La Scena Musicale

Monday, 26 April 2010

Eschenbach, Lang Lang and the SHFO Give Austin a Show to Remember!



There is no one hotter in the world of classical music today than Chinese pianist Lang Lang. What a coup for Maestro Christoph Eschenbach and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra (SHFO) that he agreed to be the featured soloist on their first North American tour!
In this extraordinarily long tour of twenty-three concerts in thirty-two days, Lang Lang played concertos by Prokofiev, Mozart and Beethoven, with Eschenbach at the podium.
I caught up with this remarkable road show at the Long Center in Austin, Texas.
An Intimate Destination for Music Festival Connoisseurs
The Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival is based in Salzau Castle, 100 kilometers north of Hamburg, Germany. Over the past thirty years it has grown into one of the most prestigious festivals in Europe.
Each year, a new festival youth orchestra is created after months of international auditions. One hundred young musicians are selected from over a thousand applicants around the world, and these fortunate 100 spend the summer in Salzau working with some of the world’s greatest conductors.
Leonard Bernstein founded the Orchestral Academy of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, and his work has been carried on by conductors of the stature of Valery Gergiev, Kurt Masur, Sir Georg Solti and Christoph Eschenbach.
Fabulous - Fast and Furious - Clearly The Best of the Best!
The SHFO Austin concert opened with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 “Classical,” played with great precision and panache. I particularly liked the way Eschenbach shaped the brief Gavotta, reminding us that Prokofiev was, after all, a great ballet composer. The Finale went like the wind, showing off the orchestra’s virtuosic winds to great advantage.
Attentive listeners might have noticed a quote from Beethoven’s Seventh in this symphony – an example of Prokofiev’s ‘affectionate parody’ of classical style.
Lang Lang’s Mozart Showy and Exquisite
Lang Lang continues to astound audiences the world over with his incredible technique, but lately he is giving audiences much more – a deepening musicianship. He has gone out of his way, for example, to enrich his study of Bach and Beethoven with Daniel Barenboim, and of Mozart and Schubert with Eschenbach – each of these maestros an internationally acclaimed piano virtuoso in his own right.
On this night, Lang Lang collaborated with Eschenbach on Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major K. 453. There is room for virtuosity here – Mozart, like Lang Lang, enjoyed showmanship – but the higher musical values required are beauty of tone and maturity of phrasing, and in this performance, Lang Lang demonstrated that he can play Mozart as well as he plays Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. The rapport between pianist, conductor and orchestra was remarkable. The give and take was exemplary from beginning to end.
As Only Lang Lang Can!
For his encore, Lang Lang chose the thrilling finale from Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7. He played with incredible abandon and the kind of bravura that is nearly unique today.
Traditional Beethoven Mindful of the Masters
This evening’s performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony opened with an unusual ‘delayed’ first chord; this was quite deliberate on Maestro Eschenbach’s part, but at least one critic reviewing an earlier performance on this tour complained about a lack of unanimity in the orchestra.
In fact, Eschenbach was employing a style of attack considered the norm when Furtwängler and Böhm were conducting. German orchestras were trained to play the first chord in classical works after, rather than on, the conductor’s downbeat, the goal being that the musicians should feel the first chord together, and enter accordingly.
With orchestras trained in this tradition, this tactic works quite well - as it did in Austin.
Eschenbach’s approach throughout the symphony was traditional rather than, as is ‘fashionable’ today, an emulation of the style advocated by the period instrument specialists.
There was lots of vibrato in this performance and tempi were moderate rather than fast to the point of unintelligibility. The timpani were forceful, but not intrusive as they so often are in period instrument performances. The performance had plenty of excitement, as Eschenbach whipped up his players in all the right places.
As an encore Eschenbach and the SHFO offered a powerful performance of Beethoven’s “Prometheus Overture.”
For Those Wanting More…
If you are interested in hearing the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra on its home turf, plan to be in North Germany this summer between July 10 and August 29. The festival will be celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the theme this year is the music of Poland.
Among the guest artists will be Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, Christopher Hogwood, Thomas Hampson and Matthias Goerne. There will be 136 concerts during the seven-week festival, and the concerts will be given in 74 different locations in the Schleswig-Holstein region. For more information visit the festival website.




