8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 8 - May 2013

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
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Includes the 2013 Canary Pages choral directory.

alance politics and

alance politics and entertainment, to challenge audiences visually,intellectually and emotionally; to produce work on big themes fortroubled times.”While Lady Gaga might seem a strange choice on which to focusa musical with such lofty pursuits, Newton says otherwise. “I thinkGaga is actually a deadly earnest figure in a pop-cultural landscapethat prizes detachment above all. I think her project is to elicitintimacy through artifice, and my work attempts to do the same.”Besides, as he points out, Of A Monstrous Child is not about Gaga perse but, rather, one of her fans who loses his way en route to a LadyGaga concert and encounters the ghost of Leigh Bowery, a performanceartist who died in 1994.Described by Boy George as “modern art on legs,” Bowery hasbecome more famous in death than in life, an irony that Newtonexploits by making him emcee of the evening’s shenanigans thatproceed in cabaret fashion. Introducing a who’s who of artists,academics and celebrities whose work Lady Gaga has used in herrise to fame, Bowery gives “the monstrous child” (and the audience)a crash course in queer performance. Simultaneously he constructsa dialectic in which originality and fame square off. As Newton putsit: “Leigh sought the kind of fame Gaga has achieved but he wasn’twilling to compromise, even slightly [to get it]. A part of Gaga’s geniusis her ability to sell downtown aesthetics to a midtown audience. I’mnot sure what Leigh would have thought of her.”For Newton, Bowery is “the rarest of pop cultural figures: a totaloriginal.” To play him, the director has cast Bruce Dow, a masterfulsinger and actor as well as a consummate comic whose latest incarnationas King Herod in the Stratford production of Jesus ChristSuperstar landed him on Broadway. At his side, celebrated comedianand impersonator Gavin Crawford plays a host of famous artists andintellectuals that includes Bjork, Marina Abramović and Andy Warhol.To bring Lady Gaga onstage, Newton employs the talents of KimberlyPersona whose uncanny resemblance to the pop star extends themusical’s interrogation of authenticity. With her voice, movement andstyle Persona mimics the pop star so expertly that she calls into questionthe idea of personal authenticity in much the same way that theshow interrogates the notion of originality.This latter theme is best illustrated by the score of the piece which,ironically, is not credited to a composer. “I view Lady Gaga as anappropriation artist, in the tradition of painters like Jasper Johns andmusicians like Girl Talk,” Newton explains. “It only seems appropriateto create a score that deconstructs and reconstructs and mashes upbits and pieces of existing pop music to create something ‘new.’” Toachieve this end, Newton, along with his musical director, Dan Rutzen,and sound designer, Lyon Smith, devised a process by which Newtonwould suggest “how certain pieces of songs might fit together — relatedby a similar key, or a hook that seems to fit” at any given moment.Rutzen’s task was to translate Newton’s instincts into vocal arrangementsand the basic outline of the instrumentation, which he thenwould give to Smith to create the final backing tracks. “Both Dan andLyon are taking on several roles in this project — producer, sessionmusician, vocal coach etc. — and they’ve combined their talents tocreate a unique musical experience.”Unique equals original? Hardly, in that all the music in the showhas been heard before, although not in the way it is presented here.Onstage: a cello, piano and live, amplified voices; offstage: recordedsound. “You’ll hear many recognizable pieces of songs throughout theshow,” Newton comments, “though no part of my artistic practice isever entirely straight ...”A rock-show with choral singing and acoustic moments: somethinglike a Lady Gaga concert by way of Yoko Ono and a Gregorian choir?Rossini, via banjo, accordion and flute?See both, and then you decide on the effect ... and the label. Ifyou must.Based in Toronto, Robert Wallace writes abouttheatre and performance. He can be contactedat stage May 9416 866 8666sOulpepper.cathe BarBerOf seVilleBy Michael O’Brien,adapted frOMBeauMarchaisMusic By JOhn Millard,adapted frOM rOssiniA free-wheeling all-new update ofTheatre Columbus’s sensational 1996award-winning musical caper!production sponsor2013 lead sponsors illustration : brian rea12 | May 1 – June 7, 2013

