Around Canada

Wacky Yet Morbid ‘Ghost Opera’ With Cast Of Puppets

BANFF, Alberta – Adapting an ancient Greek story, Veronika Krausas and André Alexis populated their opera with humans and puppets. Giddy laughter from the audience during Act I gave way to silence for the dark ending.

Pulling Out Stops To Spotlight Organ In Rollicking ‘Rite’

MONTREAL – Observing the fifth anniversary of its Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique, the Maison symphonique showcased the 6,489-pipe colossus with a four-hand go at The Rite of Spring by Olivier Latry and Shin-Young Lee.

First Nations Tale Falls Short Of Its Operatic Promise

TORONTO – Composer Dean Burry's Shanawdithit, about the woman who was the last known member of the Beothuk, a people that lived in Newfoundland, reflected the work of a team that included many Indigenous artists.

Herbig Illuminates Inner Landscape Of Bruckner Ninth

TORONTO – Gunther Herbig, former music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, made his first podium return since 2012 with unfinished symphonies by Schubert and Bruckner, and most of the rewards centered on the latter.

Hardy Opera Buffs Cheer Climbers In Harrowing ‘Everest’

CALGARY – About 1,700 Calgarians braved bitter Arctic cold to see Joby Talbot’s 2015 Everest at Calgary Opera. The largely Canadian cast featured bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch as a climber left for dead. The staging originated in Dallas.

Warsaw Winner Seong-Jin Cho Poetic, Virtuosic

TORONTO – In music by Chopin and Debussy, the 2015 Chopin Competition gold medalist gave an impressive demonstration of pianistic métier while leaving room for reservations regarding his willingness to communicate.

In Wainwright’s ‘Hadrian’, Musical Merit, Iffy Libretto

TORONTO – Despite a story of fiery passion and a score with many highlights, Rufus Wainwright’s second opera needs a rewrite. The Canadian Opera Company brought a dream production team and a stellar cast to the premiere.

Chang’s Ferocious Mahler Fifth Pulls Out All The Stops

TORONTO – Can there be too much energy on the podium? Cellist-turned-conductor Han-Na Chang’s intensely kinetic approach to Mahler with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was a nonstop spectacle but became a bit exhausting.

Orchestra Brings First Nations Culture To Stage

MONTREAL – In its season opener, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra premiered Chaakapesh, The Trickster’s Quest, a chamber opera sung in Cree about the adventures of the eponymous Aboriginal mythical hero.

Magic Of Mozart, In A Staging Both Novel, Traditional

QUEBEC CITY – The Festival d’opéra de Québec’s marquee production affirms stage director Robert Lepage’s status as a leading conservative of our time. Mozart’s humanistic message shines through Ex Machina’s dazzling visuals.

Banff Goes Gluck One Better With Modernized ‘Orphée’

BANFF, Alberta – Joel Ivany directed an enhanced take on the 1859 Berlioz version of Gluck’s French rethinking of Orphée et Eurydice, now newly retitled Orphée+. Like Gluck in his day, Ivany said he wanted to add innovative touches.

In Beethoven Trek, Kent Nagano Hews To Middle Of Road

MONTREAL – In leading the Montreal Symphony through the nine symphonies, music director Kent Nagano brought a contemporary golden mean of interpretation: neither old-fashioned tempo manipulator nor neo-Baroque martinet.

It’s Hockey Opera Hat Trick: Music, Libretto, Graphics

MONTREAL – The Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal marks its 30 years as a purveyor of newness by mounting and touring Hockey Noir, an 80-minute chamber opera set in sporting, gritty Montreal of the 1950s.

Handel’s Depths Diminished By Urge To Entertain

VICTORIA, B.C. – Pacific Opera Victoria closed its season with a mainstream production of Rinaldo, stylish but eclectic. It set out to charm. But did the storybook staging square with the intensity of Handel’s music?

Toronto Creations Fest Winds Down After 14 Seasons

TORONTO – There was a sense of hail-and-farewell at the opening of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's 14th New Creations Festival, the final new-music showcase established by outgoing music director Peter Oundjian. 

Computer Science Embellishes Trek To ‘Les Planètes’

MONTREAL – Technology vaults irrevocably forward. Does concert music pay heed? Among attempts to link the two we can now count (and probably discount) Les Planètes, an experimental recital in the Satosphère.

Nagano, Montreal Play New Work For One of Their Own

By Arthur Kaptainis
MONTREAL – A new concerto commissioned and performed by Ali Kian Yazdanfar, who is principal bass of the Montreal Symphony, comes from Tehran-born composer Behzad Ranjbaran. It is inspired by poetry of a Persian mystic.

Didactic, Sanitized Staging Abducts Mozart’s ‘Seraglio’

By Arthur Kaptainis
TORONTO – Wajdi Mouawad’s politically proper staging revisions and Emannuel Clolus’ dreary set design hamper the Canadian Opera Company’s production of The Abduction from the Seraglio. Vocal satisfactions are partial.

Symphony Shines In Rich, Rewarding New Music Festival

By David Gordon Duke
VANCOUVER – Music director Bramwell Tovey teamed with composer-in-residence Jocelyn Morlock to bring a flair for programming and a spirit of exploration to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s fifth annual New Music Festival.

Solemn Memorial Concert Reflects Afghanistan War

By Colin Eatock
TORONTO – In its ambitious Remembrance Day program, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra featured Jeffrey Ryan’s Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, with a libretto by Canada's first official “war poet,” Suzanne Steele.
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