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This Week in Toronto (April 26 - May 2)

Soprano Serena Farnocchia (Photo courtesy of Atelier Musicale srl)





With the spring opera season in full swing, the musical offerings are varied and delectable. Top on my list is the opening of one of Donizetti's "Three Queens" - Maria Stuarda, at the Canadian Opera Company. This is the first fully staged production of this opera in Canada. It has a really great cast, headed by Italian soprano Serena Farnocchia in the title role. She was Luisa Miller for the COC, impressing everyone with her limpid, gleaming tone. She is also a wonderful Liu and Mimi, the last I heard her sing in Santa Fe in 2007. I look forward to her return. Also very special is the appearance of Bulgarian soprano Alexandrina Pendatchanska as Elisabetta. Saw her in Ermione and as Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito at Santa Fe some years ago. I was bowled over by her intensity and "take-no-prisoners" style of vocalism - a very exciting singer. Tenor Eric Cutler makes his company debut as Leicester. Antony Walker conducts. Opening night is May 1, and it promises to be an evening of vocal fireworks - not to be missed! In the mean time, the COC production of Der fliegende Hollander continues with performances on Wednesday April 28 and Sunday May 2. As well, Opera Atelier's English language The Marriage of Figaro will be at the Elgin Theatre on April 27, 28, 30, and May 1. I attended opening night and enjoyed the handsome production, clever staging and the fine ensemble singing. I am usually not one for operas sung in translation, but this very clever English translation worked well. This is a show well worth attending.

Elsewhere on the opera front, Toronto Operetta Theatre's Pirates of Penzance is not being presented this week as originally intended. Instead, the company is putting on a Gilbert and Sullivan Extravaganza on May 1 and 2. It features singers originally engaged for the cancelled show. The reason for the cancellation of the staged production is not clear. For details, go to http://www.torontooperetta.com/production_4.htm

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is putting on A Night at the Opera, a concert of operatic excerpts starring soprano Joni Henson, mezzo Lauren Segal, tenor Richard Margison, and baritone Doug MacNaughton. TMC specializes in oratorios and other choral works, and I can't remember the last time it puts on an operatic concert like this one. Noel Edison conducts the TMC Festival Orchestra. It takes place on Wednesday, April 28 at Koerner Hall. For more information, go to http://www.tmchoir.org/shows/nightOpera.cfm

The Women's Music Club of Toronto presents a recital of Schumann and Chopin by pianist Janina Fialkowska at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building at the U of T Faculty of Music, on Thursday 1:30 pm. Fialkowska has had her share of career setbacks due to health issues, but now she is back. Find out more at her website: http://www.janinafialkowska.com/
Information on the concert can be found at http://www.wmct.on.ca/concerts.html

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting Mendelssohn and Mahler, a rather eclectic and unusual pairing, on Thursday 8 pm (repeated on Saturday May 1) at Roy Thomson Hall. On the program is Mendelssohn piano concerto No. 1 with pianist Anton Kuerti, and Mahler Symphony No. 7. Peter Oundjian conducts.

On Saturday 1 pm at selected Cineplex cinemas across Canada, the Met in HD is presenting Rossini's Armida starring American prima donna Renee Fleming. The Met mounts this production as a vehicle for Fleming. This is is hardly ever done, not just because it is so long - four hours, but also it requires five tenors! The Met has high tenors Lawrence Brownlee, Bruce Ford, and Barry Banks, so there won't be any shortage of stratospheric notes! I don't know about the ticket situation, but you might want to call the Cineplex theatres carrying the show. The encore performance will be on May 22.

Also on Saturday, Chinese pianist Yuja Wang is giving a recital of Schumann, Schubert, Liszt, Scriabin, and Prokofiev at 8 pm in the new Koerner Hall. Wang is now on the roster of Deutsche Grammophon and she is definitely a pianist to watch.

The Aldeburgh Connection presents a very intriguing concert on Sunday at 2:30 pm at Walter Hall. It is billed as City of Villages, a singer's tour of Toronto, with works by Wagner, Sullivan, Beckwith and Ross. The soloists are soprano Lucia Cesaroni, mezzo Allyson McHardy, tenor Lawrence Wiliford, and baritone Benjamin Covey. Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata will be at the piano as usual.

