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.

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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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Getting intimate with Figaro and Susanna

rachaelkerrI chatted this morning with Rachael Kerr; music director of Against the Grain’s upcoming Figaro’s Wedding.  I saw the original version back in 2013 and was wondering what might be different this time.  I also wondered whether there might be some insights to be gained by approaching it from the perspective of the music rather than the libretto.  Hence my decision to talk to Rachael rather than other members of the team.

I think I lucked in.  It proved to be a most interesting conversation which ultimately turned on why this would be an engaging show and how that turned on “intimacy”.  So first let’s review the elements of the show: Continue reading

What’s old is new

Back to the Tranzac last night for the first Toronto performance of Against the Grain’s national tour of the Joel Ivany transladaptation of Puccini’s La Bohème which started it all back in 2011.  The Tranzac has changed a lot and so, of course, has Against the Grain.  The room is way smarter, they brought in a proper piano to replace the one that Topher plonked the first performance out on (and which memorably accompanied Jonathan MacArthur’s rather startling Hitler a few years later).  And not in any way to knock that first cast it’s a sign of AtG’s rising stature that this time they are fielding a cast that would not be out of place in most regional houses in Canada.

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The Magic Flute at the GGS

I went into last night’s Glenn Gould School performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Koerner Hall with all kinds of questions buzzing around in my head; partly because of an earlier conversation with director Joel Ivany and partly, well, Magic Flute – that most enigmatic of operas.  If only one could go back (more than forty years) to seeing it for the first time!

Photo: Nicola Betts

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