I think I may have been missing out a bit with the Toronto Consort. I’ve been to the odd show that’s been identifiable as music theatre such as their excellent Play of Daniel but until I sat down with David Fallis and Laura Pudwell a few weeks ago I didn’t really have a clear sense of what they are about. Last night’s concert, Renaissance Splendours, at Trinity St. Paul’s, gave me a pretty good idea of what I’ve been missing and how it fits into my musical universe.
The Play of Daniel (Danielis ludus) is a 12th or 13th century Latin liturgical play from Beauvais in nothern France. It appears in the liturgy for January 1st, The Feast of the Circumcision, and appears to have been an attempt to channel the traditional post Christmas disorder into more acceptable channels. It was probably performed by the sub deacons of the Cathedral; young men in minor orders. Alex and David Fallis have run with this setting and tried to create a piece that would evoke the same sort of reactions from a 21st century audience as the original did for those who saw it in Beauvais. That’s a huge ask but, to my mind, they succeeded admirably.
Cavalli’s Giasone is a bit of a peculiar piece, It’s based on parts of the Jason/Medea/Golden Fleece story but it’s at heart a comedy. It was wildly popular in the 17th century then pretty much lapsed into obscurity though there is one recording available on DVD. It provides quite a lot of opportunity for sight gags and spectacle so one had to wonder how well it would play in a concert version as presented by the Toronto Consort last night. Actually they did quite well with it but let’s take a step back to talk about the piece for a minute. Continue reading →
Toronto Masque Theatre’s latest effort is a Purcell show called Fairest Isle. It’s semi-staged performance of excerpts from Purcell works, mainly the four stage works; Dido and Aeneas, The Fairy Queen, The Indian Queen and King Arthur (Wot! No Diocletian you cry) interspersed with readings from the plays and a narrative about Purcell’s life performed by actors Derek Boyes and Arlene Mazerolle. The staging involves frequent short dance pieces, in a recognisably period style (heels, long skirts, arms never above the shoulder) by Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière. The six singers, costumed throughout in dark suits or dresses, mostly sang from music stands though some pieces were blocked. There was an eight piece ensemble; two violins (Larry Beckwith/Kathleen Kajioka), viola (Karen Moffat), two oboes (John Abberger/Gillian Howard), cello (Margaret Gay), lute/guitar (Lucas Harris) and keyboards (Christopher Bagan) directed by Beckwith. Continue reading →