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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 19, No. 5

Industry News

by Shira Gilbert / February 1, 2014

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Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman made headlines in January when she stepped in for a flu-stricken Anna Netrebko for the opening two performances of the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of L’Elisir d’Amore. The New York Times reported that Chuchman had “an assured, sparkling success in her Met debut” and “sang the headstrong Adina with light, bright accuracy.” The Winnipeg-born singer had been scheduled to make her Met debut in February as Miranda in The Enchanted Island.

The Canadian Opera Company has invited three new singers, plus one pianist, to join the ranks of its Ensemble Studio. Tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and bass-baritone Iain MacNeil join the company starting in August, along with soprano Karine Boucher and pianist Jennifer Szeto, both of whom will depart from Opéra de Montréal’s Atelier Lyrique. COC general director Alexander Neef has also announced the company’s forthcoming season, which will comprise six instead of its usual seven productions, largely led by Canadian casts. Highlights will include a return of Robert Lepage’s acclaimed 1993 production of Bluebeard’s Castle and Erwartung, starring tenor John Relyea and mezzo soprano Krisztina Szabó; and a new production of Don Giovanni with tenor Michael Schade, baritone Russell Braun, and soprano Jane Archibald. Meanwhile, Vancouver Symphony Music Director Bramwell Tovey found much to criticize in Neef’s programming for the company, comparing him unfavorably with his predecessor, the late Richard Bradshaw, in an op-ed piece for Maclean’s. Tovey stated: “In 2018, after a decade under Mr. Neef, the COC will have received around $20 million through the Canada Council, and the only new Canadian music heard on the COC’s mainstage will have been by Rufus Wainwright [whose new opera Hadrian will debut in the 2018-19 season].”

Opéra de Montréal has announced that it will present the world premiere of Les Feluettes (Lilies) in May 2016. The new opera is based on the 1987 play by Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and set to music by Australian composer Kevin March. This project marks the third world premiere commissioned by the company in its history.

Opera Hamilton has announced that it is ceasing operations. Board co-chair and treasurer Peter Uffelmann stated in a press release: “We simply do not have the financial resources to continue.” The company, which was founded in 1980, cancelled its annual gala, “Popera”, as well as the production of Carmen scheduled for April. Said The Hamilton Spectator, “The fat lady has sung.”

Glenn Hodgins is the new Executive Director of the Canadian Music Centre (CMC), replacing Elisabeth Bihl, who had been with the CMC since 1999. The Canadian Music Centre was established in 1959 to promote the music of Canadian composers throughout Canada and worldwide. Hodgins was previously Executive Director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society, a role he had held since 2007.

The Montreal International Musical Competition (MIMC) has announced the creation of a new classical piano improvisation prize. The Richard Lupien Improvisation Prize, a $5,000 grant, will be awarded every three years, alongside editions of the MIMC dedicated to piano. The first competition takes place just prior to this year’s Piano Edition of the MIMC, May 26 to June 6. The international jury will include the American pianist known as an improviser, Gabriela Montero; conductor and composer Bruno Fontaine, from France; and Canadian composer and broadcaster François Dompierre, who will also act as jury president and spokesperson.

Chinese-Canadian soprano Lu Ye became the first Canadian and first Asian to sing at a Pope’s birthday when she recently sang at a Dec. 20, 2013 Christmas concert in Rome in honour of Pope Francis’s birthday. Her selections included Gounod’s Ave Maria and Silent Night. WKC

Nellie Melba on Downton Abbey: Episode 3 of Season 4 of the popular British TV series Downton Abbey (PBS, Sundays at 9 PM) featured an appearance of legendary Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba, portrayed by another legend, 69-year-old New Zealand soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who sang “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Dvorak’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me.” The Daily Telegraph’s Rupert Christiansen faulted Te Kanawa’s performance, especially her “sharp unsteady intonation, heavy vibrato and tastelessly swooping portamento.” Christiansen was even more critical of the show’s writing, saying that in 1922, when the episode was set, the then 60-year-old opera diva Melba would never have accepted being treated as a visiting tradesperson by head butler Carson, relegated to having tea alone in her room. WKC

The esteemed pianist and accompanist Dale Bartlett has died at aged 77. A native of Lethbridge, Alberta, Bartlett began his career as a soloist in the 1960s, performing concertos with Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and other orchestras, but soon transitioned into a career as an accompanist, where he was highly valued by innumerable instrumentalists and singers in Canada. Bartlett taught at the University of Ottawa as well as McGill, and was a major contributor to the chamber music program at the Domaine Forget Festival. Pianist Jean Marchand is planning a musical tribute, which will take place in the spring.

Other Recent Deaths:
Claudio Abbado, Italian conductor (June 26, 1933 – January 20, 2014)
Tom Krause, Finnish baritone (July 5, 1934-December 6, 2013)
Sir John Kenneth Tavener, British composer (January 28, 1944 – November 12, 2013)

News from Canadian Orchestras

Victor Sawa, Music Director of the Regina Symphony Orchestra will be leaving his post at the end of the 2015-16 season after 20 years with the orchestra. The RSO will start auditioning candidates for the post next season.

Music Director Alexander Mickelthwate and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra are getting ready for their upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall, as part of the final year of Spring for Music (S4M), a festival celebrating North American orchestras. Six orchestras were chosen by online voting and a panel of judges, with the WSO topping the online tally with 3,059 votes, over one thousand votes more than the second-place program. The only Canadian orchestra represented, the WSO joins the New York Philharmonic as well as the symphony orchestras of Seattle, Rochester, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh for the five-day event. Their all-Canadian program includes music by R. Murray Schafer, Derek Charke, and Vincent Ho, whose work The Shaman: Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie will be recorded this spring.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has announced its first European tour since 2000. This August the TSO embarks upon a six-concert tour of festivals in Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, and Iceland, bringing along Canadian violinist James Ehnes and German clarinetist Jörg Widmann for works by Weber, Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky, and Shostakovich.

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