8 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015

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  • November
  • Toronto
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"Come" seems to be the verb that knits this month's issue together. Sondra Radvanovsky comes to Koerner, William Norris comes to Tafel as their new GM, opera comes to Canadian Stage; and (a long time coming!) Jane Bunnett's musicianship and mentorship are honoured with the Premier's award for excellence; plus David Jaeger's ongoing series on the golden years of CBC Radio Two, Andrew Timar on hybridity, a bumper crop of record reviews and much much more. Come on in!


ISABELLE FRANÇAIX Beat by Beat | On Opera Boesmans’ Julie Comes to CanStage CHRISTOPHER HOILE An unusual event that bodes well for opera in Toronto takes place in November. Canadian Stage and Soundstreams have combined forces to produce the chamber opera Julie by Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans. This will not only be the North American premiere of Julie, but, amazingly, the North American premiere of any opera by Boesmans, one of the most highly regarded contemporary composers of opera. This will also mark the first time that an opera has been included in Canadian Stage’s subscription series. Julie, which had its world premiere at La Monnaie in Brussels in 2005, is based on August Strindberg’s classic play Miss Julie from 1888, a portrait of class and gender politics that was far ahead of its time. The libretto was written by the director Luc Bondy and Marie- Louise Bischofberger in German. For the Toronto production, director Matthew Jocelyn has decided to use an English-language translation, with English super-titles, first presented by Music Theatre Wales in London in 2007. The cast is entirely Canadian. Singing the aristocratic Julie will be Lucia Cervoni, a mezzo-soprano from Toronto who has a great career singing all the major mezzo roles in Europe, but until now, has never sung in Canada. Jean, the servant with whom Julie is enamoured, is baritone Clarence Frazer, who graduated from the COC Ensemble last year. Christine, the servant engaged to Jean, will be sung by coloratura soprano Sharleen Joynt. The conductor will be Leslie Dala. To discover how the Canadian Stage/Soundstreams production came about, I spoke with Jocelyn in mid-October. Jocelyn noted that there are both practical and philosophical reasons: “Soundstreams and Canadian Stage have been speaking for two or three years about various forms of collaboration and this one seemed like an ideal project. It’s not the kind of thing Canadian Stage could have done alone, but by partnering with another organization we have the resources with which to do it. There is a philosophical reason as well. For me, from the very beginning, it has been important to say of Canadian Stage that we are no longer a ‘theatre’ – we are a place of contemporary performance practice, and some of that is straight plays, and some of that is contemporary dance and new musical theatre like London Road, that we did in 2014 – which was a radical departure from the more standard type of musical fare that had been presented at Canadian Stage in the past. London Road was our first foray into a new form of contemporary musical vocabulary. So now with Julie we are going one stage further into an actual piece of contemporary classical music. It is just one stage further in the sophistication of the palette that we are offering audiences here.” When asked whether he is confident that his audience will follow Canadian Stage in this next step, Jocelyn answered, “The audience has not only been following us, they have been increasing over the course of the past few years and becoming more diverse. At present more than half of our audience is under the age of 50, which no other largescale theatre in the country can claim. “We find that each of these adventures brings us new audiences. I think that there are a lot of opera aficionados in the city who don’t go to the theatre, don’t go to contemporary dance. The opportunity of seeing the North American premiere, in Toronto, of an opera by Philippe Boesmans is extraordinary. There may be many in the audience who have never been to Canadian Stage before. On the other hand, for theatre lovers, the opera is based on a classic of dramatic literature so there is automatically a point of reference, a point of recognition. And the opera follows the storyline very closely, though very economically, since the entire opera is only 70 minutes long. Reducing the play to a libretto has left the work incredibly precise, incredibly heart wrenching, and a powerful form of music theatre.” There are at least two other wellknown operatic versions of Miss Julie – one by Ned Rorem from 1965 and one by William Alwyn from 1977 – besides that of Boesmans. So I asked Jocelyn why he chose this version, “I have a long-standing relationship with Philippe Boesmans. I met him over 20 years ago when I was Patrice Chéreau’s assistant for a production of Matthew Jocelyn (left) and Philippe Boesmans Hamlet by Shakespeare and he engaged Philippe to write the music for the Ophelia songs. Later he came to see the work I was doing for Opera Studio of the Strasbourg National Opera; I asked him to do a chamber version of his opera Reigen [from 1993], based on the play La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler, and he agreed to do it. “That chamber version is now the one done around the world far more than the full orchestral version because it’s just got that extra theatrical quality and it’s a great piece for younger singers. And Philippe has come to prefer the chamber version himself because he says it brought him closer to the theatre, and his real love is the theatre. So when he received his next commission from La Monnaie, he asked to do a chamber opera and wrote Julie.” “After the world premiere,” Jocelyn continues, “I did my own production of Julie, two or three years later, that played in Orléans, Paris, and toured to about 12 or 14 theatres in France, Belgium and Switzerland. So because of this long relationship with Philippe and because I have done the opera before and know it so well, that’s why I wanted to do it again.” “Besides that,” Jocelyn emphasizes, “Philippe really is one of the top opera composers, if not the top, in the world today. This year he won the International Opera Award for his latest opera Au Monde. He is an exceptional composer. He has an understanding of dramaturgy, an understanding of theatre on the stage. He has a complexity of musical languages at his disposal.” Asked to characterize Boesmans’ music, Jocelyn responded that “Boesmans is a non-dogmatic composer. He’s free of the Boulezian orthodoxy or the 12-tone orthodoxy or the new American music orthodoxy. Philippe was a master of baroque music and so he has the facility of tempo changes and the facility of the relationship with the spoken word of the baroque and an absolute virtuosity in terms of rhythm. His greatest inspiration probably comes from [Alban] Berg and a bit from Richard Strauss. In terms of other 21st-century composers, he has the brio and the orchestral sophistication of a George Benjamin. He’s really in a class of his own. He is also 80 years old and had the opportunity to live through many, many schools of music. But even though he may quote or play with specific styles, you hear a page of his music and you know it’s Boesmans.” “The Philadelphia Opera is co-producing his next opera in 2018, 14 | Nov 1 - Dec 7, 2015

