La Scena Musicale

Friday, 4 December 2009

Cette semaine à Montréal (7 à 13 déc) / This Week in Montreal (Dec. 7 - 13)

Musique, danse, et théâtre à Montréal cette semaine Music, dance, and theatre in Montreal this week

Théâtre : Il n’y a plus rien - Disparu en 1996, Robert Gravel a laissé quelques œuvres marquantes, posant un regard à la fois lucide, désopilant et d’une noirceur tragique sur l’humanité. Cet ultime volet de sa trilogie La Tragédie de l’homme brosse un saisissant tableau d’un hôpital pour vieillards. Montée cette fois par Claude Laroche, l’œuvre créée en 1992 paraîtra-t-elle encore plus actuelle dans notre société vieillissante, superficielle, obsédée par la santé ? » Du 17 novembre au 19 décembre, au Théâtre du Rideau Vert. —Marie Labrecque

Theatre: Educating Rita, by Willy Russell, lightens the mood as the Segal Centre’s second show, running from November 22 to December 13. A disillusioned, alcoholic professor and his continuing-education student, a free-spirited, working-class hairdresser, meet over the course of a university semester. The mismatched characters have an immediate, profound and lasting impact on each other. Self-development, class and education are the main themes in this comic and witty play. —Jessica Hill

NOW EXTENDED!  Geordie Productions presents: A Christmas Carol

Theatre: For those searching for the festive fuzzy feeling this holiday season, Geordie Productions presents A Christmas Carol, for children 7 and up, December 4 to 13 (*extended to Dec. 20). Judging by the aesthetic beauty of their productions of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, the company will surely find a way to give this old, warm classic a whimsical, phantasmagorical twist. —Jessica Hill

Jazz : Lun. 7 » Lundi cubain avec le trio du pianiste Yoel Diaz. Resto-bar Le dièse onze. (21 h) [En reprise à tous les lundis en décembre et en janvier.] —Marc Chenard

Jazz : Lun. 7, mar 8 » Les voix du jazz. Maison de la culture Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie (20 h) [872-1730] —Marc Chenard


BERNARD LABADIE
CONDUCTOR
ROSEMARY JOSHUA
SOPRANO

DAVID DANIELS
COUNTERTENOR

JAN KOBOW

TENOR

JOSHUA HOPKINS
BARITONE

LA CHAPELLE DE QUÉBEC
















Musique de Noël / Musique classique :
Les Violons du Roy célèbrent cette année leur 25e anniversaire. Le point culminant de leur saison à Montréal sera sans doute la présentation, en deux soirées consécutives, du Messie de Haendel et de l’Oratorio de Noël de Bach avec la Chapelle de Québec et des solistes exceptionnels sous la direction de Bernard Labadie : Rosemary Joshua, David Daniels, Jan Kobow, Andrew Foster-Williams, Joshua Hopkins. Ne ratez pas la chance de les entendre, tout juste avant le public de New York et Los Angeles. À l’achat d’un billet pour les deux concerts, recevez un coupon échangeable contre un disque des Violons du Roy. Le Messie, 8 décembre à 19 h 30. L’Oratorio, 9 décembre à 19 h 30. Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste – 418-692-3026, www.violonsduroy.com

Jazz : Mar. 8 » Denis Chang Ensemble. (Jazz Manouche) Resto-bar Le dièse onze (20 h 30)
» La série hebdomadaire de musiques improvisées Les mardis Spaghetti. Le Cagibi (21 h)
www.myspace.com/mardispaghetti —Marc Chenard

Musique d’orchestre : Busy months are ahead for the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. As part of the Montreal Bach Festival, conductor and harpsichordist Ton Koopman leads the OSM on December 9 at 10:30 p.m. in a performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 98, Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 and Concerto No. 1 for Violin, performed by soloist Richard Roberts. One of the most renowned French conductors of the last century, Serge Baudo appears with the OSM on December 13 and 14, conducting Schubert’s Fifth Symphony and Debussy’s Danses sacrée et profane. Violinist Corinne Chapelle, winner of the 2006 International Music Competition in Montreal, will join the orchestra to perform Dvofiák’s stunningly lyrical Violin Concerto in A minor. 514-842-2112, www.osm.ca

Jazz : Mer. 9 » La série hebdomadaire de musiques improvisées Mercedismusics. La Casa Obscura. (21 h) www.casaobscura.org —Marc Chenard

