8 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 5 - February 2006

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • February
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Mozart
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
  • Quartet

ecently in town in

ecently in town in conversation with Pamela Marg/es Andrew Porter is known and admired mostly as a music critic. But he was visiting Toronto in December to direct Mozart's The Magic Flute for the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, in his own translation. I spoke with him in his temporary home in an apartment near the Edward Johnson Building, where The Magic Flute was being performed. He is unsparing in his opinions. But his mellifluous voice punctuated by a gleeful laugh, his gracious manner, and above all his matter-of-fact sensibility seduced me into believing he is not just fair, but largely correct. We talked the morning after the second of three sold-out performances. On the coffee table in front ofus was an oversized facsimile of the score in Mozart's hand. ' I only brought it along to answer questions - I can 't say I directed from a facsimile. ' I had brought with me that morning's Globe & Mail review. ' Do you mind if I glance through it? Is it a good review?' he asked. Then ' It's a nice review - he really understood what I was at. ' Porter himself was thrilled with the performance and its enthusiastic reception. 'I'm very happy with this young cast. They all projected awfully well. They're not used to speaking in theatrical speech, so I had to work on the dialogue very hard. I was very nervous to begin with, thinking I wasn 't getting what I wanted. But when I told them to be free, within a framework, they responded marvellously. Every rehearsal was largely concerned with engaging the audience, right to the back row. There are all sorts of little tricks. I would say, "Sing that for someone sitting there. Just meet her eye, and say, "That phrase is for you." ' 'Ideally I would have really liked the house lights up a little more so that there was even more interplay with the audience. When Papageno sings, "I can see pretty girls all around me," I would I ike him actually to be able to see them. It makes them feel that you're not just addressing the drama within the proscenium arch, but you're actually talking to the people in the audience. That's not Wagner's way, but it is very much Mozart's and Verdi's. I love the Macmillan because it has a big forestage. Nowadays, they've all been destroyed. Early in the 20th century, theatres were Wagnerized so that everything could be kept behind the proscenium frame. We raised the pit a bit so there was interplay between the voices and the instruments, which you don ' t get in a deep sunken pit.' MOZART'S ENSEMBLES inspired some of Porter's most masterly touches. 'The quintets are some of the most wonderfully composed music in the world, I think. ' He carefully worked on getting the singers to listen to each other and blend. 'It's no good having the singers scattered all over the stage singing from different places. Those are magic moments. It should be natural. The singer should feel comfortable. Singers can, of course, sing lying on their stomachs, up on steps, or rolling around, but - why? On the whole, I' m against additions to what the composer and librettist wrote - unless they are by directors of genius like Peter Sellars. He doesn 't actually add, he interprets. I love be a very good fundraiser. He 's managed to get the new opera house built. The plans look wonderful. ' THESE DAYS, writing mostly for Opera and the Times Literary Supplement, opera is Porter 's focus. ' I' ve reached a point where I can pick and choose what I want to write about. I don't have to record everything that goes on, so I just write when I have something to say.' He devotes special attention to apprentice performances such as the one he directed here. ' I sometimes feel that I never want to see another Boheme in my life. It isn't true, of course. I go all the time, and I love it. But I don 't bother to review another revival of Carmen unless a marvellous new Carmen or Jose turns up. It's much more exciting to review a college or conservatory performance and discover singers who are continuing to discover themselves.' The New Yorker and the Financial Times no longer devote nearly as much space to classical music as they used to, when Porter wrote regularly for them. 'I' m rather depressed about the state of reviewing now '. 'Paper after paper has stopped even employing music critics in London. They are now being dumbed down like everything else.' Along with his own judgments, his reviews will include vivid, clear, and witty descriptions of what he has heard, based on his authoritative knowledge ofall aspects of music-making. The audience's rehis production of The Magic Flute , which couldn't be more different from mine. There are so many possibilities in the world.' "There's not a great composer who hasn't wanted his works to be done in translation. Verdi, Wagner - they wanted the audience to understand what was being said ." Porter's experience working at the COC was thoroughly happy. ' It's such a well-run company. It's been marvellous just seeing the mechanics of it. I just murmur to the stage manager, Leslie Abarquez, that I'd like the curtain a little bit quicker - and it happens. ' ' It's a wonderful orchestra - I've heard it a lot - and Bradshaw is a wonderful musician. A friend said he heard things in the score he'd never heard before. Bradshaw also seems to M sponse often becomes part of that picture. He once wrote about Peter Sellars' Cosi fan Tutte, " I can understand resistance to this Cosi as easily as my surrender to it." He comments, 'I'm rather proud of reviews when people say to me afterwards, " I can see why you liked it and I can see why I would have hated it," or the other way around. What I hope to do is to give an accurate account of what happened and what was heard, as far as possible. That is what reviewers should do - describe. Of course it 's coloured by opinion all the time. ' CONTI NUES ON PAGE 59 & Suoir'sAn elica FebS,rr,I7, "d Pergolesi's ~ 22, 25 7=3opm 01 Becomes Mistress F b (La Serva Padrona} e 19 2 :oopm Double Bill: Sin Redeemed & Uppity Help For more information call (416) 698-9572 Bickford Cenn·e Thean·e 777 Bloor St W OTC Chlistie) Student Senior Adult Acces~i~l~~!J;/· Plus~ Free, Fun Excerpts 7:3opm Operatic March 8 &9 0 ~~N~i REPERTOIRE WWW, TH EWHOLENOTE,COM FEBR UARY 1 - M ARCH 7 2006

