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Volume 9 Issue 6 - March 2004

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OPERA ON DVD by Phil

OPERA ON DVD by Phil Ehrensaft I've Got a Little List The artistic and human drama of composing an opera, and then bringing the new child to life on stage, receives its finest and most accurate expression in Mike Leigh's remarkable film Topsy Turvy. Opera's ultimate oddcouple, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, suffer through a creative hiatus for ten years after their first smashing success, 1875 's Trial By Jury. They then conquer again. The triumph was their most enduring and operatic work, The Mikndo. Shuttle diplomacy by impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte cajoles Gilbert's disciplined, pragmatic genius into gear with the pleasure-loving and aesthetically frustrated Sullivan. Jim Broadbent, magnificent as Gilbert, massages and threatens his neurotic artists into the performance of their lives. Like Arthur C. Doyle, who wanted to bury Sherlock and write serious novels, poor Sullivan wanted recognition as a serious cpmposer. Life, thank Heavens, handed him Gilbert and D'Oyly Carte, and the opportunity to be a great master of comic opera. Topsy Turvy is the optimal point of departure into the growing catalogue of Gilbert and Sullivan on DVD. (1999, USA Films) Among the five other Mikado DVD's (plus two VHS's awaiting transfer), each has pros and cons. If there's only one Mikado slot on your shelf, the choice depends on how you think opera is best captured on film. Image has remastered an early Technicolor film, the 1939 British Mikado. Foremost among its virtues is · the standard-setting Martyn Green as Koko·, the Lord High Executioner. Amidst abundant web pages devoted to G & S, not only does the Mikado have its own site: there's also one exclusively for Koko! To mod- . em sensibilities, the Mikado is Koko, and Koko is Green. However, the 1939 film cuts sections and sometimes alters the storyline. Mono 1939 sound, even well i;emastered, is limited. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company was in still in prime form when it filmed Patience (1965) and the Mi- · kado (1966). VAI has nicely remastered this Mikado. (Canadian distribution: SRI). While the artistic talent was ample to produce a first-class Mikado, this feels like a rather flat document intended for opera students. By way of absence, this Mikado underlines the special directing and camera skills needed to translate quality stagecraft into quality cinema. As one of three visual records of classic D'Oyly Carte stagecraft, this Mikado is invaluable. It should have been more. Next there's the 1000-pound guerilla of G & S on film: Acorn Media's modestly priced 10-DVD Gilbert and Sullivan Master Collection, which remasters the joint BBC/PBS television series directed by Brent Walker in 1982. Eacli opera is also available individually. For G & S partisans, this visually and sonically pleasing set is paramount. The ten performances range from excellent to competent. The "excellent" includes Patience, Ruddigore, Gondoliers, Iolanthe, Princess Ida and Sorcerer. Strangely, neither the outstaI).ding Cox and Box, nor Trial, were transferred from VHS. The competent Mikndo mixes comic opera and Broadway, both in technique and performers. Being of the Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir Charles Mackerras persuasion that G & S is comic opera at its best, I find this problematic. The most vibrant Mikado is Canada's live 1984 Stratford Festival production, also remastered by Acorn Media. The chemistry between performers and audience is palpable. However, the minimalist stage sets are tasteful but discordant. Substituting some libretto with 1980s Canadian references produced laughs at Stratford, but limits this Mikado's international appeal. Ditto for younger Canadians. The Australian Opera does parallel substitutions in a 1990 Mikado. (Image) While this is common practice by G & S companies in live performances, and quite in the spirit of G & S themselves, it is Jess adapted to permanent legacies on film. Music THEATRE SPOTLIGHT by Sarah B. Hood Gregory Charles in Black & White . One night only at the Winter Garden .. Dark subjects crowd March stages If you were hoping for a month of lighthearted, feel-good shows, this March isn't it. As part of Harbourfront Centre's HA tCH series of innovative new. works, Theatre Asylum is presenting Jonathan Garfinkel's The Trials of John Demjanjuk, subtitled A Holocaust Cabaret, from March 3 to 7. It's already had outings at the Rhubarb! and Ashkenaz festivals, as well as a production at Ottawa's National Arts Centre. Inspired by the war crimes trial of accused Nazi sadist John Demjanjuk, it's conceived as a bitingly entertaining cabaret with music by Allen Cole and Christine Brubaker. "It's not trying to be a musical, in that there's an accordion; it's not like there's a big orchestra backing it up. It's barebones," explains playwright Garfinkel. "The music itself ranges from kind of Weill-ish cabaret music to klezmer. There's even a kind of American musical feel to a couple of songs, because it is a story about Eastern Europe and North America and so it has all those feel- COLOUR COMPOSITION Comparatively gentle entertainment is on offer from Native Earth I'erforrning Arts with The Artshow, running at Artword Alternative Theatre from February 26 to March 14. Written by Alanis King and directed by Paul Thompson, it's King's homage to Odawa artist Daphne Odjig. Rather than telling a straightforward biographical tale, King's conception casts the actors as pigment; they come together with set pieces by visual artist Bonnie Devine to suggest the actual creation of Odjig's paintings. During the rehearsal process, musician Jack Nicholsen was working with the actors to create a score, but even Native Earth artistic director Yvette Nolan wasn't ready to predi_ct what his compositions would sound like. "I doubt it will be live; I think it will be recorded," she hazarded, adding that the production was being choreographed at the same time by Alejandro Ronceria, "so it's going to be a huge movement piece." ings in it." YOU'RE IN TOWN! From Holocaust trials to brain le- Widely acclaimed as the best Broadsions and the Armenian genocide: way show with the nastiest name, playwright Hrant Alianak's self- Urinetown: The Musical is going to named Alianak Theatre Productions make a six-week pit stop at the St. presents Dora nominee Araxi Ars- Lawrence Centre, courtesy of Canlanian 's semi-autobiographical one- Stage and Dancap Private Equity woman show The Rogues of Urfa Inc., starting in late May. Ostensiat Artword Alternative Th~atre from. bly, Urinetown is a gritty tale of true March 24 to April 4. It features the love and the determination to make live percussive music of Jesse Ca- this world a better place, set in a pon in a tale of Arslanian's grandfa- grimy city where water is all but unther and his flight fromArmeniajux- available and citizens must pay for taposed against her own survival the right to pee. In fact, it's a smart, through neurological trauma. sassy send-up of the music theatre 30 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM MARCH 1 - APRIL 7 2004