Photo of Sergei Saratovsky

Musique classique : Lauréat du prix remis au meilleur artiste canadien au Concours Musical International de Montréal piano 2008, Sergei Saratovsky est présenté, dans le cadre de Musique sur un plateau, à la salle de musique de chambre de la Maison JMC le 9 décembre à 18 h. Au programme : Mozart, Debussy et Schumann. Les concerts de cette série, d’environ une heure, sont précédés d’un apéritif dès 17 h. Maison JMC, 305, avenue Mont-Royal Est, 514-845-4108 info@jeunessesmusicales.ca

Jazz : Mer. 9 et jeu. 10 » Le trio du pianiste Normand Devault avec Normand Guilbeault et Claude Lavergne. Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) [En reprise à tous les mercredis et jeudis jusqu’à la fin du mois, sauf les 25 et 31.] —Marc Chenard

Musique de chambre : Le 10 décembre, le Quatuor Franz Joseph présente son concert Don Juan ou la passion à quatre à la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur. Un concert Mozart avec Olivier Brault et Jacques-André Houle au violon, Hélène Plouffe à l’alto et Marcel Saint-Cyr au violoncelle.

Musique contemporaine : Le 11 décembre à 20 h, la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur présente Inspirations Tremblay avec les six musiciens du groupe IKS. Le concert est précédé d’une rencontre à 19 h 15 avec la compositrice résidente Cléo Palacio-Quintin et le directeur artistique de l’ensemble IKS Sylvain Pohu. Entrée libre aux deux événements. 514-872-5338.

Jazz : Ven. 11, sam. 12 » Christine Jensen Quartet. Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) —Marc Chenard


Danse :
Tangente nous invite au premier volet de sa série Danses en famille qui se poursuit les 12 et 13. Le traditionnel Casse-Noisette des Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, signé Fernand Nault, clôture l’année du 12 au 30 au Théâtre Maisonneuve. —Fabienne Cabado

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3255/2611403384_3af730d152.jpg?v=0

Jazz : Sam. 12 » Le trio de la pianiste Min Rager. Resto-bar Le dièse onze. (20 h 30)
» Le Ratchet Orchestra du bassiste Nicolas Caloia (30 musiciens!). Il Motore. (20 h 30) [Infos: 284-0122] —Marc Chenard

Musique Noël / Musique classique : Le 13 décembre, la pianiste Maneli Pirzadeh interprétera une transcription de Casse-Noisette de Tchaikovski.

Jazz : Dim. 13 » Quartette du saxo et clarinettiste Yvan Belleau. Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) —Marc Chenard

Musique de chambre : Si vous ne pouvez assister au concert du Quatuor Franz Joseph le 10 décembre, vous pourrez vous reprendre le 13 décembre à l’église de la Visitation, 1847 boulevard Gouin Est, métro Henri-Bourassa. Entrée libre, les portes de l’église ouvrent à 14 h 40 – 514-872-8749

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Goldberg for Strings at the Montreal Bach Festival

By Hannah Rahimi

On Sunday November 30, The Montreal Bach Festival presented cellist Matt Haimovitz, violinist Jonathan Crow and violist Douglas McNabney performing Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations at eXcentris.

It was a pleasure to listen to Haimovitz’s passionate playing, Crow’s lyrical touch and McNabney’s elegant phrasing. The canonic elements of the variations are well suited to trio adaptation, as the three instruments perfectly emphasize the separate but intertwining lines of melody. The opening aria was beautifully sustained, with a simple lyricism that reappeared in the slower Variations ( 13, 15, and particularly 25). The pizzicato of Variation 19 was cleverly harpsichord-like, though perhaps out of place stylistically with the rest of the movements.

At times, the trio version of the Goldberg Variations seemed lacking. Three distinct string timbres cannot emphasize chromatic tensions and resolving dissonances with the same homogenous effect as a harpsichord or piano. Rapid tempo choices in certain movements made for an exciting performance but detracted from the even accuracy that can be achieved when the piece is played by one set of hands on a keyboard.

Whether or not the Variations adapt well for string trio, Haimovitz, Crow and McNabney gave a compelling performance. I look forward to the rest of the Bach Festival.

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Yves Daoust lauréat du Prix Serge-Garant 2009


par Renée Banville

Le compositeur Yves Daoust a été choisi lauréat du prix Serge-Garant 2009 décerné par la Fondation Émile-Nelligan.  Une bourse de 25 000$ lui a été remise par M. Michel Dallaire, président du conseil d’administration, lors d’une cérémonie qui s’est déroulée à la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, le mercredi 2 décembre. En faisant l’éloge du lauréat, le président du jury, John Rea, a souligné la constance de la production d’Yves Daoust, son objectif étant « de réhabiliter le plaisir de l’ouïe en redécouvrant à travers ses compositions notre environnement sonore ».

