Press

Wed, January 30, 2008

Review: Opera McGill - Mozart, Cosi fan tutte
La Presse

Bravo also to those responsible for the vocal and musical preparation, notably the ensembles, 
and for the expert musical direction of Julian Wachner.

Wed, January 30, 2008

Review: Opera McGill - Mozart, Cosi fan tutte
Montreal Gazette

Julian Wachner, the conductor, had a vivid sense of Mozartean motion

Sat, December 15, 2007

Exuberant ‘Messiah’ rings under young conductor
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Symphony guest conductor Julian Wachner brought fresh perspectives to Friday evening’s performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.”...The opening of the concert showed Wachner’s awareness of contemporary musicology, but most of the rest of the performance went beyond scholarship to meaningful musical rhetoric based on the verbal text…Heinz Hall is a big hall, but there was ample power when needed because Wachner maintained a smart dynamic range with real softness for dramatic effect and to be considerate of the solo voices…Wachner’s preference for bouncy fast tempi was almost invariably effective…the joy in “For unto us a child is born” was irresistible. The conductor’s sensitivity to text produced many remarkable moments in slower music, too, including the end of All we like sheep have gone astray… In any music, but especially in longer works, it is the interpreter’s handling of contrast that sustains freshness. Wachner, 37, is a conductor on the rise.

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Exuberant 'Messiah' rings under young conductor
By Mark Kanny
TRIBUNE-REVIEW CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC
Saturday, December 15, 2007

True masterpieces thrive on interpretation. Pittsburgh Symphony guest conductor Julian Wachner brought fresh perspectives to Friday evening's performance of George Frideric Handel's "Messiah."

"Messiah" -- the most popular piece of classical Christmas music -- was actually written for Easter, but the buoyancy and ultimately optimistic spirit of Handel's music fits the winter holiday.

The opening of the concert, a brisk account of the first part of the Sinfonia, showed Wachner's awareness of contemporary musicology, but most of the rest of the performance went beyond scholarship to meaningful musical rhetoric based on the verbal text. And the main portion of the Sinfonia was at a fairly standard tempo.

Tenor Daniel Weeks began the singing adequately, but no more, with the recitative "Comfort ye, my people" and aria "Ev'ry valley shall be exalted." He coped well enough with Handel's notes as well as added ornamentation, but was emotionally stiff.

The performance hit its stride with the chorus "And the Glory of the Lord," with the Mendelssohn Choir singing with impressive exuberances achieved with clarity of rhythm and line.

The choir was small, 47 voices, as was the orchestra of 24 musicians including keyboard player -- plus occasionally two trumpets and timpani.
Heinz Hall is a big hall, but there was ample power when needed because Wachner maintained a smart dynamic range with real softness for dramatic effect and to be considerate of the solo voices. Contrast as much as bulk can create a feeling of power.

Bass-baritone Michael Dean was an impressive singer to encounter, with plenty of amplitude through the range Handel demands and with potent dramatic emphasis.

While soprano Joanna Mongiardo was a fine soloist, Handel actually assigns a larger role to mezzo-soprano. Margaret Lattimore's solid lower register was telling, as was her verbal emphasis and impressive legato.

Wachner's preference for bouncy fast tempi was almost invariably effective, apart from a few passages of rapid choral singing at medium volume which were dry. But the joy in "For unto us a child is born" was irresistible.

The conductor's sensitivity to text produced many remarkable moments in slower music, too, including the end of "All we like sheep have gone astray."

In any music, but especially in longer works, it is the interpreter's handling of contrast that sustains freshness. Wachner, 37, is a conductor on the rise.

Fri, December 7, 2007

Church choir in fine form
Montreal Gazette

World Aids Day occasioned an eve-of performance on Friday by the 44-voice choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul under its music director, Julian Wachner. It remains a robust ensemble, to judge by Zadok the Priest, Worthy is the Lamb and other full-hearted Handel hits… While Wachner identifies himself with period practice, he can adopt the old choral- society approach with conviction.

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Church choir in fine form

ARTHUR KAPTAINIS
The Gazette
Sunday, December 02, 2007


World Aids Day occasioned an eve-of performance on Friday by the 44-voice choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul under its music director, Julian Wachner. It remains a robust ensemble, to judge by Zadok the Priest, Worthy is the Lamb and other full-hearted Handel hits. Sing Ye to the Lord was perfectly balanced with the soaring soprano of Marie-Ève Munger.

John Tavener's Song for Athene (of Princess Diana funeral fame) made an appropriately solemn start to this program. I have my doubts about minimalist mumbo-jumbo of this type, but it can be made to sound like good music by a doubt-free ensemble.

