Something finally happened

Show One Productions threw a music recital this week for just under 50 people at the Immersive Van Gogh exhibition space.

There were video projections by Isaac Rayment, Topher Mokrzewski at the piano, and Ambur Braid singing (and acting!) the final scene from Salome. Braid’s role debut in Frankfurt was cut short this March, though the latest info is that she will take it on again in January 2021, when the house intents to remount this Barrie Kosky production.

The three-wall projections to live music was a neat experience. I expect the elaborate visual component was added since the singer could not, due to the safety regulations, move freely among the people present.

I mean, there’s no chance that those two artists, Ambur and Topher, can ever disappoint, whatever the setup. You’ll see some of the Isaac Bayment visuals in the photos below – they flowed from one briefly stable image to another like a kaleidoscope. The show opened with Topher playing to the projections of Jennifer Nichols dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils. Her actual presence would have been welcome, but again, I expect, safety came first.

The space itself does not have good acoustics, neither for miked nor unamplified voice. It was like a huge ringing hangar, or like being inside a bell – but let me tellya, it didn’t matter all that much. Beggars can’t be choosers, and I am a full-on, prostrate-on-the-floor, clothes-ripping beggar when it comes to the live music at this point. Nevermind the heat, the itchy mask, the acoustics: it was great to be there. There was even an ad-hoc bar in the space, improvised for the pre-show drinks. I hope that Show Onecontinues with this experiment – whether there or anyplace else they find suitable.

History podcasts + a big question

For the Star’s Entertainment@Home section I wrote about history podcasts. Give it a read, or pick up today’s Star. They just got new owners, I am wishing them great good luck. Their opinion section has taken a turn for the weirdest woke recently, but the rest of the paper I’d like to keep thankyouverymuch.

Dear readers of this blog: we’ve been together for 10 years. As there is going to be very little live performance in this country till the end of the year, and possibly even later, I’ve been increasingly writing about other topics. I am thinking of gradually transferring the best stuff from this blog to my website — stuff that is still interesting 6 years after I’ve written it, and will be in 5 years — and continue with a general interest blog on here or Substack. Those of you who read me via email or WordPress dashboard, please do get in touch and tell me what interests you. There is so much to write about at the moment, and reviewing concert or opera streaming on here or ! CD recordings just strikes me as quaint, escapist even. (I know that a few people still do a good job of it and I read them; it just doesn’t give me personally any joy at the moment.)

The c19 and the lockdown have damaged so many good things, and I am not sure that the paid opera and art music journalism will exist in Toronto once the fog lifts, outside specialist magazines like Opera Canada, Opera News etc. It’s not very likely the critical or in-depth writing will continue on blogs either – have a look at the 4 of us blogging in Toronto, and you’ll see some weary, worried, perplexed blog posts, if any content appears at all.

My impression is that the Globe arts editor has gradually, and even before the lockdown, subsumed opera and concerts under “Nestruck on the Theatre” umbrella, and it looks like it’s down to Kelly Nestruck, paper’s theatre critic, to push this content or not. The Star is currently a wild card: it’s been actually dedicating more space to classical music and opera than any other Canadian daily, but it’s not critical or in-depth engagement: it’s vignettes, TSO players sharing musical moments, CP announcements of season changes, that kind of stuff. In a dramatic tweet-a-thon a few months ago, its former fairly busy theatre critic permalancers announced that the paper is dispensing with any permanent art criticism and that every event will be taken on a case-by-case basis. I can imagine that the 4 or so Entertainment staff and 3 or so freelancers who are still clinging on are pitching their hearts out. I myself am definitely pitching a lot – about 1 out of every 6 has gotten the green light. Out of several editors there that I contacted, one replied, and I am trying to water and grow that fragile connection. But virtually no opera or classical content managed to squeeze through. And the Entertainment editors’ lives are probably not very entertaining these days. The Star newsroom has been decimated with cuts over the last decade and it’s anybody’s guess what lies ahead with the new owners. (Fear not, William Littler’s tie to the paper has survived all the changes and his byline still appears occasionally. While most things change in the great newspaper industry flux that we’re living through, some people’s connections are so rock solid that they’ll survive anything. It used to be like that for Arthur Kaptainis and the Post. A lot has been said about bloggers pushing the price of arts writing down, but nothing at all about retired full-time critics returning to their own papers as freelancers. I blame the editors, but also the curious lack of ambition in the retirees/buyouts – why return where you’ve been established for years, decades? Go write a book, do something new. See, this could be a Substack newsletter topic.)

The National Post and the Toronto Sun do not have any arts coverage, and if any Hollywood-related content makes it, it’s taken over from the agencies or a large US paper. Long gone are the days when the Post’s financial editor Terence Corcoran felt called to write a peeved opinion piece about C Alden inflicting 30 seconds of trouser role make-out between two women on the unsuspecting Torontonians. We remember them (now) fondly.

So please let me know: would you like me to keep this site music- and opera focused (therefore pretty much dormant) and create a neat new Substack newsletter for the other stuff, and there is A LOT of other stuff, or to use this, existing site, for whatever other topics become pressing? I’m leaning toward former, but do let me know your thoughts. If I do a separate thing, perhaps I can look forward to a time when I can return to this blog and resume writing about music and the arts.


Concerts online – the good, the better and the spectacular

I’m in the Saturday Star, with a list of best concerts available online right now. There’s Julie Andrews doing MeToo jokes, Laurie Anderson playing the tape-violin she invented, Diane Dufresne being batshit wacko, Insula Orchestra with Laurence Equilbey (I had to), a lot of Gen-X nostalgia and Pretty Yende in that Instagram-Influencer Traviata. Read here.