Le compositeur avait choisi de présenter sa pièce Impromptu (mixte),  composée en 1995 et créée le 30 janvier 1996 par les musiciens du Grame (France) lors d’un concert de la SMCQ à Montréal. Yves Daoust précise que cette œuvre a été réalisée grâce à complicité de Chopin, qui lui a prêté pour l’occasion sa Fantaisie-Impromptu en do dièse mineur, opus 66 pour piano. La pièce était interprétée par la pianiste Brigitte Poulin et le claviériste David Cronkite.

Rappelons que la Fondation Émile-Nelligan est une société sans but lucratif, créée en 1979 à l’instigation de Gilles Corbeil, neveu d’Émile Nelligan, en vue d’honorer la mémoire du poète et d’aider les arts et les lettres. Le C.A. de la Fondation est composé de M. Michel Dallaire, M. Gilles Tremblay et Mme Marie-Andrée Beaudet.


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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Contemporary Music in Rome

By Giuseppe Pennisi

Not even Italians know if Rome can still claim to be the capital of melodrama or of other types of opera, but it can instead claim to be – along with Berlin and Paris – one of today’s capitals of contemporary music such as electro-acoustic and live electronics. In 2009, the hours of contemporary music performed in Roman concert halls and opera houses rivaled the number performed in Berlin. There would have been even more contemporary music in the Italian than the German Capital, if it were not for the Teatro dell’Opera’s financial crisis; now under direct special management by the City, the number of modern operas scheduled to be performed in the smaller Teatro Nazionale had to be deferred to the next season or cancelled altogether.

Secretary General of the Japan Electronic Keyboard Society Suguru Agata, one of the major international specialists of electronic music, made a special trip to Rome to analyze how electronic music is performed at the Piccolo Lirico. This is a small – only 150 seats – wholly private opera house where Tosca and Madama Butterfly are shown re-arranged for live electronics. Five electronic keyboards are played by five professional pianists to simulate the sound of 60 instruments; accompanying them are young singers, computerized sets and live electronics. This production of Tosca has had over 400 performances. Mr. Agata has brought his mission’s results to the Showa Music University with a view to include them in the Open Research Project of new techniques in electronic music and electro-acoustics.

In the last few weeks of 2009, there has been a fervor of contemporary music initiatives. In November, in the Sala di Via dei Greci dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the second EMUFest, a major International festival of electronic music and electro-acustics took place. It was a success for experimental composers from Italy (including Marcello Filotei and Nicola Sani), the USA (Larry Matthews Gaab), Argentinia (Jorge Luis Dad Levi) and many other countries. There was also an international ensemble, with a large American presence, performing at the essenzialmente Usa presenta of the Istituzione Universitaria dei Concerti in a program titled MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva / Live Electronic Music) – Grande Raccordo Anulare (the Beltway).

At the Parco della Musica – a complex of three concert halls and a Studio Theatre – an international jazz festival is coming to completion; in early December the world premiere of Philip Glass’ latest opera Le Streghe di Venezia (The witches of Venice) is planned; another world premiere is scheduled (again at the Parco della Musica) in January, the last composition by Hans Werner Henze, Immolazione (Immolation). Glass, now 72, needs no introduction to the North American music audience. Henze, 82, is known as the prolific composer who made dodecaphonic music accessible to large audiences through his 16 operas (to date), 10 Symphonies and several chamber music and ballet compositions. Glass and Henze are quite different but they are both recognized authorities in contemporary music.

In the cozy Sala Casella in the garden of the Palazzina Vagnuzzi (the headquarters of the Accademia Filarmonica Romana), three new chamber operas by Italian young- and middle aged-composers will be unveiled in mid-December: one of them is staged by the German El Cimarron ensemble and due for a tour of the Iberian Peninsula. Check back here later for my review of the performance.