There was reliable support from MSO musicians, including Russell DeVuyst, the brilliant trumpeter in the opening of Bach's Cantata No. 51. While Wachner identifies himself with period practice, he can adopt the old choral- society approach with conviction.

Witness the red-blooded and stately Dona Nobis Pacem from Bach's B Minor Mass. It was all a benefit for La Maison du Parc, supported by the Bank of Montreal.

akaptainis@sympatico.ca

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007

Fri, November 23, 2007

Albert Herring – Huge Success
La Presse

...In the pit, Julian Wachner drew from the small orchestra of 13 musicians prescribed by Britten all kinds of effects underlining subtleties of the text…The musical preparation obviously was as neat as the playing.

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Albert Herring : grande réussite
Claude Gingras
Montréal – La Presse
Le vendredi 23 novembre 2007


Albert Herring, le petit opéra de Britten qui fait quand même une soirée de trois heures, deux entractes compris, est davantage qu'une bouffonnerie: une réflexion sur une société victorienne étroite d'esprit et sur le cheminement de ce pauvre petit Albert qui, inventant malgré lui le masculin de «rosière» parce qu'aucune fille du village n'est digne du titre cette année-là, sortira de son aventure loufoque pour devenir un homme libre.

Et c'est ainsi, en mêlant comique et tragique, que le nouveau directeur de l'Atelier d'opéra de McGill, Patrick Hansen, a conçu sa mise en scène pour la production qui vient de prendre l'affiche à Pollack. Mes commentaires sur le jeu et les voix s'appliquent à la distribution de la première, mercredi, qui revient ce soir même (la distribution d'hier soir reviendra demain).

La dame patronnesse qui s'érige en gardienne des bonnes moeurs, le pasteur, le chef de police, le maire, la maîtresse d'école, les nombreux personnages secondaires et, bien sûr, l'interprète du rôle-titre: tous jouent, comme au théâtre, avec une vérité qui témoigne d'un profond souci de la direction d'acteurs, cet aspect tant négligé chez les metteurs en scène actuels d'opéra.

En même temps qu'il caractérise chacun des rôles et qu'il multiplie les trouvailles (les parapluies, par exemple), M. Hansen anime continuellement le plateau d'une sorte de contrepoint visuel et quasi chorégraphique qui illustre celui, souvent très chargé, de Britten. Dans la fosse, Julian Wachner tire du petit orchestre de 13 musiciens prescrit par Britten toutes sortes d'effets soulignant les subtilités du texte. Mais Britten n'écrit pas toujours bien pour la voix et lorsque tous chantent ensemble, on ne comprend pas un mot. Monologues et dialogues sont un peu plus clairs cependant.

La préparation musicale a manifestement été aussi soignée que le jeu. De la soirée de mercredi, on retient surtout la grande allure et la grande voix de Lara Ciekiewicz (en Lady Billows), le timbre de la mezzo Catharin Carew (sa servante) et le baryton solide et souple de Nicholas Laroche. Dans le rôle-titre, le petit Alexander Wolniak a plus de présence que de voix. Seule réserve sérieuse: la voix et la diction empêtrées du chef de police.

Très jolis costumes, éléments de décors déplacés par des figurants.

Fri, November 23, 2007

Britten opera gets a splendid treatment
Montreal Gazette

The Wednesday premiere was a triumph for the new artistic team of Patrick Hansen (stage director) and Julian Wachner (conductor)...Wachner led the 13 instrumentalists of the so-called Black Box Orchestra with a lively feeling for pace and a sure ear for colour…The soloists coalesced into a chorus of considerable power for the Threnody.

Sat, November 17, 2007

Heartfelt Veterans Day Salute From the Washington Chorus
The Washington Post

Wachner led a sharp account and brought out grave details…the orchestra’s tone was consistently brilliant…The chorus sang with a clear sound, clean diction and a faint halo of vibrato that added shimmer without distorting pitch…the performance was a commendable and touching memorial.

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Heartfelt Veterans Day Salute From the Washington Chorus

by Ronni Reich

The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Veterans Day songs of battle mixed with entreaties for peace as the Washington Chorus commemorated the holiday with Vaughan Williams's "Dona Nobis Pacem" and Haydn's "Mass in Time of War" Sunday afternoon at the Kennedy Center.

The former provided a landscape of war through parts of Walt Whitman's "Drum Taps," John Bright's "Angel of Death" speech, the Bible and the Latin Mass. Ominous drumbeats, dirges and shifting tonalities created a foreboding, uncertain atmosphere, well suited to Whitman's searing texts. The chorus sang with a clear sound, clean diction and a faint halo of vibrato that added shimmer without distorting pitch. Baritone Stephen Salters sang poignantly of kissing the lips of a dead enemy soldier. A beacon of light in this dark work, soprano Joanna Mongiardo's pure, well-rounded voice conveyed both innocence and urgency as she pleaded for peace.

