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Volume 21 Issue 7 - April 2016

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Beat by Beat | On Opera

Beat by Beat | On Opera Isis and Osiris Bring In The Old! Canada’s premier summer classical music festival at the Charles W. Stockey Centre in Parry Sound — on beautiful Georgian Bay j uly 15 th – august 7 th , 2016 ClassiCal music jazz weekend cruises • films • talks 60 EvEnts 50 MusiCians 20 EnsEMblEs 1.866.364.0061 CHRISTOPHER HOILE With more companies scheduling operas in March and May, April does not quite overflow with opera performances as it used to. Nevertheless, an astonishing variety of works are on offer from warhorses to rarities and from the eighteenth century to the present. The month begins with the world premiere of the Canadian opera Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt composed by Peter Anthony Togni to a libretto by poet Sharon Singer. The opera, presented by Voicebox: Opera in Concert, concerns the central figures of ancient Egyptian myth. Via email Singer explained the importance of the myth and the genesis of the opera: “I have been working on this project since before Peter became involved. My fascination with ancient Egypt goes back many decades. The myth of Isis and Osiris is the overarching myth of ancient Egypt since it explains and describes the creation of the world and how evil came into the world and the afterlife. The spine of the myth is the concept of ma’at which is the Egyptian word for law, order, truth and justice. “The opera, Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt is inspired by this strange and compelling myth that centres on one of the world’s great love stories. Four siblings, children of the gods – Isis, Osiris, Seth and Nepthys – come to earth to live as human beings. The idealistic King Osiris and his sister-wife, Queen Isis, bring their people the gifts of civilization: agriculture, weaving, a code of laws, the arts, and worship of the gods. Their brother Seth, however, is jealous of their power, their wisdom and their devotion to each other. He murders Osiris and usurps the throne, provoking a conflagration that Isis with all her strength, love, and magic, must try to extinguish. “This story cried out to be created as an opera, which had never been done before. It’s a larger-than-life tale filled with sibling rivalry, jealousy, fratricide, brutal murders, magic and resurrection. In spite of this bedrock of a story from prehistory, the opera is very contemporary in the issues that it explores such as the eternal battle between good and evil, the selfish and power-mad Seth, versus the idealistic Osiris, who seeks to create a peaceful kingdom founded on justice, fairness and compassion.” “I had written the first draft of the libretto for the opera and I was looking for a composer. Peter and I were introduced by a mutual friend, mezzo-soprano Andrea Ludwig, who was enthusiastic about my libretto and recommended it to Peter. When he read it, he emailed me these words, ‘I read the libretto and I love it! Very dramatic, very singable…I would love to make this happen!!!’ Four years later, it is having its world premiere.” Though the story deals with gods, Singer sees them as very human: “Since Isis and Osiris are incarnated as human beings, they had to have human as well as divine qualities.” For his part, Togni explained his approach to composing the opera: “I have tried to be true to Sharon Singer’s wonderful libretto. In my musical response I am going for the humanity – a bright and rich sound rather than an approximation of what the music might have sounded like or a tip of the hat to Verdi! Much of music is already influenced by mystical and exotic sounds such as medieval chant and eastern scales. You will find this in my choral music for example – music that is ancient and modern at the same time. I am telling the story in my own harmonic language. I really wanted the opera to dance and as result I use many Arabic rhythms and scales. “There is a slightly baroque influence mixed with that and the influence of some of the Russian romantic composers. Like a film score, the sound changes from scene to scene and the range is wide, 20 | April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016

