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Volume 20 Issue 4 - December 2014

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at 7:30pm at St.

at 7:30pm at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church. The York Mystery playswere a series of performances based on bible stories ranging from theGenesis creation to the Passion of Jesus that were performed in thecity of York around the 14th century; some were centred around thebiblical story of Christmas. Each guild in town was responsible fora specific performance (based around a Christian divine miracle ormystery, hence the name). The mystery plays seem like a particularlyinsightful view into what life was like in the Middle Ages, given thatthe typical medieval European was a devout Christian and a memberof a guild of some kind, but couldn’t read the bible (or even his ownname) and depended on dramatizations like the York Mystery Playsto understand what he was supposed to be believing. In any case, thePoculi Ludique Societas are all medieval scholars from the Universityof Toronto and can probably explain all of this much better than Ican. Plus, the music is under the supervision of Larry Beckwith ofToronto Masque Theatre, so the musical part of the production is incapable hands. As an unusual form of entertainment that neverthelesscaptures the original meaning of Christmas, this may be exactly whatthe Christmas season needs.Tafel’s Quest: But if you’re looking for good live music, there’s noneed to limit yourself to holiday-themed entertainment in the comingweeks. For example, Tafelmusik’s musical quest for a new artisticdirector, featuring the most outstanding violinists they can find,continues in the beginning of December. Amandine Beyer, a virtuosoviolinist from France, will lead the ensemble in an all-French programat Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on December 4 to 7. It looks to be a killerprogram of French composers, including Rameau, Corrette, Campraand Rebel. Beyer herself will attempt to wow the crowd with a Leclairconcerto, and we’ll see once and for all if the orchestra can put ona sublime performance of French baroque repertoire. It’s all veryexciting, as you can probably guess.Scaramella: Another Toronto group that’s keeping busy overthe holiday season is Scaramella, led by Joëlle Morton. They’ll beplaying a concert devoted to the English composer William Laweson December 6 at Victoria College Chapel at 8pm. As a gamba-basedensemble, doing a concert devoted to Lawes just makes sense – he wasgreat composer of music for everything viol, from duets to consortsof four, five and six gambas. As a figure from music history, he’s evenmore compelling, living as he did during the period of the EnglishRenaissance and taking the laws of composition (sorry, couldn’tresist) to strange and unusual places. His music is both engaging andintelligent, but his approach to tonality is at times either extremelyliberal or extremely strange. If you don’t manage to catch their Lawesconcert, Scaramella is also doing a program of 17th-century Germancomposers in Victoria College Chapel on January 31 at 8pm. This timethe group will be joined by countertenor Daniel Cabena – this concertcould be worth a look as well.Out of the ordinary: If you’re looking for something to do over NewYear’s Day, you might want to drop by Heliconian Hall at 2:30, wherethe Musicians in Ordinary will be playing their annual New Year’s Dayconcert. They’ll be joined by Christopher Verrette and Patricia Ahernof Tafelmusik as well as Boris Medicky on harpsichord for a mixedprogram including Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Corelli. The Musicians haveput together a solid lineup of players to play some decent repertoirefor this concert.Finally, there are a couple of other concerts worth mentioningas we get into the coldest days of winter: Toronto Masque Theatrewill be performing Handel’s Acis and Galatea at the Enoch TurnerSchoolhouse on January 15, 16 and 17 at 8pm. And a group of sixyoung Toronto-based violinists are taking an encyclopedic approachto concert programming and tackling all six of Bach’s unaccompaniedsolo violin partitas in one go. That concert will include Tafelmusikviolinists Julia Wedman, Cristina Zacharias and Aisslinn Nosky, as wellas Elyssa Lefurgey-Smith of Aradia. You can catch it all at MetropolitanUnited Church on January 9 at 7:30pm.David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, musicteacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He canbe contacted at by Beat | On OperaOf Partnerships,Productions &Other DiversionsCHRISTOPHER HOILEThe two largest-scale operaproductions for the period fromDecember 1 to February 7 are thoseof the Canadian Opera Company’s winterseason. Taken together they provide anexample of the two models that the COCis currently following: partnering andproduction.From January 24 to February 21, thecompany presents Mozart’s Don Giovanni,a co-production with Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Bolshoi Theatre and Teatro RealMadrid. This production is an exampleof what the COC calls partnering: thecompany contributes money toward theproduction, but there is little or no COCinput in the design or direction. So,much depends upon choosing one’s partnerswisely.Cameron McPhailas Uncle John in theBanff, 2014 production.Don Giovanni had its premiere at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provencein 2010, directed by acclaimed Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov.The most controversial aspect of the production is that Tcherniakovhas replaced Da Ponte’s original scenario with his own. He reimaginesMozart’s characters as the neurotic members of one present-daybourgeois family. Zerlina is now Donna Anna’s daughter from her firstmarriage, while Leporello is “a young relative of the Commendatore’s,living in his house.” Don Giovanni is presented as unhappily marriedto Donna Elvira. In the new plot Don Giovanni does not destroyhimself, rather, his relatives combine to destroy him. The productionhas been around long enough that it is already available on DVDand in excerpts on YouTube for anyone who wishes to see whetherTcherniakov’s concept works or not.For the COC, Russell Braun sings Don Giovanni, Kyle Ketelsen isLeporello, Jennifer Holloway is Donna Elvira, Jane Archibald is DonnaAnna and Michael Schade is Don Ottavio. Michael Hofstetter conducts.In terms of COC original productions, from January 31 toFebruary 22 it presents Die Walküre, a production designed anddirected by Canadians and owned solely by the COC. This COCproduction of Wagner’s Die Walküre had its premiere in 2004 and wasrevived in 2006 as the second opera of Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle.This will be the first time it has been revived on its own. Atom Egoyandirects, Michael Levine is the designer and Johannes Debus conducts.Of particular note is that renowned German soprano ChristineGoerke will be making her role debut in Toronto as Brünnhilde.Clifton Forbis, who sang Siegmund in this production in 2004 and2006, returns to sing the role again. Sieglinde, Siegmund’s sister andlover will be sung by Heidi Melton; Wotan is Johan Reuter; Hunding,Sieglinde’s brutal husband is Dimitry Ivashchenko; and Fricka,Wotan’s implacable goddess-wife is Janina Baechle. For more informationabout both productions, visit the numbers: At the end of October this year the COCheld its Annual General Meeting covering the 2013/14 fiscal year andreported “an impressive average attendance of 94 percent (an increaseof 4 percent over last season),” a figure that was duly disseminated in30 | December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015

