Thursday, November 24, 2016

Constellations at CanStage

Choice and destiny collide in British theatre luminary Nick Payne's startlingly original play about the infinite possibilities of love (and the quantum multiverse). A man and a woman's chance encounter sets off a singular chain of events where each path they might take shapes an entirely different future. Their sweeping and spellbinding romantic journey will defy the boundaries of the world we think we know. Director Peter Hinton brings his award-winning vision to this five-star West End and Broadway hit. 

Graham Cuthbertson
Cara Ricketts

Courtesy CanStage.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dollhouse at CanStage

Prolific Canadian dancer/choreographer Bill Coleman (Older & Reckless) confronts a series of almost biblical challenges in this eye-opening spectacle about a man out of sync with his surroundings. Objects fall, shatter and move of their own accord creating a unique soundscape that accompanies one man's descent into chaos. Coleman, a master performer, plays the role of modern fakir as he navigates through situations, at times verging on the comic, culminating in a hypnotic symphony of sight and sound created and performed in collaboration with celebrated composer Gordon Monahan.  Courtesy CanStage.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Realistic Joneses at Tarragon Theatre



directed by Richard Rose
Nov 9 – Dec 18, 2016 in the Mainspace
Opened Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Meet the Joneses – Bob and Jennifer, and their neighbours, John and Pony – two couples who have even more in common than their identical homes and shared last names. With compassion, great humour, and a fine eye for the quirks of contemporary life, The Realistic Joneses dives deep below the surface to expose the extraordinary heroism of the everyday.
★★★1/2 (out of 4)  “Eno’s is an original theatrical voice; a poignant and pitch-perfect production; superb cast” – The Globe & Mail 
“That [Broadway] production, with a starry cast, was good, but the Tarragon one, directed by Richard Rose, is better. It’s certainly much funnier, the four actors feast on the wrong-footing and second-guessing with which these Joneses strive to keep up with one another.” – National Post
★★★ (out of 4) “[Eno] is a master of dialogue; this isn’t a disease play, or an infidelity play, or a language play – its beauty is how it shimmers between all of these.” – The Toronto Star 
NNNN “Weird, funny and unexpectedly poignant” – NOW Magazine
“Plays as funny and moving, as wonderful and weird as The Realistic Joneses, do not appear often on Broadway; a pleasurable rush virtually unmatched by anything I’ve seen this season.” – Charles Isherwood, New York Times (Broadway production)
The running time of The Realistic Joneses is approx. 1h 40minutes with no intermission.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Private Viewing with Imago at the AGO: Mystical Landscapes

One of the best exhibits I've seen at AGO in recent years. Closes January 29, 2017.
How do you find a spark of light in the midst of darkness? CBC’s Tapestry radio show takes an intimate look at the mystical impulse in great art created during turbulent times much like our own and reveals the spiritual side of great painters such as Monet, van Gogh, and Gauguin.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Men and Their Work

I never read reviews before I go to see or hear something. I want to form my own opinions, uninfluenced. So I'm surprised to see all the hoopla about a documentary and the less enthusiastic reviews about a story (that might as well be a documentary) which I saw this week.
La loi du marché or The Measure of a Man (Brizé, 2015) is a current tale of a middle-aged man sent for retraining as part of his employment search plan after being laid off. Vincent Lindon is again wonderful (as he was in Toutes Nos Envies or All Our Desires, Lioret 2011), playing the frustrated and humiliated Thierry Taugourdeau with incredible yet affective restraint. This poignant character study and damning social commentary is top-notch film: nothing's Hollywoody-obvious and the viewer is left to decide the ending's result based on what they have judged Taugourdeau to be, when he is faced with a moral dilemma. The supporting cast is excellent, as are the untrained actors used to fill out the story. But if you're underemployed at the moment, you might want to skip it.

Fuocoammare or Fire at Sea (Rosi, 2016) seemed like it would be an interesting review of the current migrant crisis: it focuses on Lampedusa, a small island which receives waves of "boat people" from countries in crisis. The stark realities of the refugees' plights are gripping (e.g. hearing their mayday calls via ship radios), the immigration-industry's employees are shown treating them with respect (don't know if that was for the camera's sake), and the rescued masses are whittled down to a few portraits which put the viewer uncomfortably close to their private griefs and stresses: an interesting premise. But this is not just about the immigrants, it's also about the Italian inhabitants of this quaint community and their everyday lives. Which is fascinating: the near-PTSD doctor, the radio station host/producer, the fishing widows and the ridiculously charming yet ordinary 12-year-old, Samuele Caruana. However, ne'er do the twain meet. This struck me as two documentaries stuck together with hope and perhaps good intentions, but the two worlds just don't intersect on the screen. There's no comment made about the two disparate groups; there's no interaction between them. The best that can be said is that the discrete film lines are intriguing sociological studies. I don't get why it has earned awards and nominations, and it was the first time I'd ever felt somewhat ripped off by a documentary. Okay to catch on Netflix, but I wouldn't recommend hauling yourself to a theatre to pay for entry and popcorn.