The real major event, however, is the 46th Nuova Consonanza Festival. Nuova Consonanza is one of the most important contemporary music associations in Europe. Its annual Festival attracts musicians from the five continents to Rome. This year, the Festival started November 18th in the Grand Salon of Villa Medici – the Roman Headquarters of the Académie de France. The opening program was titled Après Boulez and featured the music of Luciano Berio, Gerard Grisey, Patrizio Esposito and Yann Robin. Its last concert will be on December 21st and will feature Portrait by Salvatore Sciarrino, an internationally well known Italian contemporary composer. On November 21st, there was the now traditional marathon of live elecytronics and eletrco-acustics, a series of concerts from 4:30 pm to midnight in the Villa Aurelia al Gianicolo, one of the Romen “homes” of the American Academy in Rome; as it is the guest house of the fellow artists, it is seldom opened to the public. An uninterrupted flow of young musicians were attracted by the admission of just €10, with an additional €8 providing them with a full dinner.

Where are the roots of contemporary music in Rome? In his book L’Orchestra del Duce, the historian Stefano Bigazzi states that they grew in Fascist times. Benito Mussolini was a patron of the then contemporary avant-guarde musicians. Malipiero, Casella, Pizzetti, Dallapiccola were in and out of Palazzo Venezia, where the Duce had his office. He supported the Venice Contemporary Music Festival as a counterpart to the stuffy Salzburg Festival. He even had Berg’s Wozzeck performed in Rome in 1942 even though both the composer and the opera were forbidden as “degenerate” by his German allies. No one less than Igor Stravinsky publicly was said to “venerate” the Italian dictator for what he was doing for modern and experimental music.

If you come to Rome, please try to discover a musical side very few tourists are aware of: contemporary and electronic music.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Mendelssohn Revisionism on Composer's 200th!