the media. By comparison in 2012/13 the COC had90 percent attendance.Digging deeper into the numbers is interestingthough: in 2012/13 the company presented61 performances totalling 114,133 tickets sold.In 2013/14 it had 94 percent attendance for 58performances totalling 111,421 tickets sold. Thusthe percentage “increase” of 4 percent at eachshow had as its corollary a 2.4 percent decline inoverall attendance.Worrying is that the numberof tickets sold has now declined for the fifth yearin a row. Average attendance of 94 percent pershow is indeed impressive, but not if the onlyway to achieve those numbers is by decreasingthe number of productions, and the number ofperformances of thoseproductions.Other diversions:The COC winterseason only beginsat the end of January,but there are manyoperatic diversions inDecember. The starriestof these is a concert productionRussell Braunas Don Giovannifrom 2013 TeatroReal Madridproduction.with orchestra of Gioacchino Rossini’slast, and, many would say, greatest opera,Guillaume Tell (1829). It is based onFriedrich Schiller’s play Wilhelm Tell(1804) about Switzerland’s struggle forindependence from the Habsburg Empirein the 14th century. The most famousepisode is when the Habsburg tyrantGessler demands proof of Tell’s skill as amarksman by having him shoot an appleoff the head of Tell’s own son. Musically, the opera is best known forits overture, which despite the fame accruing to it from its use in TheLone Ranger and in countless cartoons, in fact provides a précis of theentire action of the opera.The single performance on December 5 is part of a North Americantour of the Teatro Regio Torino with its full orchestra and chorus. Theopera-in-concert will be presented in its Italian version (from 1833)with English surtitles and will be conducted by the company’s famedmusic director Gianandrea Noseda. Featured among the all-Italiancast are baritone Luca Salsi as Guglielmo Tell, mezzo-soprano AnnaMaria Chiuri as his wife Edwige, soprano Marina Bucciarelli as his sonJemmy and bass Gabriele Sagona as the villainous Austrian governorGessler. The running time is approximately four hours. Consult theToronto Symphony Orchestra website ( for more information.Next in December is another reimagining of Mozart’s DonGiovanni, this time as #UncleJohn by Toronto’s small but feistyAgainst the Grain Theatre which produced a highly successful Pelléaset Mélisande outdoors earlier this year. Director Joel Ivany’s notionis to change the period to the present and to set the entire action atthe reception for the marriage of Zerlina and Masetto. There is nostage. Instead, the singers mingle with and sing from the audience asinvited members of the reception. Ivany has translated and updatedDa Ponte’s libretto so that Leporello’s famous catalogue aria nowcounts up Uncle John’s social network followers. Ivany’s version wasdeveloped in conjunction with the COC at Banff and had its highlypraised premiere there in August 2014.Cameron McPhail sings Uncle John, Neil Craighead is Leporello,Miriam Khalil is Donna Elvira, Betty Waynne Allison is Donna Annaand Sean Clark is Don Ottavio. The design is by Patrick Du Worsand the accompaniment is by a piano quintet with conductor MilošRepický at the piano. #UncleJohn plays at The Black Box Theatre,December 11, 13, 15, 17 and 19.December and January also hold offerings for those seeking musictheatre written before Mozart or after Rossini. Toronto OperettaTheatre presents Gilbert and Sullivan’s ever-popular The MikadoDecember 27, 28 and 31, 2014, andJanuary 2, 3 and 4, 2015. The productionfeatures Joseph Angelo, Lucia Cesaroni,Adrian Kramer, David Ludwig and GilesTomkins. Derek Bate conducts andGuillermo Silva-Marin directs.From January 15 to 17 Toronto MasqueTheatre presents a new production ofHandel’s Acis and Galatea (1718) at theEnoch Turner Schoolhouse. LawrenceWiliford sings Acis, Teri Dunn is Galatea,Peter McGillivray is Polyphemus andGraham Thomson is Damon. LarryBeckwith conducts a seven-memberperiod instrument band from the violin.Daniel Taylor’s Schola Cantorum will bethe chorus.Meanwhile Opera by Request is busywith Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel(1893) on December 7, Moreno Torroba’szarzuela Luisa Fernanda (1932) onDecember 10, the Canadian premiereof Danish composer August Enna’sThe Princess and the Pea (1900) onJanuary 11 and Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail on January 24.All performances are in concert at the College Street United Churchwith William Shookhoff as pianist and music director.Finally, on February 1, Voicebox: Opera in Concert presentsKurt Weill’s Street Scene (1946) with Jennifer Taverner and ColinAinsworth. Robert Cooper is the conductor and pianist.Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera andtheatre. He can be contacted at DEL REALBRENT December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015 | 31

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