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Volume 12 - Issue 8 - May 2007

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On OPERAby Christopher

On OPERAby Christopher HoileFor eleven performances from May 4-26, theCanadian Opera Company will be remounting a"revised" version of its controversial 1999 productionof Verdi's La Traviata directed by DmitriBertman, Artistic Director of the Helikon Opera· in Moscqw. Never before had a production sostirred up Toronto audiences and critics like thisone."Crazy Heroine Adds Little to WretchedShow," screamed The Globe and Mail. "Enough,Already! Messing with La Traviata Most Annoying,"shrieked the Toronto Star. "Give Traviataa Raspberry," shouted NOW. Such weresome of the more strident headlines that greetedthe production. Anyone who was present at theopening on September 29 that year will rememberit as a very unCanadian night at the opera.Usually when a Canadian audience dislikes aproduction it simply applauds less enthusiastically: Not so that night.At the curtain call loud choruses of boos suddenly burst out across theauditorium. These, in turn, were answered by equal numbers of ringingbravos. After years of opera-going I had never heard anything likethis in Canada. It was rather as if~ were back in Europe. The conflictactually left me ela.ted since I realized that underneath all their politenessCanadians really do care passionately about opera.Bertman' s innovations in Traviata pale in comparison to some ofthe more bizarre interpretations inflicted upon opera in recent years,e.g. Brtinnhilde as a suicide bomber in Gotterdiimmerung at the ENOor the chorus of Hebrew slaves in Nabucco costumed as bees at theDeutsche Oper in Berlin. Reading through reviews of the time twothings seem to have upset critics most. First was that Bertman movedthe setting of the opera from the 18'h century to the 20'h and second thathe presented the action as events in the memory of Violetta whose gripon reason is loosening.Liesel Fedkenheuer as Annina in the COC's 1999 production of La Traviata. Conductor RichardBradshaw, director Dmitry Bertman, sets by Igor Nezhny and costumes by Tatiana TulubievaIn judging Bertman's choices it is useful to look at the backgroundof the opera itself. Francesco Maria Piave based his libretto on thenovel and play La Dame au camelias by Alexandre Dumas, fils, of1848. To have as the title character a courtesan, basically a high-classprostitute or "she who has gone astray" to translate the Italian, disturbedthe censors of Verdi's day so much they considered changingthe title to the more abstract Amore et morte. In the end they decidedto move the setting back in time from the 19m to the 18 1 h century as ifto imply that such things didn't happen in the present. Bertman, thus,in moving the setting forward undoes the comfy historical distancingand lavish gowns that distract many people from realizing what professionVioletta actually engages in and why Germont should be soupset that his son Alfredo should fall in love with her. That Violettashould so desperately hope for respectability contrary to Alfredo'sweakness and the reality of her situation leads to her breakdown bothin the original and in Bertman's version. In the original, Violetta,dying of consumption (i.e. tuberculosis), has feverish visions of afuture happy life that Bertman links not just to her physical decline butto her mental decline as well.Just as there were cheers at the premiere of Bertman's productionin 1999, there were also less vitriolic reviews than the ones quotedabove. The British magazine Opera Now called the production "exciting"and "stimulating" and another British magazine Opera said theshow "frequently packed a theatrical wallop." The Toronto Sun calledBertman's "a concept of breathtaking beauty."In 2005 the COC loaned the production to New Zealand Opera,which performs both in Auckland and Wellington, where, contrary tothe mixed reception in Toronto, it was lavished with praise. The NewZealand Herald said, "This was brilliant mise-en-scene which alonemade the production well worth the price of a ticket" and summed up,"In a phrase: not to be missed." Wellington's Dominion Post reportedthat "This is a production that has taken Auckland by storm and is setto do the same in Wellington," one which "no lover of theatre wouldwant to miss. "What gives then? Has the passage of six years somehow madeBertman's vision more acceptable? Or are the Kiwis simply more opento modern interpretations of operatic warhorses than we are? We willsoon have a chance to find out for ourselves. Whatever we decide, Ithink most of us wiU agree with Brian Hunt's conclusion in.his reviewfor The National Post in 1999: "I would think less of the CanadianOpera Company if it were not prepared to challenge Toronto's conservatismwith such vigour and confidence."Please see our comprehensiveOpera/Music Theatre/Dance listings on page 48WWW, THEWHOLENOTE.COM MAY 1 - JUNE 7 2007