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) or Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy as the Germans prefer to call him, was justly celebrated as one of the greatest musical geniuses of his time. He was a child prodigy who attracted the attention of royalty across Europe and was even introduced to Goethe. Everything seemed to come easy to him: playing the piano and conducting at a virtuoso level; composing masterpieces like the Italian Symphony, the Violin Concerto and the oratorio Elijah.
For all his gifts, it may come as a shock to his admirers to learn that Mendelssohn lacked self-confidence. Throughout his life, he was filled with self-doubt and feared that nothing he had accomplished was worth anything at all. In his composing life this insecurity took the form of constant revision. Even after successful premieres, Mendelssohn often made extensive changes before allowing his works to be published. Many pieces he refused to publish at all and simply shoved into a drawer; others he never finished.
Mendelssohn scholar Larry Todd has gone so far as to claim that ‘Mendelssohn never finished 80 percent of the compositions he began.”
As we celebrate Mendelssohn’s life and work this year, it is remarkable how many first versions, revised versions and pieces we scarcely knew existed are being performed for the first time.
Mendelssohn Correspondence Reveals Quest for Approval
Mendelssohn’s letters are full of self-criticism. A letter to his friend and colleague Ignaz Moscheles is typical:
I do feel sometimes as if I should never succeed; and today I am quite dissatisfied with my work, and should just like to write my oratorio [St. Paul] over again from beginning to end. (March 25, 1835)
Even a masterpiece like the Violin Concerto gave him great anxiety. Here is an excerpt from a letter to Ferdinand David, the violinist who gave the first performance:
One important thing that is not clear to me (I really ought to be ashamed that it isn’t) is the pizzicato accents in the theme of the adagio. I originally intended to write it this way but later was dissuaded from doing it; I do not know why. Actually the problem is NOT how the pizzicato sounds because that I know, but how it sounds together with the coll’arco of the basses and the solo violin. Will these accents not bring about a confused effect through the alternating of coll’arco and pizzicato in such a combination? Pray, let Gade have a look at this phrase in the score, and let me know his opinion of it. Do not laugh at me too much, I feel ashamed in any case, but I cannot help it; I am just groping around. (December 17, 1844)
In fact, David responded with a number of suggestions which Mendelssohn incorporated into the final version of the concerto. Mendelssohn’s original version only recently became available to record collectors on a recording by British violinist Daniel Hope (DG 477 6634).
New Recording Features early Versions of Mendelssohn Classics
One of the most fascinating recordings released in this Mendelssohn year is one called Mendelssohn Discoveries (Decca 478 1525). It contains the London version (1842) of the Scottish symphony, the Rome version (1830) of the Hebrides overture, and a reconstruction and completion of the Piano Concerto No. 3. All three works feature the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra – the orchestra of which Mendelssohn himself was music director – conducted by Riccardo Chailly, and Roberto Prosseda is the soloist in the concerto.
In the orchestral works, there are passages here and there which Mendelssohn either eliminated or altered later, in their final versions. These final versions are obviously more familiar to us, and, in my opinion, are also improvements over the earlier ones; this observation notwithstanding, it is always interesting – at least to scholars and music students – to examine the full body of any major composer's work, in order to gain some insight into their creative process.
Piano Concerto No. 3 More Bufalini Than Mendelssohn
The Piano Concerto No. 3 is a far different case. There is no final version - there are only fragments of musical ideas.The first two movements of the piece exist in short score – or a piano reduction – with “occasional instrumental indications”, according to Marcello Bufalini, the conductor/composer who did the present “reconstruction and completion.”
Mendelssohn left us eleven bars of full score for the first movement of his Piano Concerto No. 3. He left us even fewer for the finale - only the first five bars in any form at all. Was he happy with these beginnings? We know that he continually revised all his compositions, so was this the work he wanted the world to hear? The fact is that though Mendelssohn was in his prime when he was composing this concerto, he himself chose not to complete it.
Having decided that a "reconstruction and completion" of the Piano Concerto No. 3 was justified, Bufalini's task was monumental. He had to orchestrate the first two movements of the concerto, and write a third - virtually from scratch.
All these challenges considered, to my mind, this is not a work by Mendelssohn. It is a work based on sketches by Mendelssohn, which is a very different thing. It clearly owes more to Bufalini than to Mendelssohn.
Nevertheless, everyone involved in this project deserves credit for venturing into uncharted territory in the pursuit of hidden treasures.
Musicologist Larry Todd Gives Piano Concerto No. 3 a Go!
Earlier in this article, I mentioned the musicologist Larry Todd. He too has come out with an orchestration of the first two movements of the Piano Concerto No. 3 and a controversial solution for the missing third movement. He simply inserted the last movement of the Violin Concerto and transcribed the solo violin part for piano. Todd’s justification was that the sketches for the first two movements of the Piano Concerto No. 3 are from the same period as the Violin Concerto, and that “there are many thematic similarities.”
Kudos to Todd for his assertion that “this project is my playful attempt, as a musicologist, to shed some light on the creative process.” The premiere of the Todd version of the Piano Concerto No. 3 was given last year and a recording is available featuring pianist Matthias Kirschnereit (Sony Arte Nova).
Revisionism Remains Questionable Activity for Some
These attempts to “reconstruct and complete” Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 3 are reminiscent of the attempts made by Deryck Cooke to create a performing edition for Mahler’s Symphony No. 10 based on the composer’s sketches.
Musicologists and conductors are still divided as to whether Cooke’s work was valuable or misguided. Some conductors – Leonard Bernstein, for example – would only perform the first movement because it was the only movement completed by Mahler. Others such as Simon Rattle wholeheartedly embrace the Cooke edition.
For listeners wishing to probe further into the subject of the various versions of Mendelssohn’s symphonies, I highly recommend a 1998 recording by John Eliot Gardiner and the Vienna Philharmonic (DG 289 459 156-2).
This cd contains wonderful performances of the Fourth (“Italian”) and Fifth (“Reformation”) symphonies, but also a later version (1834) of the last three movements of the “Italian” symphony.
The notes in the CD booklet are by the ubiquitous Professor Todd, who tells us, among other things, that after the premiere of the “Italian” symphony in England, Mendelssohn left the score behind when he returned to Germany; thus, when he later set about revising the work, he was doing it from memory!
The changes Mendelssohn made are mostly concerned with orchestration, but in the finale, he altered the structure of the movement, making it longer. Is the revised version better? Hard to say. But at least we can hear both versions for ourselves.
Mendelssohn or Mendelssohn-Bartholdy? Which is Correct?
It wasn't easy being a Jew in Nineteenth Century Germany. Discrimination was rampant long before Wagner’s anti-semitic tirades, and later still, grew into the monstrous genocidal practices of the Third Reich.
Like many others, Mendelssohn’s mother’s brother tried to hide his Jewishness by converting to Christianity and changing his name from Salomon to Bartholdy. By all accounts he was a disagreeable, controlling character and made it his business to demand that his sister’s family follow his example in matters of religion. Finally, after years of badgering, they gave in and embraced Christianity.
Felix was baptized at the age of seven and his parents followed suit six years later. At that time the Mendelssohn family also changed their name and became known as Mendelssohn Bartholdy or Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. For the record, the composer's signature was ‘Mendelssohn Bartholdy.’

