1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 5 | March 4 - April 15, 2022

"Hard to watch and impossible to ignore"--on the Russian invasion of Ukraine; Tafelmusik goes live again in a tribute to Jeanne Lamon; TSO MD reunion as Centennial Countdown kicks off; PASS=Performing Arts Sunday Series at the Hamilton Conservatory of the Arts ...; crosstown to the TRANZAC, Matthew Fava on the move; all this and more ....


MUSIC THEATRE A new “new start” … again Hope springs eternal BRUCE ZINGER JENNIFER PARR AS I started to write this column in early February, we were under full lockdown … again. No theatres or concert halls were allowed to present performances for live audiences …again, and we were forced to turn to our computers (again), for virtual versions of our favourite performance genres. The unforeseeable Omicron lockdown was doubly heartbreaking after the gradual resurgence of the fall, for creators and audiences alike; nowhere more poignantly, for me, than in the official closing of Come From Away only a week after its glorious reopening, its staging refreshed and the company thrilling – perhaps even more alive, if that’s possible, to the potential of the show than they had been at their original opening just under two years before. Pick your own heartbreak, though. Come From Away was just one of many shows that closed, never opened, or were postponed again. Some were able to pivot, including the Next Stage Festival which did a wonderful job of presenting a fully digital slate of a wide variety of shows. Most of the new live season that should have begun in January, however, was either cancelled or postponed until a time in the future that felt even more indefinite than before, because having the rug pulled out from under us after having hope dangled, was harder to bear than just hunkering down stoically, the way we had before. Yes, there were some new digital performances to immerse ourselves in, in the interim, but not as many as earlier in the pandemic as when it was the only option. Tossed back and forth between changing protocols, companies have understandably played it safe, hesitating to announce new dates, for fear of having to postpone or cancel, yet again. The result: a gulf. Hope springs Late in February, hope springs again, like snowdrops lifting their heads. For once, fortune favoured the brave. Opera Atelier, for example, gambled that the promise of lifting restrictions would allow their All is Love program to go ahead at Koerner Hall on February 19 and 20, and their gamble paid off with a live audience of stalwart supporters returning to fill the hall to the allowed 50% of capacity. Being back watching friends and colleagues perform live felt surreal. What made it even better was the semi-experimental nature of the production. Amidst the expected Baroque beauty of beautifully staged arias, duets and dance sequences was one of my favourite OA experiments, the Canada 150-commissioned Inception created by violinist/ composer Edwin Huizinga and dancer/choreographer Tyler Gledhill, and two new experiments: an interweaving of an English with a French aria for soprano Measha Brueggergosman-Lee off the top, and a new Baroque version of an extended excerpt of Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande, both arranged by Christopher Bagan. Harbourfront Centre who have kept dance performances happening virtually across the country as one of the producers of the Digidance series, is another producer who has taken the chance of restarting as early as possible with their 2022 international (live) dance series Torque that began with the Israel-based L-E-V’s visceral new work, Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart, in early March, and will continue with other visiting companies through until late spring, to be followed, I hope, by Harbourfront’s usual live performance festivals in the summer. Staying in the dance realm, the National Ballet of Canada, after having to cancel half the run of The Nutcracker over the holiday season, is now officially back in business with a nicely varied combination of Nureyev’s beloved version of The Sleeping Beauty, a return of John Neumeier’s 1983 impressionist take on A Streetcar Named Desire which will feature retiring star, and wonderfully dramatic dancer, Sonia Rodriguez in the lead at some performances, and a fun mixed program combining Kenneth MacMillan’s joyous Scott Joplin-inspired Elite Syncopations with On Solid Ground, the main stage choreographic debut of rising star Siphesihle November. So, as the beginning of March approaches with the promise of capacity limits being lifted, it now feels as if, perhaps, that new season we have been waiting for can actually take place after all. At the Grand Theatre in London it must feel like the old song “Finnegan Begin Again,” with the Canadian premiere of Emma Donoghue’s musical, Room. Let’s hope that “third time lucky” will be true for them as the twice-postponed opening is now set for March 11 in London (with previews starting March 8) with a short run to March 19, followed by a run in Toronto at the Princess of 20 | February 2022

Left to right: Opera Atelier’s All is Love: Tyler Gledhill and Edwin Huizinga, 2019 Fringe festival poster for Boy Falls From the Sky, National Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire: Sonia Rodriguez and Guillaume Côté KAROLINA KURAS Wales Theatre under the Mirvish banner April 5 to May 8. Based on Donoghue’s novel that inspired the award-winning film of the same name, the story is very dark but also life-affirming; word of mouth from previews back in 2020 is that it promises to be worth seeing. Mirvish Productions have rejigged the rest of their planned season as well, and there are some exciting musical productions coming up in April, notably Toronto native Jake Epstein’s autobiographical Boy Falls From The Sky (which I loved at the Toronto Fringe in 2019). It will now take up residence at the storied Royal Alexandra Theatre on April 19, to be followed by the return of the long-running Canadian hit 2 Pianos 4 Hands, with creators and original stars Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, in June. Flooded inbox There is new hope in the air as the volume of ‘Omicron aerosols’ diminishes; press releases are flooding my inbox with new dates set for live performances around the province: the experimental RISER series at the Theatre Centre presenting Why Not Theatre; the Luminato Festival presenting the Creative Current Lavender Creek Story Cabaret where culture, family and storytelling traditions meet synth pop, video, comedy and hip-hop outdoors at Black Creek Pioneer Village; a new opera, The Lion Heart, by Corey Arnold (music) and Kyle McDonald (libretto) of Mightier Productions, about the famous crusader king and his escape from captivity. VERDI APRIL 23–MAY 20 Live opera rETUrNS Tickets on sale now March 4 - April 15, 2022 | 21

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