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.

On March 9, Toronto Operetta Theatre gave the Canadian premiere of Luisa Fernanda, a zarzuela from 1932 by Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982).  This was the fourth zarzuela, a Spanish form of operetta, that TOT has presented and it was so appealing and elicited such audience enthusiasm one hopes there will be more to come.  It was a feast of first-class music-making from beginning to end.

The action is set in Madrid in 1868 during a republican insurrection against the regime of Queen Isabel II.  Javier (Edgar Ernesto Ramirez), fiancé of Luisa Fernanda (Michèle Bogdanowicz), has just been made a colonel and has been neglecting her.  Worse, he has been accompanying the Duchess Carolina (Miriam Khalil) about town.  When Luisa sees this she finally pays attention to the elderly, wealthy landowner Don Vidal (Guillermo Silva-Marin), who has fallen in love with her.  When the insurrection grows to revolution Javier is on the monarchist side while Don Vidal joins the anti-monarchist side where Luisa’s sympathies lie.

Luisa Fernanda contradicts preconceptions about operetta derived from other models.  It is not lightly satirical like Offenbach or Gilbert and Sullivan, but overtly critical of the monarchy and passionate in its plea for liberty, especially in the rousing chorus “¡Viva la libertad!” that opens Act 2.  Javier, the lead tenor, seems like a cad through most of the action and Don Vidal is not the familiar comic aged lover but in many ways becomes the emotional centre of the piece.

Musically, while the use of folk song and country dances pull the work in the direction of operetta, the arias for the four principals have the difficulty and weight of opera.  Torroba’s music seems positioned exactly halfway between the nationalist school of Manuel de Falla and the verismo of Puccini, flavoured with contemporary Viennese chromaticism when characters express distress.  It’s a rich musical language and proves why TOT’s inclusion of zarzuela is so important.  Not only does it explore an unjustly neglected realm of music theatre but it expands our notion of what operetta is.
Vocally, the revelation of the evening was Ramírez, a true Italianate tenor with endless lung-power and a heroic tone.  His triumphant entrance aria, “De este apacible rincón de Madrid,” drew such thunderous applause and bravos Ramírez should have a bright future ahead of him.  At the end, he was able to colour his voice so delicately that his contrition seemed completely believable.  Bogdanowicz’s sparkling soprano conveyed the vitality and youth of the title character, while Khalil’s silken tone captured the Duchess’s elegance and cunning.  It was a real pleasure to see Silva-Marin sing a major role on stage again, his voice full of power and clarity with ringing top notes.  He expressed an underlying sadness even in Don Vidal’s happiest moments that seemed to reflect the overall tone of the entire piece.  He, too, was greeted with volleys of bravos especially after his soaring, passionate “Lucha la fe por el triunfo,” when Don Vidal admits he fights only for Luisa’s sake.

The 12-member TOT gave a spirited account of the score under conductor José Hernández and the TOT chorus sang with fervour and precision.  The choral “Parasol Mazurka” was certainly one of the show’s many highlights.  The piece was sung in Spanish with dialogue in English making this TOT’s first use of surtitles.  Given the Spanish I heard spoken all around me, this was exactly the right choice.  One sensed that the dialogue had been radically abridged, but that served only to foreground the music.  My main regret was that the short run would prevent me from seeing the show again.  ¡Muchas gracias! to TOT for a wonderful evening.  I look forward to its next zarzuela.  For more information, visit www.torontooperetta.com.

Note:
1) 1891-1982: Not a typo--he lived a long life.

On March 9, Toronto Operetta Theatre gave the Canadian premiere of Luisa Fernanda, a zarzuela from 1932 by Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982).  This was the fourth zarzuela, a Spanish form of operetta, that TOT has presented and it was so appealing and elicited such audience enthusiasm one hopes there will be more to come.  It was a feast of first-class music-making from beginning to end.

The action is set in Madrid in 1868 during a republican insurrection against the regime of Queen Isabel II.  Javier (Edgar Ernesto Ramirez), fiancé of Luisa Fernanda (Michèle Bogdanowicz), has just been made a colonel and has been neglecting her.  Worse, he has been accompanying the Duchess Carolina (Miriam Khalil) about town.  When Luisa sees this she finally pays attention to the elderly, wealthy landowner Don Vidal (Guillermo Silva-Marin), who has fallen in love with her.  When the insurrection grows to revolution Javier is on the monarchist side while Don Vidal joins the anti-monarchist side where Luisa’s sympathies lie.

Luisa Fernanda contradicts preconceptions about operetta derived from other models.  It is not lightly satirical like Offenbach or Gilbert and Sullivan, but overtly critical of the monarchy and passionate in its plea for liberty, especially in the rousing chorus “¡Viva la libertad!” that opens Act 2.  Javier, the lead tenor, seems like a cad through most of the action and Don Vidal is not the familiar comic aged lover but in many ways becomes the emotional centre of the piece.