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This Week in Toronto (November 30 - December 6)

Poster of the Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker



December is Holiday Season, so there is a veritable feast of Messiahs and choral music in general to choose from. And of course it is also the season of Nutcrackers. While the National Ballet of Canada's offering of James Kudelka's production of The Nutcracker doesn't start until December 12, you can whet your appetite with the Royal Ballet's version, to be shown in selected theaters across Canada. I have seen this show some years ago in London and it is nothing short of spectacular. This is being presented by Digiscreen, and for details of theater locations and times, go to www.digiscreen.ca

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents the ever-popular Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 "New World" on December 2 and 3 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. It is conducted by British maestro Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver Symphony. Tovey is also a noted composer, and on this occasion he will be conducting two of his own compositions, Urban Runway, and Songs of the Paradise Saloon. Also featured is TSO principal trumpet Andrew McCandless.

Tafelmusik presents Vivaldi's baroque chestnut Four Seasons Dec. 2 - 6 at their home venue Trinity St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor St. West, and a single performance at the George Weston Recital Hall on December 8. Also on the program are works by Galuppi, Tartini, and Albinoni. Stefano Montanari is the guest director and violin soloist.

For those interested in "cross-over", be sure to catch the mega-cross-over-star Andrea Bocelli live in concert at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday December 3. Canadian songwriter David Foster is also featured. This concert is part of a tour by Bocelli to promote his new Christmas CD. Steven Mercurio conducts. Tickets go from $75 to a whopping $500, and is available from Ticketmaster.

The first Messiah of the season is offered on Friday December 4th 8 pm, simultaneously by The Elmer Iseler Singers and the Amadeus Choir conducted by Lydia Adams at the Metropolitan United Church, and by the Vocal Horizons Chamber Choir and the Handel Festival Orchestra conducted by Kerry Stratton at the George Weston Recital Hall. The Elmer Iseler Singers Messiah will have soloists Meredith Hall, Allyson McHardy, Michael Colvin and Peter McGillivray. The Stratton Messiah features Caroline Davidson, Deborah Overes, Stephen Harland, and Michael Uloth. The next day, on Saturday December 5, Mississauga Festival Choir offers Messiah in excerpts, in a show called For Unto Us A Child is Born. I will be at the Living Arts Centre, 2 pm and 8 pm. A bit farther afield is a Messiah conducted by Howard Dyck who is retiring after this season. It is at Centre in the Square in Kitchener on Saturday 5, 7:30 pm, an hour west on High 401. The quartet of soloists are Katherine Whyte, Lauren Segal, Joseph Schnurr and James Westman.


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A Budget Barber with a Sign of Fellini and the Marx Brothers

by Giuseppe Pennisi

Il Barbiere di Siviglia is the only Rossini opera which has always appeared on stage, even during the Romantiscism and Verismo periods when most of his productions had disappeared from the theatres of Europe and North America. The libretto is a lot of fun and the music sparkles like good, earthy Lambrusco wine, whereas Paisiello’s earlier Barbiere is sentimental and slightly larmoyant. The Rossini opera is not merely slapstick. It is more subtle than what it appears to be superficially. Dramatically and musically, Il Barbiere contrasts two parallel but quite distinct paths: that of Figaro – efficient, quick, someone who calls a spade a spade – and that of all the other characters, all left behind, fearful and yielding, verbose and bombastic. Even the good-looking and wealthy Almaviva is plaintive, although imbued with music of the highest elegance right from the start. But a mathematician or an economist would tell you from the start of the opera that according to game theory, the wit of Figaro and of Rosina would defeat all the others.

This subtlety was not at all taken into account in the two production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia staged at the Rossini Opera Festival (ROF) in Pesaro. The 1992 production had, as its main set, the Bologna Archiginnasio (a classroom for anatomy lessons in one of the most ancient European Universities). The 2005 production was staged in Bartolo’s house and looked like a prison. There can be little fun and even less subtlety in an anatomy class-room or a jail. Thus, even excellent singing was largely in vain.

Then came a 2005 production by the Fiesole School of Music, which has been revived by a number of Provincial theatres (Jesi, Fermo, Udine, Ravenna). the original was only staged for a few nights in an open-air Roman Theatre. The production was signed by Damiano Michelietto (then very young, now an enfant prodige collecting rewards in the European scene). The production requires, on the stage, only some 20 chairs, 12 umbrellas, a wooden staircase and a few balloons. The overture is in a second (or third class) compartment of a local train. The opera is a Fellini circus: Figaro is dressed like a Fox, Basilio like a Snake, Bartolo like a Dog. And Rosina is a preppy Ivy League Yankee. The pace of the show is swift; there are plenty of gags worthy of the Marx Brothers, and a lot of laughs from the audience. The ROF has been, nonetheless, quite useful: most of the young singers (a Korean, an American, a Russian, a few Italians) come were trained in its school (the Accademia Rossiniana of Pesaro). The stage direction rightly focuses on the contrast between Figaro and Rosina on the one hand, and the rest of the other characters on the other.

