About town

About town

The kids are all right

Last week I went to see COC’s Ensemble performance of the Magic Flute — same costumes and set, same conductor, different singers. We were so close to the stage and the pit that we could see some of the orchestra soloists and smell the stage (yes, you know that magic dust of the stage smell?) Too bad we couldn’t applaud the flute soloist at the end. The audience was all ages, as it’s increasingly the case with full houses at the COC, with strong representation from the 20-35 crowd. The conductor TV was also in my line of sight so I could glimpse Johannes Debus’s conducting frontal.

These attractions in themselves could make for a worthwhile evening, but the Ensemble singers, the reason we were all there, did not disappoint. Michael Uloth as Sarastro impressed the most. He controlled his remarkable old-man basso with a twinkle in the eye and made the abysmally low notes appear an easy game. I look forward to hearing him in the role of Truffaldino in the Ariadne auf Naxos in May.

Simone Osborne improved Pamina considerably for this opera goer (see my Feb 8 review). It’s an interesting voice, not at all light and with a considerable vibrato, possibly a large dramatic voice in the making. Timbre is similar to Bayrakdarian’s, though. We’ll have a chance to hear her in many demanding roles in the next season because she seems to be cast in every other opera or requiem in town next year. She is incredibly cute (we haven’t seen cheeks like that since the young Edita Gruberova) which has its advantages (Gilda in Rigoletto next COC season) and disadvantages (typecasting; defaulting to cuteness in acting). Check out these kisses with Marilyn Horne… cuteness embodied.

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Dorothee Mields, Charles Daniels baroque Master Classes

As part of their ongoing Baroque Mentors program, Tafelmusik recently held the Guest Artist Masterclass with the German soprano Dorothee Mields and British tenor Charles Daniels (February 12). Daniels worked with three singers on the anglophone baroque repertoire, a Purcell hymn and Handel’s Jephtha and Acis arias, while Mields covered Bach, St Matthew Passion recitatives and arias, and the ‘Erbarme dich’ cantata with the preceding Rezitativ. Too bad we never got to hear Erbarme because the thirty minutes alloted were spent on ironing out German articulation of the rezitativ! But it was fascinating whichever way you look at it. Mields started off by recommending to anybody who sings Pontius Pilate to read Bulgakov’s book Master and Margarita (a singer who reads Russian novels!) and then went on to impress all of us present in the Trinity-St. Paul with her mastery of the singing technique, perfectionist nigletizing over articulation and a genuinely warm personality. Many things I had to look up afterward — “I want you to do a messa di voce in this phrase here,” she said to a singer, and as soon as I got home, I grabbed a Richard Miller that’s been lying around and looked up the vaguely familiar expression. (Next time I’m going with a Richard Miller in hand!)

Dorothee Mields sings ‘Ich will dir mein herze schenken’ from Mätthauspassion:

On the subway on my way home I read through the Tafelmusik Intro to Baroque booklet which each audience member received with the program, and what a useful thing it is! The Baroque ABC on the Tafel website is tucked away in a flash file so no wonder I kept missing it. This printed booklet saves the day. The mystery of the changing pitch resolved (and many of us here and at Lucy’s have been wondering about this):  the modern orchestra pitch of 44ohz for the note of a’ was adopted at an international conference which took place in London in 1939. Before that, the pitch was 435hz for the A, which was set in 1859 by the Paris Academy. Before 1859 there was no standard and the pitch varied across European musical capitals and even within the same city depending on the performance hall (church pitch differed from the theatre or court pitch). Tafelmusik performs most of its baroque at 415hz and uses 430hz for classical rep. Some repertoire warrants going all the way to 392hz or to 440hz. (The lovely and indispensable yet in Flash Baroque Learning Centre by Tafelmusik is nestled HERE)

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Four more days. Four more days. Four. More. Days. Meanwhile, can we rename this province ‘Otterio’? They named rOtterdam after her, so I don’t see why not.

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