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Volume 17 Issue 5 - February 2012

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A New Two On

A New Two On TapCHRISTOPHER HOILEThis february has become a month for new opera. Torontowill see a world premiere of a Canadian work, the professionalworld premiere of another Canadian work and the Canadianpremiere of an acclaimed 21st century opera. In the depths of winterwe already see the new growth of spring. The world premiere isObeah Opera by Nicole Brooks running February 16 to March 4.For more on that work, see Robert Wallace’s interview with Brooksin this issue.First to appear is the Canadianpremiere of L’Amour de loin (Lovefrom Afar or more accurately“The Far-Away Love”) by Finnishcomposer Kaija Saariaho at theCanadian Opera Company. Notonly will this be the first time theCOC has staged an opera by aFinnish composer, it will also markthe first time it has staged an operaby a female composer.This opera that premiered in2000 at the Salzburg Festival tellsthe story of a world-weary 12thcentury troubadour from Francewho carries on a long-distance loveaffair with a beautiful woman livingin Tripoli, Lebanon, whom he calledin Languedoc his “amor de lonh.”Although they never see or speak toeach other, their feelings develop and grow through the efforts of anenigmatic Pilgrim, who carries messages of love and yearning betweenthe two. Saariaho drew her inspiration for the work from thelife and song texts of Jaufré Rudel (died c.1147), a French prince andtroubadour who wrote of his obsessive love for an ideal, unattainablewoman. This is the well-known theme known as “courtly love”that swept Europe during this period. The yearning expressed hasa religious component, due to the rise of Mariolatry, that leads thepoet to ask whether such a love is best preserved from afar.Reviewing the opera in 2000, New York Times critic AnthonyTommasini wrote that Saariaho’s music “combines vivid orchestration,the subtle use of electronic instruments and imaginative,sometimes unearthly writing for chorus ... The vocal writing is byturns elegiac and conversational. Her harmonic language is tonallygrounded, with frequent use of sustained low pedal tones, but nottonal. Bits of dissonance, piercing overtones and gently jarringelectronic sound spike the undulant harmonies, but so subtly that theoverall aural impression is of beguiling consonance … Her evocationsof the troubadour songs, with medieval modal harmony andfragments of elegiac tunes, are marvelous.”The new COC production is conducted by COC music directorJohannes Debus and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, known forhis work with Cirque du Soleil. It features an all-Canadian cast.Baritone Russell Braun is Jaufré Rudel, soprano Erin Wall is hisbeloved Clémence and mezzo Krisztina Szabó sings the role of themysterious Pilgrim. Sung in the original French of Lebanese librettistAmin Maaloof, L’Amour de loin (which, unlike other companies,the COC insists on calling Love from Afar) runs for eight performancesfrom February 2 to 22. For more, visit www.coc.ca.Taptoo! is the opera receiving its professional world premiere,with music by John Beckwith and libretto by James Reaney. Theopera written in 1995 was given its world premiere by OperaMcGill in 1999 and was later staged by the University of TorontoOpera Division in 2003. Toronto Operetta Theatre is presenting itsprofessional premiere as part of the national commemorations of thebicentennial of the Warof 1812. The title refersto the last drum-andbuglesignal of the daythat would later expandinto what is now knownas a military tattoo.The work wasconceived as a prequelto Harry Somers’opera Serinette whichhad had a highlysuccessful premierein 1990 at the EloraFestival. As Beckwithwrites in UnheardOf: Memoirs of aCanadian Composer,to be publishedin February 2012,“Where Serinette was set in York and Sharon duringthe 1830s, the new piece deals with the founding of York by JohnGraves Simcoe in 1783 and covers a time period from the AmericanWar of Independence to just before the War of 1812.” Beckwithsays that the opera features a number of Reaneyesque devices:“Cast members assume a variety of roles, changing age or genderrapidly, functioning solo for one scene and in the next, as part of achorus; the orchestral players are sometimes required to join in theaction.” In the TOT production, he says, a cast of 18 singers willcover 26 characters including historical figures, like Simcoe andColonel “Mad Anthony” Wayne, and other imaginary ones likeboy soldiers Ebenezer and Seth, the aboriginal Atahentsic, settlersand adventurers.TOT lays claim to the work because Beckwith himself says he wasLove from Afar: Rachel Harnisch as Clémence in the Vlaamse Operaproduction of Love from Afar, 2010.ANNEMIE AUGUSTIJNSSUSAN WALLACEORGANizedSunday, February 128 pmThe Music Gallery416 924 4945continuummusic.orgWorks by:Brian CurrentPetar KlanacGyörgi LigetiRichardMarsellaMichaelOesterle/1518 thewholenote.comFebruary 1 – March 7, 2012

John Beckwith andJames Reaney.inspired by ballad operas, the earliest examples ofwhat would later become operetta. As Beckwithsays, “Two period productions of early music theatreaffected me around this time [of composing].John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera and Thomas Arne’sLove in a Village were the most-often-performedballad operas of 18th century England … I sawTaptoo! as the modern equivalent of a ballad opera,in which scraps of familiar songs and dances wouldnow and then drift into the musical score. I included about 20 suchmusical references — hymn tunes, popular sentimental or patrioticsongs, dances, marches and, of course, historical military music.”The TOT cast includes Michael Barrett as Seth, Robert Longo asWayne, Todd Delaney as Simcoe, Allison Angelo as Atahentsic, withMark Petracchi and Sarah Hicks as Mr. and Mrs. Harple, EugeniaDermentzis as Mrs. Simcoe and boy sopranos Daniel Bedrossianand Teddy Perdikoulias. The composer’s son, Larry Beckwith,conducts and TOT general director Guillermo Silva-Marin directs.Taptoo! runs only February 24 to 26. For more information seewww.torontooperetta.com.Beckwith says of his collaborations with James Reaney, “Withoutarticulating our objectives further, I believe we wanted to affect ouraudiences in two ways — to move them and to cheer them.” We mustthank TOT for giving Taptoo! a chance to achieve these goals.Toronto Symphony OrchestranewcreationsfestivalChristopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre.He can be contacted at opera@thewholenote.com.Hear the hottest works incontemporary orchestralmusic at the eighth annualNew Creations Festival,with Peter Oundjian asconductor and host, andPeter Eötvös as conductorand curator.This Isn’t SilenceThu, March 1 at 8:00pmBarbara Hannigan, sopranoAkiko Suwanai, violinBrian Current:This Isn't SilenceVivier: Lonely ChildPeter Eötvös: Seven forViolin and OrchestraGyörgy Kurtág: MessagesCon BrioSat, March 3 at 7:30pmTeng Li, violaKronos Quartet, string quartetJörg Widmann: Con BrioPeter Eötvös: Replica forViola and OrchestraDerek Charke: Concerto forString Quartet and OrchestraOrionWed, March 7 at 8:00pmJörg Widmann, clarinetJoseph Johnson, celloVivier: OrionPeter Eötvös: CelloConcerto GrossoJörg Widmann: Elegy forClarinet and OrchestraPeter Eötvös: zeroPointsnewcreationsfestival.com416.593.4828February 1 – March 7, 2012thewholenote.com 19

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