The Haydn work took an entirely different tenor, combining the orderly fervor of war with effusive coloratura praise of God and C-major simplicity. Guest conductor Julian Wachner led a sharp account and brought out grave details -- a strong, militant call of "receive our prayer" and a weighty though upbeat ending. The orchestra's tone was consistently brilliant, and a simple, songlike cello duet with Salters was especially moving.

Soloists Mongiardo, Laura Vlasak Nolen and William Rite joined Salters to form a fresh-voiced, expressive quartet; Vlasak Nolen's rich, creamy sound was particularly pleasing. By the end of the second work, the chorus lagged in both energy and intonation, but by and large, the performance was a commendable and touching memorial.
 

Sat, November 3, 2007

Hear the music, and then listen
HiLife

Honolulu Symphony Orchestra preview by Burl Burlingame

Sun, October 14, 2007

Music Review: Honolulu Symphony at Hawaii Theatre
The Honolulu Advertiser

...The Symphony’s Hawai’i Theatre sound was at its best in Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture and especially in Haydn’s “London” Symphony, No.104. Wachner presented clean, well-balanced, and well-thought-out interpretations that were both exciting and engaging.

Mon, October 1, 2007

Review: ‘Orphée et Eurydice,’ Glimmerglass 2007
L'Opéra

Italian review of ‘Orphée et Eurydice’ by Christine Gransier

Thu, August 16, 2007

Michael Maniaci Flies High as Orphée at Glimmerglass
Opera Today

Wachner led the Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra in a fluent and pleasing reading of the score.

Wed, August 15, 2007

Review: ‘Orphée et Eurydice,’ Glimmerglass 2007
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Gluck’s gloriously tranquil music is magnificently reflected in the quiet splendour of this intellectual utopia. The instruments are modern, but the sensibility is baroque. The orchestra under Montreal-based conductor Julian Wachner is charged with drama as Gluck intended. Wachner’s focus is on mood, and one is swept up in the grandeur of the music that so magnificently depicts place and character.

Wed, August 8, 2007

Orpheus in the opera world
The Financial Times (London)

Whether or not Berlioz would have, I regretted the absence of a continuo harpsichord, which would have given the orchestra more bite under Julian Wachner’s leadership. His tempos were well judged, however.

Tue, August 7, 2007

Four Trips to Hell and Back at the Opera
The New York Times

Julian Wachner’s conducting had poise and grace.

Thu, August 2, 2007

Historical work loses its anchor
The Boston Globe

Also on the program was a previous commission, Julian Wachner’s 2004 setting of Longfellow’s “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” which combines music and narration far more cogently. Wachner sets up an ostinato-driven vocabulary that lets the orchestra fall into intricate, repeated vamps while text is spoken, so the musical thread remains unbroken. He also isn’t afraid to let a solo line sustain the poem’s atmosphere on the strength of instrumental color

Sun, July 8, 2007

Review: Orphée et Eurydice
Syracuse Post-Standard

Wachner had a firm grip on the shaping of line and his generally moderately-paced account emphasized the dignity of Gluck’s meditation…

Sun, July 8, 2007

“Orphee et Eurydice,” Glimmerglass Opera, 7/8/07
Albany Times-Union

GLIMMERGLASS OPERA’S new production of “Orphée et Eurydice” is like a shimmering jewel that floats on an endless horizon between worlds. The opening performance Sunday afternoon inspired awe at the placid beauty of the stage and the tender raw emotion that flowed like a river through the music…Consolation and comfort came fittingly from the orchestra, led by Julian Wachner, with velvety, undulating strings and a sweet oboe that melodically echoed and dialogued with Maniaci. …A MUST-SEE EVENT…

Fri, March 16, 2007

Review: Candide, Toronto Operetta Theatre
Opera America

Under conductor Julian Wachner, the Toronto Operetta Theatre Orchestra gave a rapid but exhilarating account of the overture. Wachner so adroitly highlighted the abundant humor of parody and exaggeration in the score that Bernstein’s wit moved repeatedly moved the audience beyond smiles to laughter.

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TORONTO — Candide, Toronto Operetta Theatre

OPERA AMERICA March 16th, 2007
By Christopher Hoile

Toronto Operetta Theatre mounted a highly enjoyable, all-Canadian production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide (seen Jan. 5), a work not staged professionally in Toronto since a Canadian Opera Company production in 1985. For this production, director Guillermo Silva-Marin chose the 1999 Royal National Theatre version of the work, featuring John Caird's adaptation of Hugh Wheeler's book (itself a replacement for Lillian Hellman's original) and a reduced orchestration for fourteen instruments. Under conductor Julian Wachner, the Toronto Operetta Theatre Orchestra gave a rapid but exhilarating account of the overture. Wachner so adroitly highlighted the abundant humor of parody and exaggeration in the score that Bernstein's wit moved repeatedly moved the audience beyond smiles to laughter.