“I am delighted that we are the first but I am also ashamed that we are the first since Boesmans should have been recognized in North America long ago.” –Matthew Jocelyn but that is still three years away. But our Julie will be the first time ever that one of his operas will be done in North America. I am delighted that we are the first but I am also ashamed that we are the first since Boesmans should have been recognized in North America long ago. Still, it is fantastic that such an important event as this should take place in Toronto.” Asked about the future at Canadian Stage, Jocelyn says: “We won’t be doing an opera every year, but in our modest way we’re already looking toward the future to what that kind of project might be. We have to make sure it’s the right partnership and a work we can really defend because a project like this is a very heavy project for us. Over the next couple seasons I hope that we will be doing more opera and more musical theatre of a more challenging variety. Opera is a form I am enamoured of and continue to work in. I’m working on a couple of other projects right now for elsewhere so I do remain very plugged in to the world of opera.” Play Many readers may not know just how connected Jocelyn is to the Sunday November 15 2015 8:00pm Concert Koerner Hall world of opera. Before coming to Toronto, he led the Atelier du Rhin in Alsace, France, for ten years, establishing it as a major centre for theatre, opera and contemporary dance. In 2008 he was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, one of the country’s most prestigious arts honours. Last year he won the ACMA Award for best opera production in Argentina for Requiem for a Nun by Oscar Strasnoy, based on the novel by William Faulkner which Jocelyn directed for the Teatro Colón and for which he wrote the libretto. Currently Jocelyn has been at work on the libretto for a new opera for Glyndebourne, an experience he calls “joyful” and “a real pleasure” since it is the first new commission from Glyndebourne for their main stage in a decade. The source text is no less than Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the composer is the Berlin-based, Australian composer, Brett Dean. The opera will have its world premiere in 2017 as part of Glyndebourne’s celebration of Shakespeare. Describing his ability to run Canadian Stage and still have the chance “to disappear for a little while to work on opera in houses like the Teatro Colón and Glyndebourne – it’s like dying and going to opera heaven.” Julie by Philippe Boesmans and directed by Matthew Jocelyn runs at the Bluma Appel Theatre November 17, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26, 28 and 29. Director Matthew Jocelyn gives us a sneak peek into his creative process and a first chance to hear excerpts from the opera before its North American premiere at the Berkeley Street Theatre, November 12. Free; PWYC. Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre. He can be contacted at Season Sponsor we’re not voting for our bank balance. Concert Sponsor Anonymous ESPRIT ORCHESTRA Alex Pauk, Founding Music Director & Conductor Andrew Norman (U.S.A.) Thomas Adès (England) John Rea (Canada) Play* Tevot** Zefiro torna (Zephyr Returns) *Canadian Premiere **Canadian Premiere generously supported with funding from The Koerner Foundation Box Office 416 408 0208 #EspritO The Koerner Foundation The Mary-Margaret Webb Foundation The Max Clarkson Family Foundation Nov 1 - Dec 7, 2015 | 15

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