Winterreise 2020

I’m a big fan of taking classic song cycles and giving them a treatment other than the very formal Liederabend approach; fond as I am of that!  So I was intrigued to see what Philippe Sly and Le Chimera Project would make of Schubert’s Winterreise.

Philippe Sly Winterreise

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Golijov at Koerner

The opening concert of the 21C festival featured an all Osvaldo Golijov programme presented by Against the Grain Theatre.  It was preceded by a very informative conversation between Joel Ivany and the composer.  My main takeaway from that is that Golijov writes for people not instruments.  If the people he has in mind for a piece play a certain combination of instruments that’s what he will write for and if circumstances demand it he will readily make changes.  We saw that last night when cantor Alex Stein was unable to perform in K’vakaret (for cantor and string quartet) and Juan Gabriel Olivares stepped in on clarinet instead.

gk-marimba

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Crowded, dirty, dangerous

The Ward Cabaret, which opened at Harbourfront last night, is an exuberant celebration of the Ward; a Toronto neighbourhood that once covered the area bounded by Queen and College and Yonge and University.  From the mid 1800s until well into the 20th century it was far from the highly respectable quartier it’s become.  It was the first landing place for immigrants; Irish, Jews, Chinese, fugitive slaves, Italians.  A neighbourhood of low rent housing, cheap restaurants, the factories that fed Mr. Eaton’s catalogue and a bunch of rather more dubious businesses.  The City Fathers hated it but it had a life of its own that David Buchbinder (he of Yiddish Glory) and his team have turned into a spectacular evening of theatre/cabaret.

The Ward-Cabaret-04682 photo by Ed Hanley

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Electric Messiah again

It’s the fifth year that Soundstreams has put on Electric Messiah which I guess means it’s pretty much becoming a holiday tradition.  This iteration may just be the best yet.  This version seemed quite stripped down compared to some years and all the better for it.  It’s centred around rearranged (and shortened) excerpts from the Handel work supplemented with some personal touches for the cast.  This time the “band” was Wesley Shen on harpsichord, Joel Visentin on keyboards and electric organ, Joel Schwartz on assorted acoustic and electric guitars and Adam Scime directing from the (laptop) keyboard which controlled lots of effective electronics.  SlowPitchSound was there on turntables with Lybido dancing.

ElecMessiah2019-photobyDahliaKatz-8729

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Carmen #YesAllWomen

Loose Tea Music Theatre’s Carmen #YesAllWomen has been in the works for three years.  It went “live” this week with a production at Heliconian Hall.  It’s an intriguing show.  Dramatically and musically it’s recognisably based on Bizet’s Carmen but only just.  In Alaina Viau and Monica Pearce’s version the principal male character is one John Anderson, an Afghanistan vet with PTSD, his rival for Carmen is a rapper, Maximillian aka Hot God, and Michaela is Anderson’s estranged wife.

Carmen#yesallwomen2019-photobyDahliaKatz-4953

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Figaro’s Wedding at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse

Last night saw the first performance of a run of eleven in Against the Grain Theatre’s revival of their 2013 hit Figaro’s Wedding.  It’s essentially the same show.  Director/librettist Joel Ivany has made a number of tweaks and updates but the main differences lie in what the singers bring to their characters.

1_L-R_Alexandra Smither and Bruno Roy, Photo by Taylor Long

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