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Volume 19 Issue 8 - May 2014

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Concerts
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Choral
  • Singers
  • Festival
Includes the 2014 Canary Pages directory of choirs.

Early? Opera? Yes

Early? Opera? Yes indeed, and consequently it flew by, unmentionedin our editorial pages. This issue, June 7 and 8, Cantemus isback at the same venue, with an ingenious premise; titled “Songsfor Mona Lisa: Hits of the early 1500s” the concert offers more thana dozen songs by such composers as Des Prez, Heinrich Finck andJanequin. “The music that put the smile on the face of the Mona Lisa?”their poster asks. And this time you’re not hearing about it from ustoo late to find out!Talisker, Syrinx, Ensemble Polaris: every passing season there aredozens of performers, presenters and ensembles that test and teaseour genre-based universe and are sometimes not adequately acknowledgedfor doing so. Take the Talisker Players, for example. “WhereWords and Music Meet” is their trademark/tagline, and May 27 and28 in a program titled “A Poet’s Love: The Romantic Imagination”they contrive to weave together music by composers as diverse asSchumann, Fauré, John Beckwith and Alexander Rapoport, withtexts by William Congreve, Ben Jonson, Oscar Hammerstein II, DanteGabriel Rossetti and Paul Verlaine. Baritone Alexander Dobson is thesinger this time, in the final concert of a four-concert season thatalways manages to combine first-rank guest vocalists with the topcalibre string quartet at the Players’ core.Syrinx Concerts Toronto has mounted an astonishing sixconcerts since December 8. Five were in their regular series atHeliconian Hall; the sixth was an 80th birthday celebration at WalterHall last month of composer/pianist Walter Buczynski’s life and work.May 4 will be their seventh and final outing this season, and it hastheir distinctive imprimature: top chamber artists (Peter Longworth,piano, and Sheila Jaffé, violin) celebrating the life of a Canadiancomposer (in this case François Dompierre) by placing that composer’swork in the context of a program of resonant classical repertoire(in this case works by Schubert, Beethoven and Bartók). Look back attheir programs this season (they are at syrinxconcerts.ca) and you willsee an approach as consistent as it is carefully curated, but one thatdoesn’t fit a tidy editorial framework.Ensemble Polaris is another example. Celebrating the music of“the circumpolar nations” they pull together a range of musicianswith serious early, classical and world music “chops” with a periodandculture-defying array of instruments. An example? Their April 8concert, titled “Life is a Cabaret, Eh?” pulled together works by Weill,Carosone, Grappelli, Downing, Elliott and others and featured, amongothers, Marco Cera, guitar and mandolin; Kirk Elliott, violin, accordion,mandolin, bass; Margaret Gay, cello; Katherine Hill, voice, nyckelharpa;and Alison Melville, traverso, and recorder.Category defying, indeed.publisher@thewholenote.comJörn Weisbrodt, 41, is the third part of the German trifecta that ismoving and shaking the arts in Toronto. In 2011, he was appointedthe artistic director of the Luminato Festival, and thus joins theCanadian Opera Company’s general director, Alexander Neef, andmusic director, Johannes Debus, as a member of the wunderkind generationof Young Turk Germans making a splash on the worldwide culturescene. (The Neef/Debus Q&A was in last month’s WholeNote.)When the Weisbrodt/Luminato announcementwas made, every news story mentionedthe fact that his life partner was Canadian/American superstar, singer-songwriter RufusWainwright. (The couple’s 2012 New Yorkcelebrity wedding had huge coverage in theinternational press.) One does not, however,become head honcho of one of NorthAmerica’s leading festivals of arts and cultureby being “husband of.”What follows is an in-depth conversationwith Weisbrodt that gives a perspective onhis life history and the life skills that broughthim to Luminato.Tell me about your background. I wasborn in Hamburg, and I’d describe my life asa typical middle class tapestry. My dad washead of logistics at Unilever and my motherwas a housewife. My brother is an engineerwith Lufthansa. Instead of going into thearmy for mandatory conscription after highschool, I opted for social service instead. Iworked for 15 months in an operating theatredressing the doctors and nurses, positioningthe patients and getting all the equipmenttogether, making sure everything was sterile.I’ve been a great defender of compulsorysocial service for young people ever since.WEISBRLUMINBY PAULAHow did you get hooked on the arts?Hamburg is a culturally savvy town, and myparents were cultured people who went totheatre and opera. I had a musical education– I was in a boys’ choir and I studied piano.Above: Festival Hub at DaviWhen I was older, I attended the theatre,rendered by Cuban art collectopera or a concert four or five times a week.At university I started studying bio sciences,Rigbut I missed the culture scene. I switched toopera directing, and spent the next five years getting my undergraduateand graduate diplomas at the Hanns Eisler Music Conservatoryin Berlin. My first two heroes were choreographer-director RuthBerghaus and dramatist-theatre director Heiner Müller.And legendary, avant-garde, American theatre and operadirector Robert Wilson was your third hero. For me, Bob inventeda new theatre language. In 1990, his production of The Black Riderpremiered in Hamburg. Tom Waits wrote the music and William S.Burroughs the text. I was so thrilled about the production that I wroteWilson a letter, and I got an answer. He was always interested in youngpeople.The Salzburg internships were important experiences while you8 | May 1, 2014 – June 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

ODT’SATOCITRONwere still a student, particularly because of Robert Wilson. I workedon two acclaimed productions. I was an intern in 1997 with directorPeter Stein’s opera production of Wozzeck at the Salzburg EasterFestival. For the 1997 Salzburg Summer Festival, I became RobertWilson’s personal assistant on Pelléas and Mélisande. He likes torecruit interns.d Pecaut Square asive Los Carpinterosht: Jörn WeisbrodtThe followingsummer you workedwith Wilson again,and it changed thedirection of yourcareer. It was at hisWatermill Center atSouthampton, LongIsland where Bobsupports the developmentof cross-disciplinaryworks. Beingthere allowed meto learn to be anenabler. I could seemy career lay withbeing an administratorrather thanbeing an artist,Without Bob’s influence,I could haveended up as a mediocre,second tieropera directorsomewhere.What did you doafter you graduated?I signed a contractas an assistantdirector at theDeutsches Theater inBerlin – the theatrethat director MaxReinhardt madefamous. The positionwas going to start ina year. In betweenI was an internat McKinsey andCompany, a businessconsulting firm. If Iwas ultimately going to be an arts administrator, I had to learn somethingabout business which is not a part of arts education. McKinseyactually offered me a job, so I got out of my contract at the DeutschesTheater. I knew that being an assistant director was not what I wanted.But an arts admin job did present itself. Artistic director PeterMussbach of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin was openingup a second performing space. I got a job as artistic productiondirector which involved programming and producing withthe emphasis on interdisciplinary works. I also got to travel to findproductions for the space. I was there for five years.V. TONY HAUSERthewholenote.com May 1, 2014 – June 7, 2014 | 9

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