Kristin Hoff's Love Songs

Kristin Hoff's Love Songs

Jenna Simeonov

As part of Sing! - The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival, I heard mezzo Kristin Hoff perform the one-woman vocal feat by Ana Sokolovic, Love Songs. The work was commissioned by Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, and it’s a compilation of love poetry in multiple languages, all sung by a solo a cappella voice.

“Interspersed with the love songs are four movements that Sokolovic calls ‘doves’, in which the performer sings, whispers or speaks the phrase ‘I love you” in a total of 100 languages. After a very successful premiere in Toronto in March 2008 at the Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, the opera is presently touring nationally and internationally.”

It’s a spectacle for the ears, and it’s got to be one of the most exhausting pieces written for the voice.

Kirstin Hoff has been touring across Canada with her interpretation of Love Songs, which she developed with Fides Krucker, and this festival is her Toronto stop (I believe she mentioned it was her tenth performance). Her familiarity with this daunting piece was evident as she matched her vocal gymnastics with physical ones. The piece shifts between kinds of love; giddy young love, maternal love, love of a sibling, loss of a loved one. With each shift, Kristin morphed into every kind of character you could imagine. She babbled “I love you” in endless languages, leapt like a monkey, seduced a piano bench; it was a hugely vulnerable, compelling experience.

In Tapestry Opera’s Earnest Balmer Studio, Kristin was close enough to look back at us and make us uncomfortable (also earning a few laughs); her face never stopped changing, and convincingly so. Vocally, she seemed in comfortable control of the huge palate written by Sokolovic; the demands on the singer in this piece are huge, and I give a big nod to Kristin for pulling it off while prostrate/squatting/spinning.

I sincerely hope this isn’t the last time she’ll sing Love Songs in Toronto; if you don’t know the piece, or you’re not yet familiar with Kristin Hoff, get a taste by watching a clip of her performance below.



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