The time following my return from Santa Fe this past week has allowed me to explore our city and province in many different ways.
Everything started with one of the most extraordinary invitations of my time here in Toronto, an event hosted by the luggage manufacturer Rimowa in cooperation with Lufthansa at the Island Airport (or Billy Bishop Airport as it is officially called), featuring an old JU 52 plane from the 1930s that took us lucky guests on scenic flights over downtown Toronto. Imagine yourself circling the CN Tower really close! It was quite unforgettable and ended with a wonderful dinner in the old airport hangar.
Early the next morning I drove to Haliburton for a few days with the Highlands Opera Studio. Now in its sixth year, this summer program run by Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka brings together a carefully selected group of talented young Canadian singers with coaches, teachers, managers and general directors from North America and Europe. The line-up is impressive and I immensely enjoyed spending time with the members, individually as well as in our final group discussion. The only downside was the weather, pouring rain for most of the time.
Fortunately, the rain stopped by the time I arrived in Georgian Bay to spend one night at a Board member's cottage and I got to swim in the lake once, at least. I love this part of the province. One day up there feels like a week of vacation and I hope to be back soon.
For now I am back in Toronto and got to attend yet another extraordinary event yesterday. Walter Carsen, a wonderful patron of the arts and father of the director Robert Carsen, celebrated his 100th birthday. I have no idea whether I will ever get to attend a 100th birthday celebration again, but this one was very special and I felt privileged to be invited.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Summer / comments (1) / permalink
I've just returned from a magnificent performance of Karol Szymanowski's King Roger, the fifth and last of this year's operas in Santa Fe for me. I've known the piece for a long time, seen a few productions and even prepared one for the Paris Opera, but I still can't tell you what it really is about. It's an enigmatically beautiful piece with gorgeous, colourful music and at each encounter I resist classifying it as l'art pour l'art despite its truly artificial orientalisms and a libretto that couldn't be more obscure. But then, when the king and his queen are as wonderfully sung as by Mariusz Kwiecien and Erin Morley tonight, does it really matter what it all means?
After performances of Tosca and Pearl Fishers the true highlight of my time in Santa Fe was the performance of Rossini's Maometto II yesterday evening. A strangely neglected piece, this is a masterfully crafted opera seria with loads of incredible music telling the story of the siege of the Venetian city Negroponte by Maometto's army. Of course, Maometto is in love with Anna, the Venetian commander's daughter, but he has conveniently decided not to tell her his real name. Anna knows him as Oronte. You can imagine the trouble that ensues. David Alden's intelligent production was supported by a wonderful cast led by Luca Pisaroni's Maometto and Leah Crocetto's Anna. Two great artists for whom this production is a true milestone in their careers. Performances like Maometto II are more than a good reason to make the long way to Santa Fe. I'm glad I could be here again this year.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (1) / permalink
A visit to Santa Fe has become an essential part of my summer travels. The magic of the venue and the quality of the performances is unrivalled in North America and General Director Charles MacKay and his team have become good friends.
I was proud to arrive here on Saturday for the last opening of the season, Richard Strauss' Arabella, a co-production of Santa Fe Opera, Minnesota Opera and the COC. Santa Fe Opera has a long tradition of performing Strauss's operas. Between Tim Albery's elegant production, Andrew Davis' conducting, Erin Wall and Mark Delavan debuting as Arabella and Mandryka this was a great evening for Strauss' neglected masterpiece. Arabella is often described as a somehow weaker sequel to Der Rosenkavalier, but I wouldn't want to have to choose between the two and look forward to having this production on our stage in a few seasons.
Over the next few days I will see the remaining four operas of the Santa Fe season, Puccini's Tosca, Bizet's Pearl Fishers, Rossini's Maometto II and Szymanowski's King Roger, all presented in new productions - and I will get a chance to hear the apprentice singers, after Santa Barbara and San Francisco the third group of young artists that I will hear this summer. All together, I will have heard about 70 of the most talented young singers in North America, about 10 of them Canadians. A lot of new material for future casting.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (0) / permalink
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