By Western European, and Italian, standards the production is a low cost operation: the full tour cost less than € 650.000 (8 performances – viz less than € 80.000 per performance, including rehearsal costs, soloists and orchestra).

Obviously, the latest ROF Barbiere lined up, in 2005 in Pesaro, an all-star cast: Juan Diego Florez, Bruno de Simone, Dalibor Janis, Natale De Carolis and Joyce Di Donato, guided by Daniele Gatti’s baton.

In the latest Barbiere, Giampaolo Maria Bisanti is conducting diligently. There are two casts for the three main roles. On November 13th performance, I saw the tenor Francesco Marsiglia emphasized the central register; he is a lyric tenor more in line with the vocal demands required for Puccini’s Rodolfo in Bohème than with Almaniva’s high Cs and E-flats; the demanding Cessa di più resistere aria was cut. I am told that his alter ego, Enea Scala, is better suited for the role. In the young international cast – a mini UN – there are three voices to note: the Korean Kim Jootaek (23 years old), just perfect (even in diction) as Figaro; the Russian Alexey Yakimov (24), a funny Don Basilio with impeccable grave tonalities; and especially Charlotte Doobs (nearly 20), an exquiste Rosina from Vermont (with a slight New England accent). Roberto Abbondanza also makes quite a good Don Bartolo.

THE PLAYBILL

IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA


Melodrama buffo in two acts - libretto by Cesare Sterbini from the homonym comedy
by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
music by GIOACHINO ROSSINI
in collaboration with Accademia Rossiniana of Rossini Opera Festival 2009

and with La Scuola dell'Opera Italiana (Bologna)


characters and interpreters:

Il Conte d’Almaviva
, ENEA SCALA / FRANCESCO MARSIGLIA
Bartolo, ROBERTO ABBONDANZA
Rosina, VICTORIA ZAYTSEVA / CHARLOTTE DOBBS
Figaro, MARCELLO ROSIELLO / KIM JOOTAEK
Basilio, ALEXEY YAKIMOV
Fiorello, MATTIA OLIVIERI
Berta, ANNA MARIA SARRA


director and set designer, DAMIANO MICHIELETTO
costume designer, CARLA TETI
conductor, David Crescenz

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Monday, 30 November 2009

Cette semaine à Montréal (30 nov à 6 déc) / This Week in Montreal (Nov. 30 to Dec. 6)

Musique, danse, et théâtre à Montréal cette semaine
Music, dance, and theatre in Montreal this week

Theatre: Educating Rita, by Willy Russell, lightens the mood as the Segal Centre’s second show, running from November 22 to December 13. A disillusioned, alcoholic professor and his continuing-education student, a free-spirited, working-class hairdresser, meet over the course of a university semester. The mismatched characters have an immediate, profound and lasting impact on each other. Self-development, class and education are the main themes in this comic and witty play. —Jessica Hill

Théâtre : Il n’y a plus rien - Disparu en 1996, Robert Gravel a laissé quelques œuvres marquantes, posant un regard à la fois lucide, désopilant et d’une noirceur tragique sur l’humanité. Cet ultime volet de sa trilogie La Tragédie de l’homme brosse un saisissant tableau d’un hôpital pour vieillards. Montée cette fois par Claude Laroche, l’œuvre créée en 1992 paraîtra-t-elle encore plus actuelle dans notre société vieillissante, superficielle, obsédée par la santé ? » Du 17 novembre au 19 décembre, au Théâtre du Rideau Vert. —Marie Labrecque

Danse : Le 1er, Aline Apostolska reçoit en entrevue la grande Margie Gillis dans le cadre de la série Visages de la danse, à 19 h, à l’Agora. Du 2 au 5, David Pressault partage l’espace scénique avec le public dans l’excellent Corps intérieur, repris au Monument national. Le 3, le collectif Wants&Needs dirigé par Andrew Tay et Sasha Kleinplatz propose Short and Sweet à la Sala Rossa : 25 chorégraphes avec des œuvres de trois minutes dans une ambiance cabaret. Les 5 et 6, la compagnie Ballet Ouest fait danser 70 jeunes aux côtés de professionnels dans le Casse-Noisette de Margaret Mehuys au Centre Pierre-Péladeau. —Fabienne Cabado

