Aptly named: The Living Spectacle

Aptly named: The Living Spectacle

Jenna Simeonov

Tonight the Canadian Art Song Project presents The Living Spectacle, a recital of music, new and old, Canadian and otherwise. On paper, it may not look much different from other recitals; I had a chance to see the dress rehearsal of tonight’s concert, and not only was it extraordinary in presentation, but it got me genuinely excited about Canadians who make music.

Featured on the program is the world premiere of Erik Ross’ set of songs, The Living Spectacle, set to texts by Beaudelaire, beautifully translated by Roy Campbell. My preview of the set got me really excited about what’s being written for singers; Ross has written songs that work organically with the voice, specifically that of Canadian soprano Ambur Braid. I’m a fan (and friend) of Braid’s, but even the unbiased in the audience will hear her connection to these songs, and her huge, thrilling range of sound and colour. Steven Philcox, pianist and Canadian Art Song Project Co-Artistic Director, is a perfect partner, and the piano part sounds like it would be a joy to play.

Also on Ambur’s to-do list will be Libby Larsen’s Try Me, Good King: Last words of the wives of Henry VIII. It’s a hugely powerful performance from both Braid and Philcox, and I think it’s a great example of what happens when a singer has a strong connection (and reaction) what she’s singing about. Ambur is totally stunning to watch, almost uncomfortable honesty directed right to the listeners.

Fellow fab soprano Carla Huhtanen offers up an evening of crazy, first with Richard Strauss’ Drei Ophelia Lieder, Op. 67. In a semi-staged presentation, complete with haphazard white veil, Carla creates scenes out of these songs; she even includes a bonus bit of Shakespeare at the top. For the second half, she returns for Brian Harman’s Sewing the Earthworm, about a woman who deals (or doesn’t deal) with her deteriorating health. Extended vocal and pianist techniques help to tell an earthy, “real” story, including outbursts of rage and obsession. Joined by dancer Jennifer Nichols, the songs become an uncomfortable mix of vague and specific; Nichols’ movements echo the detail in Harman’s score, sometimes embodying a terrifying disease hovering nearby. It’s dark and dirty, and totally engrossing.

Tonight’s recital is almost sold-out, I hear, and for good reason. It’s been a while since I was invigorated by art song, although it’s no surprise that I’d be moved by artists of this calibre. Get thee to The Extension Room, 30 Eastern Ave., tonight at 7:30pm, to snag a seat for this really special event.

For details and ticket information, follow the box office links below.

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