The idea of recreating an accademia musicale (private concert) at the home of Roman artist/patron Pier Leone Ghezzi in 1723 and putting on works that might have been played at such an event is an intriguing one. Add to that that we were promised caricatures; Ghezzi being a noted pioneer of the form. Marco Cera, who conceived the show, seemed to be onto a good thing.
What we actually got wasn’t exactly what I expected. There were the musicians, including noted baroque soprano Roberta Invernizzi, impersonating Ghezzi’s guests; from Vivaldi to Farinelli, with Cera himself as Ghezzi. But there was also Ghezzi’s servant, played as Harlequin, acted by Dino Gonçalves. The show was heavy on Harlequin’s cheeky chappy clowning which was, as the lemur put it, like “watching Jerry Lewis channelling Roger Rabbit”. Not really my thing.
Yesterday the lemur and I ventured out to Roy Thomson Hall for Tafelmusik’s Singalong Messiah. I did this with some trepidation. There were reasons for this. First, I’m not a great sight reader; I sorta, kinda get by but I’m much more comfortable in the middle of a group of better singers that I can key off. But there’s the rub, I’m a tenor. I did this gig before in 2003 and there were like a million sopranos and seven tenors. See first point. It ain’t happening.(*). Finally, I had been fighting a cold/cough all week and feared that my voice would be better suited to Aristophanes than Handel. Fools tread boldly etc.
Here’s what’s coming up over the holidays and into January.
Toronto Operetta Theatre’s seasonal production this year is Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. It runs December 28th through January 2nd at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. The cast includes Lara Ciekiewicz as Rosalinde, Adam Fisher as Eisenstein and Caitlin Wood as Adele. Derek Bate conducts the TOT orchestra and Guillermo Silva-Marin directs.
The 21C Music Festival runs from January 16th to 20th. This time it will celebrate the American minimalist composer Terry Riley, with his music being performed in three of the concerts, including one that he will headline, titled Terry Riley: Live at 85! Full details at rcmusic.ca.
So one thing can be guaranteed in December; lots of Messiah. This year I have four on the radar. There’s the TSO of course. This year Johannes Debus conducts with soloists Claire de Sévigné, Allyson McHardy, Andrew Haji and Tyler Duncan. One might almost have expected the COC Chorus but actually it’s the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in the loft. That one runs December 18th, 19th, 21st and 22nd at 8pm and the 23rd at 3pm. Roy Thomson Hall of course. Over at Tafelmusik, it’s Ivars Taurins with Sherezade Panthaki, Krisztina Szabó, Charles Daniels and Drew Santini plus, of course, the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. That’s on December 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm. The Sing-a-Long version is at Roy Thomson Hall at 2pm on the 22nd. There’s also a workshop on the 8th at 2pm at Eglinton St. George’s United Church.
How to present a mostly forgotten composer to a modern audience is an interesting conundrum. Reviving a four hour opera seria about Marcus Aurelius likely isn’t the answer and just sticking a few pieces in an otherwise mainstream program is unlikely to have much impact either. Better by far, I think, is the approach Ivars Taurins has taken in Tafelmusik’s current run of concerts of music by the Venetian Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) at Trinity St.Paul’s.
Opera Atelier’s french double header opened last night at the Elgin Theatre. It was, bar the occasional twist, classic Opera Atelier. They presented two French baroque operas in their distinctive style with a little humour and none of the excesses that have sometimes crept in.
Handel’s Alexander’s Feast is an oratorio to a text by Newburgh Hamilton based closely on an earlier Dryden St. Cecilia’s Day ode. The basic plot is that Alexander is feasting in captured Persepolis with his mistress Thaïs. Inflamed by the music of Timotheus he decides to burn down the city in revenge for his fallen soldiers. Cecilia descends from Heaven and substitutes music for the king’s barbarous intentions. There are solo and choral numbers and a couple of duets and there are two concerti; one for triple harp representing Timotheus’ lyre playing and an organ concerto for St. Cecilia. It’s all quite tuneful and interesting if not as inspired as some of the better known oratorios.