjamin Britten well) told me that “Ben” enjoyed conducting, but would get frustrated that he didn’t have enough time to compose.

I always enjoy conducting the orchestra, but there are times when I need to take care of administrative duties when I would rather be composing.  Because of the time commitments required for the SPO, I have composed less, but it has been a worthwhile trade-off.

4)  Has your work with the orchestra suggested or inspired compositions?

Last March, the SPO gave a remarkable performance of the Beethoven 9th Symphony, which ended with an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience.  Being able to study this amazing composition in-depth and conduct this masterpiece for the first time taught me a lot as a conductor and a composer.  Consequently, I am thinking about composing a new work for choir and orchestra.

5)  You worked for ten years in Los Angeles as a studio musician. How has this influenced your programming choices with the Scarborough Phil?

I had the chance to work with many of the top film composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Maurice Jarre, Henry Mancini, John Williams.  This gave me such an appreciation for the art of composing music to film and for the music itself.  I enjoy programming film music in part because I had the opportunity to learn first-hand how it should be performed.

6)  At your concert on April 2, there were three original compositions by living composers, all of whom were present. Is the presentation of contemporary music a programming priority for you?

Yes, because there are many wonderful Canadian composers who deserve to have their music heard, and our audiences have enjoyed listening to them too!  Many also enjoy the opportunity to meet and chat with these “living” composers.  Traditionally, the SPO has had a composer-in-residence, who is presently the gifted emerging composer Alex Eddington.

7)  Can you say something about the orchestra’s next season?

Some program highlights include Gershwin’s An American in Paris, Brahms’ Requiem (with the Toronto Choral Society), Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, some engaging Canadian music and Howard Cable’s Cowboy Christmas.

8)  What do you see as the Scarborough Philharmonic’s unique contribution to the Toronto and area music scene?

The SPO has a tradition of having the musicians and audience interact.  We have pre-concert talks, intermissions where the audience and musicians have coffee and cookies while we mingle, and after-concert socializing. It is really a wonderful environment to share one’s love of orchestral music.  As well, one of our priorities is to help support, train and promote young Canadian musicians.  We have many young players in the orchestra (including university students and young professionals), we feature young soloists (there are several excellent young soloists programmed to perform with us next season), and we perform music by emerging composers.  We hope to start featuring emerging conductors as well.

9)  Do you have any other interesting projects on the go as a conductor and/or composer?

I will be conducting for violinist Conrad Chow and Sinfonia Toronto for a commercial recording this July, featuring music by the prominent Los Angeles film composer Bruce Broughton, myself and emerging Canadian composer Kevin Lau.  I was very pleased the SPO and Conrad Chow were given the opportunity to present the world premiere of Bruce’s Triptych for Violin and Chamber Orchestra for our April 2 concert.  I am also revising my Rhapsody for Violin and Chamber Orchestra (a Canada Council for the Arts commission) to go along with the Triptych.

10)  Two years ago you recorded a CD, “The Hollywood Flute,” featuring Louise

DiTullio, whose flute playing has been heard on the soundtracks of over 1200 films. The CD is on the Cambria Master Recordings label and is distributed by Naxos. How did that come about?

Louise is my aunt and I was thrilled that she wanted to include me as the conductor, a composer and an arranger in this project that included music by Hollywood film composers John Barry, Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith, and John Williams.  The recording was organized and produced by Dr. Jeannie Pool, from Paramount Studios, and was quite interesting to work on.  For my arrangements of music from famous film scores, I was given access to the original scores (and sometimes sketches), which gave me interesting insights into the ways in which these different composers worked.

11)  Ms. Di Tullio is the guest artist at the Scarborough Philharmonic’s next concert. Do you see this event as kind of a CD release?

The audience will be given the chance to meet Louise and have her sign copies of the Hollywood Flute CD.  Since she lives on the west coast, this will be the first time that she has been in Toronto since she recorded the CD.  We have received only rave reviews for the CD.  If you have seen any major Hollywood movies over the last 40 years, you have heard Louise’s flute playing.

12)  The concert will give the audience the opportunity to hear one of the flutes greats.  Will there be music from the CD on the programme?  Will Ms. Di Tullio be performing any music that is not on the CD?

Louise will be playing the Suite from Dances with Wolves by John Barry which is on the CD.  As well, Louise will premiere my Duetto Amoroso for Flute, English Horn and Orchestra, along with virtuoso English Horn player Cary Ebli, who plays in the Toronto Symphony.  Cary will also perform the amazing Spaghetti Western Concerto by the American composer Michael Daugherty, who just won this year’s Grammy Award for best contemporary classical composition.  Included on the program will be music from popular films such as John Williams’ Raiders of the Lost Ark, Toronto native Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  There will be live orchestra accompaniments to some wonderful and humorous Sheridan College student cartoons and a Mary Pickford short silent film.  It should be a very enjoyable concert to attend, and I am certainly looking forward to conducting it.

