Mozart’s Messiah

This year the TSO used the Mozart arrangement for Handel’s Messiah (though, naturally enough, with the original English text).  I have mixed feelings about it.  It’s not hugely different in sound to whichever of Handel’s versions one is used to and it’s definitely not one of those 20th century versions for 100 piece orchestra and massed choirs but I’m hard pressed to see what the point is other than it’s Mozart.

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Komitas at Koerner

Last night’s concert at Koerner Hall was a celebration of the life and work of Armenian composer and song collector Komitas on the occasion of his 150th birthday.  Unsurprisingly Koerner was packed with members of Toronto’s Armenian community.  Sometimes I feel uncomfortable at events like this; unable to really appreciate what the music means in its home culture, but last night what I felt was joy and inclusion.  It was an extremely well curated concert of rather beautiful music extremely well performed.

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Looking ahead to September

September starts the slow ramp up to the new season.  The first thing in my calendar is Mysterious Barricades on September 14th from 1pm to 2pm in Walter Hall.  This is a series of coast to coast, dawn to dusk concerts in aid of Suicide Awareness.  Russell Braun, Monica Whicher and Nathalie Paulin are all involved.  It’s free but ticketed.  Check the link for details.

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I have a Japanese carving

Hell’s Fury(*) is a two man show about Hanns Eisler conceived and created by Tim Albery.  It’s focussed on his time in the United States and, somewhat, on his return to the DDR.  It combines songs from the Hollywood Songbook (poems by Brecht and others set by Eisler), dialogue and projections to tell the story of Eisler’s arrival in Hollywood, his work in the US, his deportation as a result of the “work” of the House Un-American Activities Committee and his return to the GDR and struggles to come to terms with the Stalinist culturecrats leading ultimately to drink, depression and death.

Russell Braun in Hell's Fury The Hollywood Songbook_Photo by Trevor Haldenby (2)

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UoT’s La finta giardiniera

I don’t think I’m ever going to love Mozart’s La finta giardiniera.  It has some pleasing music, though oddly the two principal characters don’t get much of it, but the plot is ridiculous and it really outstays its welcome.  That said, Michael Patrick Albano’s production for UoT Opera in the MacMillan Theatre at least makes the complexity clear.  We never lose sight of who is who; even if the other characters do, and what logic there is in the plot comes through clearly enough.  Albano sets it entirely realistically in 18th century dress with set elements efficiently dropped in from the fly loft or carried around by a small band of liveried servants.  There’s a fair bit of “park and bark” but then there’s a lot of prosy explaining going on.

Cairns Finta

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Egoyan’s Così – brunette edition

The COC season continued last night with Atom Egoyan’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, first seen in January 2014.  There are some changes from the previous outing but most of what I had to say about the production holds good still.  This time there have been cuts.  The show now runs as two ninety minute acts plus an interval and it feels tighter and doesn’t drag so much in the second act.  In the process some of the heavy handed symbolism has been discarded; fewer pinned butterflies.  I think the physical comedy may have ratcheted up just a touch but maybe that’s me misremembering.  And the girls are brunettes, rather than redheads, but still well matched enough to look like sisters.  Musically, I think it’s been lightened up somewhat.  Bernard Labadie, something of a period specialist, conducts and Michael Shannon accompanies the recits on a fortepiano.  But, still, fundamentally the same show.

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