Jazz : Jeu. 3 » Lancement du disque Bridge de la clarinettiste Lori Freedman. (17 h – 19 h) Casa del Popolo. [284-0122] » Le Nouvel Orchestre du flûtiste François-Richard. Maison de la culture Mont-Royal. (20 h) [872-2266] » De New York, le Ernesto Cervina Quartet avec le saxo ténor Joel Frahm. Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) [931-6808] » De Chicago, le duo Dave Rempis (saxes) et Frank Rosaly (btr.). Casa del Popolo. (21 h) » Le saxophoniste Yannick Rieu. (Artiste du mois au Resto-bar Le dièse onze, 21 h.) En reprise le 10 et l7 avec invités différents à chaque semaine. [223-3543] —Marc Chenard

Jazz : Jeu. 3, ven. 4 » Le quartette du guitariste John Pizzarelli avec invitée, la chanteuse Coral Egan. L’Astral, Maison du jazz Rio Tinto. (20 h) —Marc Chenard

Jazz : Ven 4 » Concert Jazz et Noël avec le pianiste Dave Gelfand. Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, série Jazz Nocturne. (22 h) [872-5338] Ven. 4, sam. 5 » Kye Lyra Sextet avec Jean-Pierre Zanella. (Jazz brésilien) Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) » Normand Guilbeault sextette, Hommage à Mingus. Resto-bar Le dièse onze. (20 h 30) —Marc Chenard

Musique Baroque : Réunissant des ensembles de haut calibre et des artistes de renommée internationale, le Festival Bach de Montréal se déroule depuis le 24 novembre. Le 4 décembre à 19 h 30, on pourra entendre le pianiste Evgeni Koroliov dans les Variations Goldberg. Collège Marianopolis, 4873, avenue Westmount. Un concert gratuit pour les 16 ans et moins. Le concert de clôture aura lieu le 5 décembre à 19 h 30 à la basilique Notre-Dame et présentera l’ensemble Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. Créé à Berlin Est au début des années 1980, l’ensemble est aujourd’hui l’un des principaux orchestres de chambre spécialisés en musique baroque. 514-581-8637 ou 514-581-7538, www.bach-academie-montreal.com

Musique de Noël : Le mois de décembre offre un grand choix de concerts. Parmi eux, le Chœur de l’Université Laval, dirigé par Guy Lavigne, que vous pourrez entendre le 5 décembre à l’église Saint-Charles-Garnier dans un programme de Noël incluant la Festkantate de Bruckner et le Magnificat de Pergolèse. Le 6 décembre, à l’église de la Nativité de Notre-Dame, Claude Léveillé et l’Ensemble Polyphonia donnent en matinée un concert comprenant entre autres des œuvres de John Rutter, Raymond Daveluy et Donald Patriquin. www.choeurul.asso.ulaval.ca / www.polyphonia.qc.ca

Musique contemporaine : La série de concerts hommage se poursuit le 6 décembre à 16 h avec une coproduction SMCQ / Conservatoire de musique de Montréal. Les organistes Jean-Willy Kunz et Régis Rousseau interpréteront deux œuvres majeures : Vers une étoile… de Gilles Tremblay et Chorales ornées d’Yves Daoust, ainsi qu’une création de Jean Lesage en hommage à Tremblay. Église de l’Immaculée-Conception, 4101, avenue Papineau, 514-526-5961.

Jazz : Dim. 6 » Dave Turner Quintet. Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) —Marc Chenard

Musique vocale : Pour lancer les activités qui marqueront ses 30 ans, l’Opéra de Montréal annonçait en juin dernier un nouveau projet de démocratisation : Apéro à l’Opéra. L’Opéra a ouvert ses portes à six chanteurs non professionnels sélectionnés par voie d’auditions. Les candidats ont pu profiter d’un stage de formation intensif de six semaines, au terme duquel ils ont chanté le 16 novembre devant un public réuni au Piano Nobile. Trois d’entre eux ont été choisis pour chanter sur la scène de la Place des Arts au Gala du 6 décembre : Lise Brunelle, de Mont-Tremblant, Sophie Lemaire, de Montréal, et Annie Sanschagrin de Crabtree. 514-985-2222 www.operademontreal.com Suivez l’audition des six candidats : www.artv.ca/emissions/apero-a-lopera.html

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