an Ontario government agency un organisme du gouvernement de l’Ontario Lucia Cesaroni sings the role of Isis everything from ancient sounding chords to shrieking jagged, blood-on-the-floor orchestral screams! The Egyptians were very forward thinking and I hint at this with my use of the electric organ and harmonies not unlike Pink Floyd and Coldplay. If anything, my music depicts them as a futuristic people. “I have scored it for a chamber orchestra – two violins, viola, cello, double bass, oboe, clarinet, harpsichord, harp, organ and percussion – lots of percussion! Rather like a baroque band, it has to be tight and crisp sounding.” Isis and Osiris stars soprano Lucia Cesaroni as Isis, tenor Michael Barrett as Osiris, mezzo Julie Nesrallah as Nepthys and Michael Nyby as Seth. With Robert Cooper conducting the chamber orchestra and the OIC Chorus, the opera runs April 1 and 3. A Mozart Premiere! Next up is the rarity, Lucio Silla (1772), by the 16-year-old Mozart presented by Opera Atelier, April 7 to 16. This is the opera that director Marshall Pynkoski and choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg staged to great acclaim first at the Mozartwoche Salzburg and the Salzburg Festival in 2013 and later at La Scala in Milan in 2015. Two stars of the La Scala production will sing in Toronto – Kresimir Spicer as the Roman dictator Silla (i.e. Lucius Sulla, 138-78 BC) and Inge Kalna in the trousers role of Cinna. Joining them will be Peggy Kriha Dye in the second trousers role as the senator Cecilio. Mireille Asselin is Celia, Silla’s sister. And Meghan Lindsay is Giunia, Cecilio’s beloved, who is desired by Silla. David Fallis conducts the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. The COC's Cuban Carmen: Playing from April 12 to May 15 is Bizet’s Carmen presented by the Canadian Opera Company. Because of the long run there is a double cast. Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili and French mezzo Clémentine Margaine alternate in the title role. American tenor Russell Thomas and Canadian David Pomeroy sing Carmen’s lover Don José. American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn and American baritone Zachary Nelson sing the toreador Escamillo. And Canadians Simone Osbourne and Karine Boucher sing Micaëla. Paolo Carignani conducts. The COC last presented Carmen in 2010 and premiered the current production designed by Michael Yeargan and François St-Aubin in 2005. The most exciting aspect of this revival is that it will be directed by Joel Ivany, the artistic director for the Toronto alternative opera company Against the Grain Theatre, which has presented such innovative productions as La Bohème staged in a real pub and recently a fully staged and choreographed Messiah. I spoke with Ivany about what challenges there are in directing a pre-existing physical production where others have made the design choice to move the location to Cuba and the time to the 1940s. Ivany says, “I’ve had to try and get inside the mind of the original artistic team to see what they were after. Thankfully the COC had all their reference material, including the original sketches, to find out why it was important for them to set Carmen in this time period. Ivany tells me that he noticed “that some elements of those original sketches weren’t implemented into the production. I had a design person [Camellia Koo] look at it with me to see if we actually could add anything anywhere or change some elements from how this production had been done before.” The result will be that “the first three acts therefore are going to look a little bit different from what Toronto audiences have seen before.” The area where Ivany can most exercise his creativity is in directing the acting, especially since the company is doing the original version with dialogue instead of recitatives. Ivany says, “For me so much happens in those dialogues. The storytelling is so incredibly crucial.” Ivany states his goal: “What I’m going for is a good, character-driven spectacle event of what this piece is, within this set and within this company. The best approach is to celebrate what is best about this production and this piece and use its visual strengths and the chorus to the best advantage.” About the contrast between working with his own company and with the COC, Ivany says, “It’s great to be able to do the big, but also to be doing experimental work with Against the Grain and seeing where that can lead. I think that’s what’s unique and great about Canada, and Toronto as well, and I think there are some good days ahead with leaders who are taking chances on those ideas to make sure that this art form keeps evolving and moving forward. It’s variety that spurs the creativity.” Silva-Marin’s Zarzuela Love Affair: From April 27 to May 1 Toronto Operetta Theatre presents the Canadian premiere of the 1923 zarzuela Los Gavilanes (The Sparrow Hawks) by Jacinto Guerrero (1895-1951). TOT artistic director Guillermo Silva-Marin introduced the zarzuela, the Spanish version of operetta, to Toronto audiences, starting in 2003, immeasurably broadening the palette of music theatre in Toronto. The action is set near a Provençal fishing village in 1845. Juan, now aged 50 and known as the “Indian,” has returned to the village after having made his fortune in Peru. He left hoping to make enough money to marry his beloved Adriana, but he finds that in his absence she married, had a daughter, Rosaura, and is now a widow. Because Rosaura so much resembles the Adriana he left behind, Juan vows to marry her, much to the anger of the village and of Rosaura’s boyfriend Gustavo. Guillermo Silva-Marin General Director A favourite of Zarzuela fans throughout the Latin world, ‘The Sparrow Hawks’ is filled with romance, unrequited love, fortune-seekers and misguided ambition, forged in the fire and passion of Spain. by Jacinto Guerrero starring Miriam Khalil, Sarah Forestieri, Ernesto Ramírez and Guillermo Silva-Marin Rosalind McArthur, Ivy Spalding, Diego Catalá and Gregory Finney Larry Beckwith, Conductor Guillermo Silva-Marin, Stage Director CANADIAN PREMIERE!! The Sparrow Hawks April 27, 29, 2016 at 8 pm April 30 and May 1 at 3 pm 416-366-7723 | 1-800-708-6754 | April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016 | 21

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