Established 1981 OUR PRICE= MUSIC TO OUR CUSTOMERS' EARS YAMAHA DIGITAL PIANOS ELECTRONIC KEYBOARD I GUITARS ALSO --~ USED PIANOS (uPRIGHTS & GRANDS) LESSONS• SERVICE• TUNING ACCESSORIES• BOOKS VISIT OUR SHOWROOM www.academy of music.416 416-924-7499 ~ 499COLLEGE ST. :. ~ (2 BLOCKS WEST OFF BATHURST) ' ' M ARCH 1 - A PR IL 7 2004 ''Amenity #9, the poorest filthiest urinal in town." Pe,foriners fi'om the first national US tour of Urinetown, the musical ET CETERA form, from Brecht to Bob Fosse, We're intrigued by the sound ofGrewith a little Klezmer thrown in just · gory Charles in Black and White. for fun. Apparently Charles is a big hit in The show was a huge hit on Francophone Canada; he has ap­ Broadway, but it'll be interesting to peared before Nelson Mandela and ~ee whefuer there are enough dyed- Prince Charles, backed up Celine m-fu~wool Broadway fans to offer Dion and appeared in Two Pianos, it an equal reception here. So far the Four Hands , among other career producers haven't released any in- credits. The first half of his show, formation about fue cast or creative known in French as (you guessed team. Let's hope fuey use the origi- it) Noir & Blanc, consists of a bional choreography, which is alone graphical cabaret. In fue second half worfu the price of admission. Tick- - which sounds much more excitets went on sale February 23. To ing - he performs requests live and find out more, call 416-368-3110 or on-fue-spot. Black and White runs visit www.canstage.com. foronenightonly, Tuesday, March 2, at the Winter Garden Th~atre. A NOTE FOR THE EARLY BIRDS And finally, Lorraine Kimsa Theatre We 're very sorry we didn't hear for Young People offers a March about it earlier, but William Lau's Break respite for parents with a variety Little Pear Garden Collective is presenting of programming, including a a rare opportunity for two musical adaptation of The Gruffalo nights only, Friday and Saturday, (March 13 to 20) and Al Simmons February 27 and 28. The Femme - Inventive Musical Comedy, featuring Fatales of Chinese Opera is an ex - comedy, song, dance and ploration of two powerful female magic (March 13 to 20). Oilier kids' characters fromJingju, or Peking Opera, fare appears in fue listings section. that pairs Toronto's Lau with guest artist Qi Shu Fang, who now directs her own company in New 1.-:,;.-1/,/,,:,;I' ff l/4/4'?1 l.,-;l'/,ll'/ l /l,·;6'/l/1/#,, York. With the help of performers ; ~ 314 Churchill Ave ~ Xu Feng-Ze, Minh Ta, Ding Mei ~ Toronto, Ontario I Kui, Li Jin Hong and Zhang De- ~ M2R 1 E7 · Canada ~ l jun, Lau and Qi portray episodes from the tales of Yan Xijiao fromthe classic novel Outlaws of tl1e Marsh and the Iron Fan Princess, a character born out of the legend of • Monkey King. For irnre information, call Dance Works at 416-204-1082. :· Tel: 416 - 224-1956 ' I! Fax: 416-224-2964 i ~ MIKROKOSMO www.mikrokosmos.com ~ l s ; We buy your ~ ' ~ - classical LP I! ~ I collection I # ~ ' ~ ~ ~ (classical, such as I ~ Beethoven, Mozart, ~ St.ockhausen) ~ f ~ we travel anywhere ' ~ j for good collections I # ' #'/# /.#/I H 41'/#/K-"£.ff,;,,r.,:.r/A'Y/I K .11'/.#/r/l ~ BOOK SHELF . by.Pamela Margles Finally there is recognition for one of the many fine books on music published in this country last year - Kevin Bazzana 's Wondrous Strange: The life and Art of Glenn Gould has been shortlisted for the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize . I do hope this book was nominated because it is so well-written, not because its subject is somewhat notorious. Watch for the Great literary Awards to be presented by the Writers' Trust of Canada on March 3. · Boulez on Conducting: is demanded of those musicians Conversations with Cecile Gilly who play what is called the reper- . by Pierre Boulez ' . toire. Without that, there can only Faber and Faber be wretched caricature." Although 159 pages .00 Pierre Boulez leads the top orchestras in the world in an extensive repertoire, the composer and seminal force in the development of contemporary music never actually set out to be a conductor. This collection of extended int~rviews reveals Boulez's deep musicality and clear vision. He constantly connects performance to composition, touching on such fundamental issues as the development of the modem orchestra through Berlioz, Wagner and Mahler, innovation and the avant-garde, and the role of computer technology in experimental music. He has great respect for today's orchestral musicians. Bui, now in his late seventies, he fmds today 's "I wanted the music of our time to be played with the same guarantee of professionalism and quality as Need a musician? Visit www.hire~nartist.ca today Are you a creative, innovative artist looking (or work? Then we are looking for you! Sign up now & join a network of Toronto's talented artists. Toronto's only online directory of performing artists CONTINUES

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
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Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
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