If you're in the mood for a good disaster movie, I highly recommend the Norwegian box-office hit Bølgen or The Wave (Uthaug, 2015) which is currently on Netflix and has excellent performances by Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp and Jonas Hoff Oftebro, who plays their son. The suspense is killer! 
Off to a private viewing for Imago members only of the Mystical Landscapes exhibition at the AGO tomorrow eve, then Tarragon Theatre next weekend to see The Realistic Joneses, which my friend is assitant director of. Ciao-ciao.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

CD Review of Arvo Pärt's The Deer's Cry

Arvo Part - The Deer's Cry           
Vox Clamantis; Jaan-Elk Tulve    
ECM New Series               ECM 2466

A mixture of the new and old recorded here by Estonian choir Vox Clamantis, this CD includes the world recording premiere of Habitare fratres in unum and the largely plainchant And One of the Pharisees, which had its world premiere in California in 1992. There is a variety of Pärt’s music here: from the innocence-evoking Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima to the ode to a gittern, Sei gelobt, du Baum. (Read the info about the latter here.)

Serendipitously, I started my day reading St. Patrick’s 4th-century prayer, The Deer’s Cry, and the title track contains a purity comparable to Lang’s I Lie. The Alleluia-Tropus is different than my recording by Vox Clamantis with Sinfonietta Riga: at a decade’s distance, this a capella version is 25 seconds longer and less dance-like, perhaps the liturgical pace being more fitting for the intercession of St. Nicholas of Myra. Most notable to me, however, was Summa, a tintinnabulist piece containing the Apostle’s Creed in Latin. While it is recorded here a capella, as originally written, I only have the string versions of it, which convey swells of movement (indeed, I made a little film with it as accompaniment); the choral is more plodding and deliberate in its affirmation of belief—I could picture Joan of Arc reciting it defiantly, atop her pyre as she awaited the lighting of the wood. The CD ends with Gebet nach dem Kanon, a fitting closing prayer to the collection.

The liner notes are Pärtesque: sparse, multilingual and presuming knowledge of his work and liturgical music history. There is no text about the work and lyrics are in Church Slavonic, Spanish, Latin, German and English, with no translations, as is the usual case with such releases these days. But if you enjoy looking up information (e.g. the Russian scriptures have different versification at times: Drei Hirtenkinder is about the West’s Psalm 8:2, not 8:3), there’s a wealth of enlightenment available. Artistic director Jaan-Eik Tulve has translated the 81-year-old composer’s personal tutelage faithfully and Pärt devotees will be enraptured, the faithful and secularists alike. 

CD Review of Artyomov's Symphonies

Vyacheslav Artyomov - Symphony Gentle Emanation; Tristia II  
Russian National Orchestra; Teodor Currentzis; Vladimir Ponkin
Divine Art            dda 25144

Vyacheslav Artyomov - Symphony on the Threshold of a Bright World; Ave Atque Vale; Ave, Crux Alba 
National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia; Vladimir Ashkenazy 
Divine Art            dda 25143

I hadn't known about Russian composer Vyacheslav Artyomov until I was asked to review two of his records for an upcoming magazine issue. To get aquainted with him, during my first listen I employed a drawing exercise from a book I use, pictured above, which suggested drawing the sounds of a piece of music. I think the result (this is Tracks 3–8) is accurate.

In my research about him, I heard that he also has done some film scoring, notably the 1995 short B&W film, Koza (Cocoon in English), which is a Dreyeresque piece that includes his work; you can find a clip of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's film here.

Artyomov was preparing for a life in astrophysics, but these two symphonies (parts of a tetralogy) are unlike The Planets, unless you think of them as über-Holst: they cause a visceral reaction and suggest a metaphysical cri de cœur. My initial reaction to them was that they sounded like the soundtrack of some 1940s film noir or an original-series Star Trek episode, which is apt since they embody mystery and the unknown. In his essay, Musica Perennis, the composer said, “Serious music is created by the spirit for the Spirit,” and these twin-released CDs reflect his view of music as a mediator between God and man, but also as science. While I find the Threshold of Bright World symphony more arresting than the Gentle Emanation, they are both accessible and, while Artyomov is often compared to Arvo Pärt, I hear a little more of Rautavaara.

The orchestration in Ave Atque Vale and Gentle Emanation is a little jarring due to the highlighting of the percussion parts. But Ave, Crux Alba, a choral (Helikon Theatre Choir) and orchestral setting of the Hymn of the Knights of Malta, returns to the majesty and mystery Artyomov is known for in his musical quest for spirituality. Tristia II, based on the 19th-century poems of Nikolai Gogol and with spoken parts read by Russian actor Mikhail Philippov, carries on the potential-soundtrack feel and allows us non–Russian speakers to hear the cries of the artist to God for inspiration, and the suspense in the middle tracks suggests Him mulling the petitions over.

Both CDs are in memoriam of the composer’s friend and colleague, Mstislav Rostropovich, and both have expansive liner notes.