More questions

13)  It seems to me that your association with the Scarborough Philharmonic began by your being its composer-in-residence. When was that? How did it come about?

I was invited by Jerome Summers to be the composer-in-residence, and held that position from June 2003 to June 2005.  Jerry was and continues to be a strong supporter of my work as a composer.  After 2005, I remained involved with the group in a less formal relationship, helping when possible.

14)  When did you move from the composer-in-residence job to becoming the artistic director and conductor?

After John Barnum left as music director, the board asked me to help with a conductor search and appointed me interim artistic director and conductor for the 2008-2009 concert season.  The search committee chose three excellent guest conductors who ended up being offered other career opportunities which prevented them from accepting Scarborough’s permanent music director job.  For example, conductor Daniel Swift became a music officer for the Canada Council for the Arts and is doing great work there.  So the board offered me the permanent position, but I asked that the orchestra have the opportunity to vote on it first.  I received a strong majority of support from the players, so I decided to take the plunge and become a music director for the first time in my career.

15)  Has your work as a professional cellist affected your work as a conductor or composer?

I started my career as a professional cellist doing a lot of orchestral work, and not as a conductor or composer.  I believe this gave me a lot of practical experience to facilitate both composing for and conducting an orchestra.  This cello experience has also influenced me philosophically on how I approach conducting and composing.  When I program for the SPO, an important consideration is choosing music that the orchestra will play well and will enjoy playing.  When I compose, I want the players to sound good performing my music and to enjoy playing it.  I usually approach things from a player’s perspective, which can be a very different approach from someone who has rarely or never “sat in the trenches” as a symphony performer.

16)  For longer term goals, I would like to continue working to learn and grow as a composer, and to write the best music I can.  I hope to continue having my music performed, commercially recorded, and commissioned.  All three are currently happening, so I hope it continues.

 

Just as people are breaking out the Battenberg cakes and Victoria sponge to celebrate the royal wedding, Toronto Operetta Theatre has whipped up the perfect musical confection to add to the festivities.  What better way to celebrate the monarchy than Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance where the villains of the title are vanquished “Because, with all their faults, they love their Queen?”

As the TOT demonstrated with its production of The Mikado in 2008, the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas gain immeasurably when sung by operatic voices.  While we can easily recognize the topsy-turveydom of Gilbert’s humour, operatic voices help reveal Sullivan’s abundant musical humour.  In Pirates, Mabel’s coloratura runs and attraction to echoing the flute parody Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, while Frederic’s declaration “I love you” at the end of “Oh, is there not one maiden breast” alludes to Wagner’s Tannhäuser--with the further joke that the murderous Lucia and sex-crazed Tannhäuser would hardly make an ideal couple.
Director Guillermo Silva-Marin and his excellent cast and the TOT Orchestra under Robert Cooper bring out all the humour of the piece--both verbal and musical--making the operetta a delight from beginning to end.  In fact, I haven’t heard a Pirates this well sung and played since the New D’Oyly Carte Opera Company’s production at the Savoy in London in 1989.
Chief among Silva-Marin’s discoveries for this production are Ryan Harper as Frederic and Jessica Cheung as his beloved Mabel.  Harper has the pure rounded tone of a classic English tenor and is the most expert in the cast of delivering Gilbert dialogue with the clear diction and artificial naïveté so characteristic of young lovers in G&S.  It’s wonderful to hear a real coloratura soprano sing Mabel.  Cheung tosses off the many runs Sullivan giver--plus the many more that Silva-Marin adds--with accuracy and aplomb.  The interpolation of music from Lucia only makes clear Sullivan’s point of reference.  Cheung humorously acquired a glazed look as the flute attracts her into ever more daring vocal acrobatics and Mabel forgets that anyone else is about.  Together their voices blended perfectly for the duet “Ah, leave me not to pine.”
The most famous member of the cast is Jean Stilwell playing Frederic’s addled nursery maid Ruth.  Given the beauty of Stilwell’s voice it’s a pity that G&S don’t give Ruth a showier song, as they would later do for the contralto character of the Fairy Queen in Iolanthe or Katisha in The Mikado.  The main problem is that Stilwell looks nothing like a plain and aged woman for whom Frederic should conceive such an aversion.  In fact, Stilwell is quite glamorous in her pirate gear.
Baritone David Ludwig gives us an unusual take on Major-General Stanley.  Instead of being proud and pompous, Ludwig’s Major-General seems to have his head in the clouds as much as his daughter, Mabel.  He sings that he’s “teeming with a lot o’ news” about binomial theorem, so his portrayal as a retiring, trivial-gathering academic does make sense.  It also finally makes sense of the theoretical shame he feels in Act 2 vis-à-vis his acquired ancestors that rarely works.  Under Silva-Marin’s direction the well-known “orphan/often” misunderstanding between Stanley and the Pirate King that so often falls flat not only works but is hilarious.
Bass-baritone Christopher Wilson makes an enthusiastic and full-voiced Pirate King and shows a real knack for comedy.  Two TOT regulars--Lise Maher as Mabel’s friend Edith and Jeffrey Saunders as a young tap-dancing Sergeant of Police--both enhance the evening's fun.
Silva-Marin has become an expert in staging operetta.  He give the Major-General an extra stanza concerning the upcoming election and makes Ruth long for a royal wedding, but otherwise leaves the text alone.  His set of artfully draped, sail-like fabrics suggest the sea, trees on the beach or the cobwebs of Stanley’s ruined chapel depending on his lighting.  He brings out swaths of green cloth to rise and falls like waves about the Major-General in “Sighing softly to the river” and turns a song that seems too often an unnecessary delay in the action into one of the show’s highlights.
Conductor and chorus director Robert Cooper also deserves much credit for the show’s success.  Under his baton the 12-member TOT Orchestra plays with delightful crispness and sounds like a palm court orchestra of the highest order.  The chorus sings with great precision and really shines in the wonderful a cappella exclamation “Hail, Poetry”.  In Sullivan’s favourite device of contrapuntal choruses the singers’ diction is so clear you can actually make out the both sets of words sung simultaneously.  By putting the music first, the TOT yet again shows off not just Gilbert and Sullivan, but operetta itself, in the best possible light.

