Saturday, October 29, 2016

All But Gone

A contemporary musical exploration of the absurd and evocative imagery of Samuel Beckett, All But Gone follows the sold-out hit Beckett: Feck It!, hailed as "entirely engrossing" by The Globe and Mail. Renowned Canadian director Jennifer Tarver (Venus in Fur) reunites with musical director Dáirine Ní Mheadhra for an elegiac and provocative evening of theatre and song featuring performer Jonathon Young (Betroffenheit), and Canadian opera stars Shannon Mercer and Krisztina Szabó.   Courtesy of CanStage.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Last Minute Twist and Goosebumps!

Photo by Chris Hutcheson

Norma at the COC

NormaSondra Radvanovsky / Elza van den Heever*
PollioneRussell Thomas   ❤
AdalgisaIsabel Leonard
OrovesoDimitry Ivashchenko 
ClotildeAviva Fortunata
FlavioCharles Sy
Conductor:  Stephen Lord
Director:Kevin Newbury
Set Designer:  David Korins
Costume Designer:Jessica Jahn
Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler
Chorus Master:Sandra Horst
With the COC Orchestra and Chorus
*We saw Elza van den Heever ~ wonderful!
A Canadian Opera Company co-production with San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona)

Bellini and his operas are synonymous with the bel canto era when the beauty and virtuosity of the human voice reigned supreme. In that tradition, our production features two of the most sought-after sopranos today as Toronto’s own Sondra Radvanovsky and South African Elza van den Heever share the title role. Courtesy of COC.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ariodante ~ These Boots are Made for Walking

One of Handel’s most radiantly beautiful scores echoes myriad emotions in this story of love, honour, and deception. Alice Coote and Jane Archibald—two COC favourites—return to head a dream Baroque cast, under the baton of Music Director Johannes Debus.

Ariodante at the COC

Ariodante Alice Coote
Ginevra Jane Archibald
Polinesso Varduhi Abrahamyan
Dalinda Ambur Braid
Lurcanio  Owen McCausland
Odoardo Aaron Sheppard
King of ScotlandJohannes Weisser
Conductor:   Johannes Debus
Director: Richard Jones
Set Designer and
Costume Designer:  
Lighting Designer:  Mimi Jordan Sherin
Choreographer: Lucy Burge
Puppetry Director:Finn Caldwell                                       Outstanding use of puppetry!
Puppetry Design:Nick Barnes & Finn Caldwell
Chorus Master:Sandra Horst
With the COC Orchestra and Chorus

Scene from Ariodante (COC, 2016), photo: Michael Cooper. Courtesy of COC.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Only in Vaughan, You Say?

Image result for concord floral
Photo courtesy of CanStage

I saw Concord Floral at CanStage this weekend and from the moment I entered the Bluma Appel Theatre, I knew we were in for something different, even by Matthew Jocelyn's standards. Billed as "a gothic urban thriller," I don't think that does this production enough justice. This is a very thought-provoking look into young people's psyches, through the medieval looking glass of Boccaccio's The Decameron. (For some background, here's an interesting project and here's the play's teaser trailer.) Written by Jordan Tannahill and directed by Erin Brubacher and Cara Spooner, the work is the result of a 2012 Festival of Ideas and Creation. Four years later, it's still fresh and oh so relevant.
But it's not for the faint of heart. In other words, you need to love teenagers and understand them if you're to get past the frank talk and subjects covered. 
I found some of the ensemble stronger in their acting ability than others, but the story about a secret and its effects on the youth is intense and engaging. The audience seating, "costumes" (which I assume are the kids' own and change with each performance), use of cell phones, sound effects, music, and the creative staging and props create an intimate experience. 
Several topical themes emerge: social interaction, both IRL and online; family issues; bullying and social norms; sexuality. The plague in the play has Biblical allusions (to my way of thinking, anyway). Towards the end, the notion of mercy is verbalized, not something you hear in teen circles very often. And I won't be giving anything away by sharing a key line towards the end, "I'm learning to get better," which will give you an idea of one of the play's sensibilities and preoccupations. There are points during the production that make the audience almost squirm, and I don't mean the gothic thriller bits. You're forced to watch a girl strip to her skivvies and her vulnerability is shocking considering our porn-bloated world. The cast also lines up and looks silently at the audience for a very long time, and initially you don't know if they're waiting for end applause or if you're being compelled to really face the encounter with them. There are a lot of challenges on both side of the footlights. But it's a worthwhile experience, and it offers some lighter moments of entertainment, too (often at the expense of adults and parents).
My companion and I had a lot to unpack about it on our walk home. If you're up for some affecting theatre, buy online soon. Tickets are already limited and it closes October 16.

CD Review: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra

Did Bugs Bunny ruin the Barber of Seville for you? How about Merrie Melodies’ The Three Little Pigs with Brahms’ Hungarian Dance #5? I have a particular eye/earworm of The Rite of Spring: I can never unsee the gorgeous choreography of Pina Brausch when I hear this piece. The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s recording is bright and clear and complements the rather dark storyline of the ballet. The First Part is a vital description of nature and leads with some urgency to the undeniable corporeality of the Second Part. The backbone of the piece, however, is Track 2, although I prefer my Augurs of Spring to be a little more heavy-handed than David Bernard’s version, such as the Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez’s take on it; I think this reflects Bernard’s interpretation, though, and does not make Stravinsky an inappropriate choice for this orchestra. (The Augurs of Spring always strikes me as a misplaced climax, though.)

The BartóConcerto for Orchestra, known as a soloistic piece, also has a pure sound, which emanates from the musicians themselves and is perhaps also enhanced by the fine recording engineering. Again, the chamber symphony easily handles the piece’s gravitas with aplomb. Apparently, the movements’ tempi listed on the back cover differ from their historical provenance and this made me curious to hear it live under another baton: fortuitously, this will be possible when the TSO performs it on May 4, 2017 in a matinée, led by Peter Oundjian.

This CD offers two excellent examples of early 20th-century eastern-European composers who still captivate us technophiles with these elemental pieces that were based on European folk song.

This review first appeared in the October 2016 issue of The WholeNote magazine.