Musically, while the use of folk song and country dances pull the work in the direction of operetta, the arias for the four principals have the difficulty and weight of opera.  Torroba’s music seems positioned exactly halfway between the nationalist school of Manuel de Falla and the verismo of Puccini, flavoured with contemporary Viennese chromaticism when characters express distress.  It’s a rich musical language and proves why TOT’s inclusion of zarzuela is so important.  Not only does it explore an unjustly neglected realm of music theatre but it expands our notion of what operetta is.
Vocally, the revelation of the evening was Ramírez, a true Italianate tenor with endless lung-power and a heroic tone.  His triumphant entrance aria, “De este apacible rincón de Madrid,” drew such thunderous applause and bravos Ramírez should have a bright future ahead of him.  At the end, he was able to colour his voice so delicately that his contrition seemed completely believable.  Bogdanowicz’s sparkling soprano conveyed the vitality and youth of the title character, while Khalil’s silken tone captured the Duchess’s elegance and cunning.  It was a real pleasure to see Silva-Marin sing a major role on stage again, his voice full of power and clarity with ringing top notes.  He expressed an underlying sadness even in Don Vidal’s happiest moments that seemed to reflect the overall tone of the entire piece.  He, too, was greeted with volleys of bravos especially after his soaring, passionate “Lucha la fe por el triunfo,” when Don Vidal admits he fights only for Luisa’s sake.

The 12-member TOT gave a spirited account of the score under conductor José Hernández and the TOT chorus sang with fervour and precision.  The choral “Parasol Mazurka” was certainly one of the show’s many highlights.  The piece was sung in Spanish with dialogue in English making this TOT’s first use of surtitles.  Given the Spanish I heard spoken all around me, this was exactly the right choice.  One sensed that the dialogue had been radically abridged, but that served only to foreground the music.  My main regret was that the short run would prevent me from seeing the show again.  ¡Muchas gracias! to TOT for a wonderful evening.  I look forward to its next zarzuela.  For more information, visit www.torontooperetta.com.

Note:
1) 1891-1982: Not a typo--he lived a long life.

 

This past Saturday, February 19th, The WholeNote was invited to witness a first of a kind event, being put on by Canada Sings. A Random Act of Singing.  At 2pm in Gerrard Square, a mall in the east end of Toronto, Canada Sings got together to share in their love of singing with anyone who walked by and felt compelled to sing.  By singing Canadian classics, such as I’se the b’y and Frere Jacques, the people passing who found themselves listening could be easily asked to join in with the group, and sing along.  For many people this must have brought back that beautifully visceral experience of singing just as we experienced many years ago in our grade school music classes, where we were told to sing, not because we were great, but because everyone can sing.  No, we might not all be professional singers able to fill Roy Thomson Hall like Measha Brueggergosman, but we can all join in and sing a couple of rounds of Wimoweh (the vocal/choral arrangement of The Lion Sleeps Tonight) just to feel the wonderful feeling of singing with a group.  Below are a few photos, and a small video clip of the event.  Enjoy!

Read more: Canada Sings - A Random Act of Singing

The French Horn (called simply Horn by its players) has been called a Divine Instrument.  That is because although Man blows into it God alone knows what will come out.

Audience members  at St Paul’s Anglican Church on February 12, 2010 for the 4th Annual « Majesty of the Horn » concert who were in the « God only knows » camp would probably have been disappointed.

Read more: A Review of International Horn Day 2010

Now that’s more like it.

For the first time in the Royal Conservatory’s ‘Aspects of Oscar’ series that has illuminated the wondrous acoustics of sparkling venue Koerner Hall the concert lived up to its billing.

The spirit of the great Oscar Peterson seemed clearly channeled on Jan. 29 in the third series presentation under the title ‘Oscar’s Trios”. Mind you, the trio on stage frequently became a quartet but surely no one in the Hall complained about shifting semantics.

Read more: Aspects of Oscar Blog 3

The nominees for the 40th anniversary of the JUNO Awards were announced this morning in Toronto and, to their credit, CARAS did a fine job of spreading the focus across a range of musical genres and cultures at the presentation. Although we all know the big draws will be the pop acts like Justin Bieber and Drake--who is hosting the awards show on March 27 and snagged six nominations--the jazz, classical and world music categories were also given their due.

Read more: JUNO Nominations

Time is one of life’s greatest luxuries – and in timeless New York City, it flies by faster than the speed of lights! I initially planned to write a daily blog about my mid-December trip to NYC, but upon arriving I realized that I didn't want to waste a minute on the computer, so I saved the write-up for when I got home. Here I am, back in the big smoke – which now seems smaller and considerably less smoky!  In a mere five days I experienced glimpses of Harlem, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Soho and Greenwich Village. The purpose of my trip was to meet legendary vocalist Annie Ross and check out some jazz open mics along the way. Here are some of the highlights of my trip:

Read more: SWINGIN’ IN THE CITY OF LIGHTS

Peterson was not noted primarily for his solo playing, and thus titling the second in the five-part Aspects of Oscar series at Koerner Hall ‘Oscar Solo’ was somewhat misleading.

There’s no doubt veteran pianist McCoy Tyner was familiar with OP or that Cuban newcomer Alfredo Rodriguez (making his Canadian debut) knew his playing – as both affirmed during an intermission chat at the Dec. 11 concert – but the idea of paying tribute to our jazz legend’s solo legacy was not sustainable as a concept.

Read more: Oscar Peterson Blog 2

pretzelking_micheal_schade_001In this charming photo (Geneva, Christmas 1967)  Michael Schade may look like he is wearing his Idomeneo crown , or preparing for a gig with the baker's guild in Die Meistersinger, but in fact he was all dressed up and ready to go out into the night as a Sternsinger.

The charming Epiphany custom of the "Star Singers", inspired by the travels of the Three Kings, is still very much alive in Bavaria and Austria. From New Year through January 6, children, dressed as the kings, and a child holding up a large star, go from door to door, singing  about how they are really excited that Jesus was born. They bless the house and its inhabitants for the new year, and for this they receive money or sweets. Formerly the collected donations went to unemployed craftsmen and veterans, today they go to charities of the church or the Third World.

Read more: "What Child is THIS?"

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