 

A new production of Rudolf Friml’s 1924 operetta Rose Marie premiered on April 15, the first full production by Toronto newest opera company, Wish Opera founded last year by soprano Tonia Cianciulli.  The production was generally well cast and demonstrated that the work is still stage-worthy.  Yet, any new endeavour can’t be expected to get everything right the very first time, and Wish Opera should be prepared to learn from its mistakes.  While Rose Marie was musically quite good, the overall experience of seeing the opera was not.

The first difficulty was the venue itself, the John Bassett Theatre in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  If the auditorium for an operatic presentation is so large that it requires amplification, it is simply too big.  The Basset Theatre has 1000 seats but the large balcony was nearly empty suggesting that the 500-seat Jane Mallett Theatre where the Toronto Operetta Theatre performs without amplification would be more appropriate.  Unlike the Mallett, the Bassett does have a pit, but it is so deep and Wish Opera’s orchestra so small (only 14 strong), that it had to be miked. The TOT often uses an orchestra of 14 to 16, but they are placed on the same level as the audience.

In the few moments when the sound technician forgot to turn on the mics, it was clear that the Bassett Theatre has a dead acoustic.  It was intended for conference presentations, not music, which is why the stage itself had to be miked, amplifying not only the singers but their footsteps.  Wish Opera at this time can afford only minimal set decoration.  The Bassett Theatre stage opening is so wide, it only emphasizes the paucity on stage.  Wish Opera wants to use real designer fashions, furniture, lighting fixtures and jewelry in its shows, but for an audience to appreciate items which are ultimately intended to be seen close up, a more intimate space is a necessity.

It is admirable for Wish Opera to seek to attract new audiences to opera, but it also has a responsibility to ensure that its audiences are aware of theatre etiquette.  Ms. Cianciulli spoke before the presentation but there were none of the warnings that precede all theatre presentations nowadays and none in the programme.  As a result, the performance was plagued throughout with cellphones ringing, bursts of flash photography and the constant goings and comings of patrons.  This was disturbing not only to the audience members but to the artists on stage.  The playing of recorded music in the auditorium immediately before and after the opera and during intermission was a further insult to the performers.  We have come to hear a live performance and live music and applause should be the first and last things we hear.

Setting these difficulties aside, Wish Opera fielded a generally fine cast.  Mezzo-soprano Maude Brunet was charming and effervescent in the title role with a voice that was at once rich and bright.  Todd Delaney as Rose Marie’s beloved Jim make a strong impression with his full yet agile baritone.  One might have thought that the once-popular “Indian Love Call” was too hackneyed now to be effective, yet when sung with such youthful ardour by Brunet and Delaney its attractions shone like new.