Beat by Beat | Classical & BeyondTunes Looneyand LovedSHARNA SEARLERossini, wagner, von suppé, Tchaikovsky, Smetana, Donizetti,Grieg, Offenbach, J. Strauss, Liszt. Sure, they all hold membershipin the pantheon of great composers, but do you know whatelse they have in common? Bugs Bunny, ElmerFudd, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote,to name some of those lovable Looney Tunescharacters who have danced, pranced, chasedand raced around on screen, to the music ofthose aforementioned composer heavyweights,or rather, to brilliantly conceived and executedadaptations, orchestrations, arrangementsand “borrowings” of their music by Americancomposers, Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn, theingenious creators of the symphonic soundtracksto those zany Warner Bros. cartoonsof yesteryear. (They sure don’t make ’em likethey used to.)Looney Tunes: Remember The Rabbit ofSeville? (1949)—“Welcome to my shop, letme cut your mop, let me shave your crop.Daintily, daintily.” (Can’t you just hear/see BugsBunny, dressed in a barber’s outfit, beckoningElmer Fudd with that Rossini-inspired scoreà la Stalling?) And what about What’s Opera,Doc? (1957) that amazing tour de force where Franklyn manages tocondense the four nights of Wagner’s Ring cycle into seven exhilaratingorchestral minutes to accompany the cartoon capers as Bugsand Elmer battle it out in a parody of Wagner operas. It’s famous, ofcourse, for Fudd’s “Kill the Wabbit,” sung to the tune of Wagner’s“Ride of the Valkyries,” from Die Valküre. As George Daugherty, creatorand conductor of “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” has said, “Onceyou’ve seen Elmer Fudd chasing about on screen singing “Kill thewabbit, kill the wabbit,” you will never hear Wagner’s “Ride of theValkyries” the same way again.”Well, guess what? Bugs is back in town! And you’ll be able to testDaugherty’s theory when “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” returnsto the Sony Centre after its hugely successful 2011 engagement.Celebrating over two decades of Bugs Bunny on the concert stage, theproduction involves projecting the classic cartoons onto a large screen,while an orchestra, in this case the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony,provides a live accompaniment, with Daugherty conducting. It’s greatfun for both the audience and orchestra (though a little more tricky forthe latter). There are two performances in Toronto on May 18, a 2pmmatinee and a 7pm show. Two days earlier, on the 16th, Daughertywill conduct the KWS on home turf at Kitchener’s Centre in theSquare, at 7pm.And what’s on the program? In addition to the two iconic cartoonsmentioned, I dangle a carrot with a few others: Baton Bunny, withmusic by von Suppé, orchestrated by Franklyn; Zoom and Bored(Road Runner “epic”), with an originalBugsBunnyat theSymphony.score by Stalling and Franklyn, basedon “The Dance of the Comedians” fromThe Bartered Bride by Smetana; A CornyConcerto, with music by Stalling, basedon Tales of the Vienna Woods and TheBlue Danube by Johann Strauss II; andLong-Haired Hare, with an originalscore by Stalling, “after” Wagner, vonSuppé, Donizetti and Rossini. You’ll alsohear selections from the Great AmericanSongbook and traditional American folksongs. And there will be “guest appearances”by Tom and Jerry, the Flintstonesand Scooby-Doo, not to mention anappearance by Tweety and Sylvester in acartoon titled (presciently) Home TweetHome, with an original score by Franklyn.I guarantee it will contain a lot more than140 notes ... and lots of character.This is serious entertainment, folks.Resist (and poo-poo) at your own risk. Besides, as Daughertycontends: “If most people — even the most highbrow of opera and classicalmusic lovers — were to admit the truth, they would fess up thatthey heard their first strains of the Ring cycle or ... The Barber of Sevillecourtesy of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.” As for Stalling and Franklyn,Daugherty holds them in high regard, suggesting that they’re “upthere” with the likes of Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. Comesee for yourself.Lenny tunes: Staying with the screening-with-live-orchestral-accompanimentidea for a moment, if watching Looney May 1 – June 7, 2013 | 13

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