WE ARE ALL Music's CHILDRENbymJbuell"Playing together"circa spring, 1947APRIL's Children ... Adi. and Russell BraunSee page 56 for photos andtheir shared memoriesof musical lifeMAY's ChildThis little fellow's mother usedto dress up his teddy bearswith bow ties for an audience.He would later become knownfor his fondness for bow ties,and currently owns 64. That's aLotte bow ties,! (He is also arenowned lover of puns).Think you might know whoMay's child is?Send your best guess tomusic8children@thewholenot.e.com.(Anecdotes are welcome!)Winners will be selected byrandom draw among correctentries received by May 15'1\.2007CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS!and keep up the good guessing!TICIQJ:TS!John Kent and a companion will enjoy dinner for two, and anintimate evening of music with Adi Braun (Chris Donnelly, piano;George Koller, bass; Mark Kelso, drums) as guests ofLive@Courthouse, on May 11 . www.liveatcourthouse.comPatricia and George Hiemstra, as guests of the Elora Festival, willhear Russell Braun and the Elora Festival Singers in OhShenandoah: folk songs from around the world, including settings byHarry Somers, Mark Sirett, Vaughan Williams and John Rutter onFriday, August 3 at 8pm (Gambrel Barn, Elora. 519-846-0331or1-888-747-7550 or www.elorafestival.com)RECORDINGS! .Kitty Liu will receive Mozart: Arie & Duetti Bayrakdarian, Schade &Braun (2007 Juno Award for Classical Album Of The Year: Vocal orChoral Performance, CBC Records)Linda Litwack will receive Die Winterreise Franz Schubert - RussellBraun & Carolyn Maule (2006 Juno Nominee, CBC Records)www.cbcshop.caIvan Elkan will receive Ad.i Braun's newest recording Rules of theGame (Blue Rider Records) www.adibraun.comMusics Children gratefully acknowledges Live@Courthouse, TheElora Festival, CBC Records, Blue Rider Records, and MoiraJohnson.Are you hoarding a treasured old photo? Know someone whosephotograph should appear on this page?Contact musicschildren@thewholenote.comACROBAT Music 59AmBRAuN54Al.ExANDER SINGERS AND PLAYERS 49ALL SAINT'S ANGLICAN CHURCH(KING CITY) 57ALL THE KING'S VOICES 18, 28AMADEUS CHOIR 33, 57ANAIEKTA67ANuM! Gurr AR RECORDS 67ART OF JAZZ 72AsSOCIATES OF THE TSO 35ATMA CLASSIQUE 4BACH CHILDREN'S CHORUS 33BATA SHOE MUSEUM 38BEACH SUMMER VOCAL PROGRAM 57BELLEFAIRfKEw BEACHUNITED CHURCH 54BLUE BRIDGE FESTIVAL 17CANADA ThuSTTORONTO JAzz FESTIVAL 16CANADIAN CHILDREN'S OPERA CHORUS 38CANADIAN Music CENTRE 69CANADIAN SINFONIETTA 34CANCLONE SERVICES 59CATHEDRAL BLUFFS SYMPHONYORCHESTRA 39CELEBRITY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 33CHRIST CHURCH DEER p ARK 27CHRIST CHURCH DEERPARKJAZZ VESPERS 23CIVIC LIGHT OPERA 49CLASSIC VOICE INSTRUCTION 52COLOURS OF Music FESTIVAL 70CosMo Music 2 1COUNTERPOINT CHORALE 39DEERPARK CONCERTS 28EAST YORJC CHOIR'41 •ELMER ISELER SINGERS 52ENSEMBLE ThYPTYCH 30EsPRIT ORCHESTRA 2ETOBICOKE CENTENNIAL CHOIR 53ETOBICOKE YoUTH CHOIR 28EXULTATE CHAMBER SINGERS 31FESTIVAL DE LANAUDIERE 71FORTE-TORONTO M EN'S CHORUS 34GEORGE HEINL 22GRAND RlvffiJ3AROQUE 8GROUP OF TWENTY-SEVEN 14HANNAFORD ST. SILVER BAND 29HARlCNETT MUSICAL SERVICES 20HEucoNIAN CLUB 59HIGH PARK CHOIRS OF TORONTO 19HILLCREST CHRISTIAN CHURCH 23HILTON HOTEL (TuNDRA RESTAURANT) 68JEAN EDWARDS/SONG JouRNEY 39l

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