In the comic parallel plot baritone Michael York was a standout as Sergeant Malone in charge of a troupe of Mounties arrayed in dress uniforms throughout.  York captured exactly the right spirit for such a show--a sense of fun that never descended into camp.  As the cowardly “Hard-Boiled” Herman, Bass Dann Mitton displayed his huge, rich voice and contralto Deborah Overes as Lady Jane, his on-again-off-again girlfriend could be depended on both for comedy and fine singing.

The name of bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre raised expectations, but his role as Rose Marie’s brother turned out to be primarily a speaking part.  Geoffrey Butler as Hawley, the villain of the piece was too weak vocally and dramatically to be effective.  The same could be said for Sarah Christine Steinert as the Native woman Wanda, whose role demanded more intensity than it was given.

Stage director Lesley Ballantyne did little more than traffic control.  She seemed to provide no guidance in interpreting the story or the characters, leaving the singers to fend for themselves.  Phil Chart’s lighting design left much to be desired, especially when he allowed the elaborately costumed Okama Native Dancers to perform in near darkness.  Cianciulli’s notion of wedding designer fashion to opera produced certain anomalies.  Even though the setting was moved from the 1920s to the present, with BlackBerries and all, it is more than a bit improbable to find the female patrons of Lady Jane’s saloon in Fond-du-Lac, Saskatchewan, sporting haute couture.

Maestro Kerry Stratton coped with the adverse conditions as best he could, including being tapped on the shoulder during the performance by a patron who wanted him to move his podium light.  The amplification which tended to muddy the sound in general was especially unkind in emphasizing the artificial sounds of the electronic piano over the other instruments.

Until Wish Opera has developed a product that demands a larger space, the company’s first priority should be to find a more appropriate (i.e., smaller) venue where opera can be sung and played without amplification.  As much as opera is an amalgamation of all the arts, the music must come before all else.  Wish Opera will succeed only if creating a first-class, live musical experience becomes its primarily goal.

Canadian poet, author, singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen was named as theninth recipient of the prestigious Glenn Gould Prize – known as "The Nobel Prizeof the Arts" – at a media event this morning. The announcement was met withwith delighted surprise by the 100+ invitees who were gathered in the The Leslie and Anna Dan Galleria at the Royal Conservatory, in Toronto.

img_0175The prize was inaugurated in 1987 to commemorate Gould's creative spirit andartistic legacy; it is given out biennially to a living individual whose unique lifetime contribution to the arts has enriched the human condition and whose work manifests the values of innovation, inspiration and transformation.

Cohen, 76, who was informed of his win on Thursday evening, was not presentat the event, but issued this statement: "It is a great honour, sweetened by mylove of the work of Glenn Gould and our collective appreciation of his invigorating and enduring presence in the world of music and imagination."

img_0189In addition to receiving a $50,000 award, the winner also selects an outstanding younger artist to receive a City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize, valuedat $15,000. Both Mr. Cohen and his protégé will receive their awards at a gala ceremony in Toronto to be scheduled for later this year.

img_0125This year's international panel of jurors consisted of the following: UN Goodwill Ambassador Dadawa (China); screenwriter, film and opera director Atom Egoyan(Canada); actor, screenwriter, author and director Stephen Fry (UK); celebratedpianist, teacher, author and music administrator Gary Graffman (United States);film producer, founder and director of DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art and PHI Group Phoebe Greenberg; singer, pianist, vocal coach and vocalproducer Elaine Overholt (Canada); and recording industry executive CostaPilavachi (Canada/UK/Greece).

This year's jury was unanimous in selecting Mr. Cohen, who in the pastdecade has received numerous honours including inductions into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Following threeyears of extensive world touring, Cohen is expected to release an album of new material later this year.

 

 

Readers of The WholeNote, take note! We have a brand new video blog series, taken at opening of the Portrait Society of Canada's latest show, The Art of Canadian Music, where our very own Ori Dagan and Bryson Winchester interviewed some notable Canadian musicians and visual artists. Stay tuned for three more episodes in this video blog series, and be sure to check out the exhibition happening until April 1st at the John B. Aird Gallery, 900 Bay Street. www.portraitsocietyofcanada.com.

Readers of The WholeNote, take note! We have a brand new video blog series, taken at opening of the Portrait Society of Canada's latest show, The Art of Canadian Music, where our very own Ori Dagan and Bryson Winchester interviewed some notable Canadian musicians and visual artists. Stay tuned for three more episodes in this video blog series, and be sure to check out the exhibition happening until April 1st at the John B. Aird Gallery, 900 Bay Street. www.portraitsocietyofcanada.com.

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