Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not Tom Hanks~

"UPCOMING EVENTS by Esprit Orchestra:
Friday, May 1, 2009
Along with presenting two of Esprit's outstanding players in soloist roles, Esprit highlights this concert with a welcome to the Nathaniel Dett Chorale for a fanciful Afro-Latin collaboration. The featuring of two World Premieres makes this event a powerful gala finale to Esprit's season. Saidôki (Demon), Maki Ishii's concerto for percussion and orchestra, strides two musical worlds in multi-layered time and sonic textures. Combining Western compositional methods with elements of Japanese traditional music, the late Japanese composer's piece also calls for the cidelo, a rare and unusual instrument created by his friend, metal sculptor Kazuo Harada. Cidelos are octagonal or rectangular metal boxes with ornate artistic cuts in their top surfaces creating metal sections, that, when struck, create vivid colours and a rich array of pitches. Esprit member Ryan Scott, featured as soloist, will play a set of these instruments, one of only two sets available in the world (placed on timpani heads), in a highly improvisational manner. Saidôki, a work of great power and deep mystery, is being given its North American premiere by Esprit. Chris Paul Harman has just finished his Concerto for Harp and Orchestra commissioned by Esprit to feature another member of the orchestra as a soloist, Juno award-winning harpist Erica Goodman. Douglas Schmidt's Discouraged Passion, commissioned by Esprit, features The Nathaniel Dett Chorale.

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Photo: Bruce Zinger / Peggy Kriha Dye & Michael Maniaci Opera Atelier's production of The Coronation of Poppea
OMG, I don't know where to start, as usual with Opera Atelier. Their production of Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea is so spectacular--every season of OA's success brings larger corporate sponsorship and excellent subscription results, but really they do know how to put it on.... Last night I was treated to their latest offering; and I do love Monteverdi so....Okay, on to the kudos: loved the deus ex machina thing going on; LOVED the fact that this production brought back a bit more of the baroque stylized gesturing; the monochromatic layering of the sets, stage dressings and costumes in the amorous colour of red was very a propos; I continue to appreciate the subdued lighting (which I assume is intended to mimic the original candlelit productions); basically the whole thing was one big Big O, if you'll pardon the expression, although that may suit the original context also. However, a couple of little *hein*s (that's my attempt to express the vocalization-perhaps somewhat quebecois sounding-of the things I dare to suggest were so-so): while the audience seemed to love the portrayal of Poppea's Nurse by Laura Pudwell, I found it a bit slap-sticky or panto for this kind of art; and while I was not offended by what my companion called the homoerotic episode between Nerone and his pal, it did seem a bit misplaced, again for this art form.
However, here are my bravi: Carla Huhtanen as Drusilla and Fortune was, comme d'habitude, in excellent form and did not push her comedic interpretation over the top; Kimberly Barber's Ottavia was outstanding and completely sympatico; and I must say I am now a total Olivier Laquerre fan! We felt Cynthia Smithers' Amore was sensational, too. Of course the Artists of the Atelier Ballet were as delicious as ever (but what gives with the danse sans musique at the beginning? a patron behind me vocally expressed the perplexion of most of the audience).
Time to talk Michael Maniaci. I can't be very objective where he's concerned. I loved him as Orfeo and Idomeneo. This time he stole the show again. As David Perlman and Jack Buell of Wholenote Magazine commented (in paraphrase:), Maniaci seemed much more comfortable in his own skin this year, an even better actor; and we all agreed that he seemed past any need to justify to the uninformed his range as male soprano. The final scene was wrenching, particularly by its treatment by Maniaci and Peggy Kriha Dye. Ita vero: sometimes more is less. Absolutely gorgeous.
You can still catch the last two performances May 1 & 2 at 7:30pm at the Elgin, $30+. Various ticket packages and further info are available at 416 872 5555 or at or .
Photo: Bruce Zinger / Carla HuhtanenOpera Atelier's production of The Coronation of Poppea

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Photo: Bruce Zinger / Meredith Hall & Laird Mackintosh Opera Atelier's production of The Coronation of Poppea

THANK GOD it's OA season again. Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea is the current offering by Opera Atelier, running April 25, 28, 29 and May 1 & 2 at 7:30pm, and April 26 at 3:00pm at the Elgin, $30+. We are blessed to have Michael Maniaci back (as Nero), as well as Peggy Kriha Dye (Poppea), Olivier Laquerre (Ottone), Carla Huhtanen (Drusilla) and other top drawer performers. They are joined by artists of Atelier Ballet and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir under David Fallis. Despite all this talent, Maniaci is worth the price of the ticket alone if you ask me.

Various ticket packages and further info are available at 416 872 5555 or at or .

once in a while the cbc is still interesting has an interesting article about Grey Gardens. didja know that money breeds eccentricity? it's true.