THIS MONTH'S COVER Toca Loca takes residence by Jason van Eyk Fledgling new music ensemble Toca Loca takes roost at the Music Gallery in 2006 for a year-long residency. The Music Gallery, Toronto's internationally recognized home for creative music, has always been committed to providing the environment for new and unusual music to come into its own. This Toca Loca residency is just another positi ve way in which it is putting that environment to good use. In the words of Toca Loca's Gregory Oh "This is an ideal vehicle for younger ensembles that have not yet established their funding and resource base. Having a home, a rehearsal space and a place to play in is an incredibly valuable commodity." ,I_ Toca Loca gets ready to set up shop at the Music Gallery. L-R: Core members percussionist Aiyun Huang, pianist Simon Docking, and artistic director! pianist Gregory Oh. For their February 24 concert, the group expands to "Pierrot" scale with the addition of guests Parmela Attariwala, violin; Joshua Greenlaw, viola; Stephen Tam, flute; Micah Heilbrunn, clarinet; and Mary-Katherine Finch, cello. Formed in 2001, Toca Loca is one of Toronto's youngest ensembles. "The name is a kind of triple word play in Spanish," Oh explains. "Toca can mean to touch or strike, or a kind of hat. So crazy touch, crazy play, crazy hat, ... and beyond that it's just a name with a nice percussive feel - like what we do." In just a few years Toca Loca has made some pretty big strides with a handful of notable concerts and a truly different attitude. As Oh says "We try to avoid being too stodgy. We are trying to add a little bit of zest to Canada's music scene." Don't mistake zest for dumbing down, though. They certainly don' t avoid daring programming, pulling in some of the heavy hitters of new music alongside challenging Canadian works. Under their belts already: repertoire by Alice Ho, Chris Paul Harman, Claude Vivier, Georges Aperghis, Gyorgy Kurtag, Michael Finnissy, Heinz Holliger, Walter Buczynski, Thomas Kessler, James Rolfe, Jocelyn Morlock, Andrew Staniland, Melissa Hui, Toshio Hosokawa, and Unsuk Chin, just to name a very few. Add to that some significant commissioning, CBC broadcasts, and tours to the USA, and you've got a sense of a little powerhouse just ready to explode out on the new music scene in a big way. "We're never out there just to replicate the recital hall experience, we're less topbutton-done-up than that." Toca Loca launches their Music Gallery residency on February 24th with a programme of French spectralist music, including Gerard Grisey's Vortex Temporum (dubbed 'the most important chamber work of the late 20th century') and works by Phi llippe Leroux - a composer whom Discoveries editor David Olds has made a personal plea to hear more often in Toronto. "The thing about the spectralists," Oh says, "is they really believe the human ear has limits and that you should create for those limits rather than always challenging them. To me the music is very exciting, very kinetic, very fluid. [n terms of an audience, it's not the youth we have to worry about, young people are much more tuned to hearing new sounds. It's the more settled audiences, shall we say, the ones who are already sure they know what they li ke. We'd really li ke to say hey, give this a chance." Future concerts follow in March, September and November. Keep posted to the Music Gallery website ( for future announcements. rn£infqnia 1oronlo NURHAN ARMAN M USIC DIRECTOR Toronto's Premier ChambeJ ~Orchestra MICHAEL ESCH, Pianist Saturday, Feb. 4 8 pm MOZART Eine kleine Nachtmusik STRAUSS Metamorphosen BRAHMS Piano Quintet arr. Arman CARLO PALLESCHI, Conductor RAFAEL HOEKMAN, Cellist Saturday, April 8 8 pm MORAWETZ Divertimento HAYDN Cello Concerto in C BARTOK Divertimento HA YON Divertimento in D BEVERLEY JOHNSTON Percussionist Saturday, March 4 8 pm BURGE Flanders Fields Reflections (world-premiere) VIVALDI Marimba Concerto HA TZIS Love Among the Ruins (in the aftermath of 9/11) TCHAIKOVSKY Quartet No. 1 SCOTT ST. JOHN, Violinist Saturday, May 6 8 pm POPOVIC! Codex Caioni SCHUBERT Rondo SARASA TE Zigeunerweisen HONEGGER Symphony No. 2 MOZART Divertimento K 136 Glenn Gould Studio 250 Front Street W. adult, senior, student call 416 205 5555 or EBRUARY WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM

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