Tenor James McLennan's boyish good looks and fresh-faced innocence made him an ideal Candide. The richness of his voice and the emotional intensity he gave "It Must Be So" and "Nothing More Than This" lent the character and the opera the depth they require so crucially. Soprano Carla Huhtanen gave a spectacular account of "Glitter and Be Gay," with joyously secure top notes and beautifully precise runs, all the while acting out Cunegonde's hilarious vacillation between conscience and materialism with aplomb. Best-known for her Carmen, Jean Stilwell was an atypically attractive Old Lady. The earnestness of her delivery of the Old Lady's most outré tales only heightened their pitch-black humor, while her radiant dark voice and vivacious performance made "I Am Easily Assimilated" a showstopper. The prime disappointment was baritone Ian Funk, who proved to be vocally and dramatically ineffective in the triple role of Voltaire, Pangloss and Martin. The chorus sang with fervor and precision throughout.

Unlike Robert Carsen in his recent Paris production, Silva-Marin did not update the work. Played on a bare stage overhung with flags and banners, the piece clearly became, through Mireille Vachon's costume design, a journey toward self-realization through experience of the world's excesses. The cast first appeared in simple whites and natural colors, in styles cleverly blending the eighteenth century with the 1950s. As the action progressed, all the characters except Candide changed into increasingly elaborate, more colorful costumes, culminating in the visually riotous Venice carnival scenes when Candide, untrue to his trusting nature, finally donned a mask and scarlet gown for his denunciation of Cunegonde. Then, in a masterstroke during the heart-catching finale, "Make Our Garden Grow," the cast one by one divested itself of masks and trumpery to face the world again in the simpler, humbler garb it first wore.

Wed, March 14, 2007

Modeste Vanessa, immense Finley
La Presse

‘Vanessa,’ Opéra McGill review by Claude Gingras

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Modeste Vanessa, immense Finley
Claude Gingras, La Presse, mercredi 14 mars 2007

J'allais à Vanessa lundi soir, quitte à manquer Gerald Finley que j'avais entendu à quelques reprises. Rare produit du «mariage musical» de Samuel Barber et d'un autre compositeur, Gian Carlo Menotti, librettiste pour son ami comme il le fut pour ses propres opéras, Vanessa est une oeuvre dont l'atmosphère rappelle le Onieguine de Tchaïkovsky.??Vanessa attend depuis 20 ans son ancien amant Anatol. L'homme qui arrive enfin s'appelle bien Anatol, mais il s'agit du fils de l'autre, maintenant décédé. Le soir de son arrivée, le nouveau venu séduit la nièce de Vanessa, Erika, qui, enceinte, tentera de se suicider. Tombée amoureuse du «deuxième» Anatol, Vanessa part avec lui et Erika annonce qu'elle l'attendra, comme sa tante a attendu l'autre.??La modeste présentation de McGill réduisait l'orchestre à l'accompagnement d'un piano (à gauche sur scène) mais comportait des costumes et suffisamment d'accessoires (table mise pour un repas, fauteuils, draperies, chandeliers) pour situer le spectateur. Malheureusement, la réverbération d'un Pollack à peine rempli rendait le texte incompréhensible et, partant, le scénario difficile à suivre.?

Bien jeune pour quelqu'un qui attend un amant depuis 20 ans, la blonde Lara Ciekiewicz a de la voix et joue avec conviction. Bonnes compositions aussi chez la nièce et la baronne, mère de Vanessa. Mais une heure de réverbération ne mène nulle part et, pis encore, l'Anatol n'a pas de voix et joue mal. Je pars donc «attraper» Finley à Redpath où c'est l'entracte. J'ai manqué le cycle Dichterliebe mais j'entends la seconde moitié, exclusivement américaine : Ives, Rorem et, coïncidence, Barber encore. Nos amateurs de chant sont là, en force.??Le baryton natif de Montréal est manifestement au sommet de sa forme. La voix large et timbrée, contrôlée dans l'éclat comme dans le plus doux murmure, articule avec une rare intelligence des textes parfaitement assimilés, signés Walt Whitman ou James Joyce, et prend des couleurs qui suggèrent lieux ou états d'âme.??Immense interprète, Finley sait être tour à tour tragique, émouvant ou comique. Le pianiste est parfait et l'ovation est telle que les artistes accordent trois rappels.

Sun, February 4, 2007

A bold, brash McGill double bill
Montreal Gazette

Opéra McGill’s latest run, which finished last night, was a bold and spirited double bill of 20th-century one-act gems, and one of the outfits most successful productions of recent years.

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