The Amici Chamber Ensemble's final concert of the season, Silenced Voices, takes place on Sunday May 2, 3 pm at Glenn Gould Studio. Baritone Russell Braun joins Amici in a moving program featuring the songs of Ukrainian composer Kyrylo Stetsenko and Amenian composer, Father Gomidas, plus chamber works by Gideon Klein and Erwin Schulhoff, all of them victims of genocide. Tickets are available at the Roy Thomson Hall box office. For more information, go to www.amiciensemble.com


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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Figaro in English Offers Charm and Wit


By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

Imagine stepping into an interior courtyard of a country residence; a group of ticketholders are being treated to a private performance of a comic opera. The guests munched on chocolate bars and sipped bottled water during intermission. The year is 2010.

And so opened Opera Atelier’s new production of Mozart’s beloved The Marriage of Figaro at the Elgin Theatre Saturday night, when director Marshall Pynkoski recreated the private performance of Beaumarchais’s stage comedy of the same title that took place in the home of a French nobleman prior to its official debut in Paris in 1784.

Sung in English with a modern, clever translation by British director/writer Jeremy Sams, the “play within a play” saw singers addressing the audience directly and nimble dancers rearranging the set artfully.

Music director David Fallis, who also leads the Toronto Consort in his spare time, conducted Tafelmusik Orchestra in the pit in fine form. Starting with the auspicious and exciting overture, much of the music during the three-hour performance was exceedingly well played with precision and colour, including that from Charlotte Nediger, who accompanied the recitativi on the fortepiano as light as a soufflé.

Figaro is rarely this tall, but in the long legs of Canadian bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre, Figaro has never been more adorable or likeable. Laquerre's voice is so expansively warm and smooth, I only wished his lower register was projected better. That being said, the sharp contrast between Laquerre's mellow tone and the bright tweets of Susanna, sung brilliantly by soprano Carla Huhtanen, added interesting textures throughout to the work's otherwise cheerful and harmonious lyricism.

The jealousy-driven Count Almaviva, portrayed by baritone Phillip Addis, came across strong and hot-headed, but short on authority. Addis sings well, even passionately at times. But when paired with soprano Peggy Kriha Dye, whose Countess Rosina is layered with emotional turmoil despite the farce, Addis's Count — perhaps because he's confined in the same type of tights and riding boots as his valet Figaro is — appeared boyishly powerless.

Fresh out of school and already making a buzz on the operatic scene is mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta, who is an absolute delight in the pants role of page boy Cherubino. Hiding her fiery red hair under the hat, Giunta's supple voice is light and refined. Her Cherubino is on the girly side for someone who is supposedly sexually charged, but sympathetic and lovable all the same.

Overall, the ensemble work stood out and it's nice to see a young cast that includes Laura Pudwell as Marcellina, Curtis Sullivan as Dr. Bartolo, Patrick Jang as Don Basilio and Curzio, Vasil Garvanliev as Antonio, and 17-year-old Cavell Wood as Barbarina.

While no English version of the opera will ever be quite the same as librettist Da Ponte's original tongue-rolling Italian, this Figaro is refreshingly charming, witty, and there is no shortage of laughs.

The Marriage of Figaro continues at Elgin Theatre on April 25, 27, 28, 30 and May 1.

»
Opera Atelier's website

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Friday, 23 April 2010

Van Zweden and DSO Raise their Game with Schönberg and Brahms

by Paul E. Robinson
As he nears the end of his second season as music director of the Dallas Symphony, Jaap van Zweden has clearly raised the quality of playing in the orchestra. There have not been many personnel changes, but there has been a palpable exploitation of the enormous pool of talent already in the orchestra. A case in point: the trombone section has always been ‘good’ but now it is ‘remarkably good.’ The sureness of intonation, the beauty of tone, the balance between the three instruments and tuba – all these things are on a level of refinement only hinted at in the past. One has to think that it is van Zweden who has inspired these players to do better.
The biggest improvement is surely in the string section. As a string player of great distinction himself, van Zweden is able to work on details of playing that other conductors cannot even imagine. In the program book for this week’s concert, Laurie Shulman interviewed van Zweden on this very subject and got a revealing, if somewhat technical, answer:

As a conductor, you should ask the orchestra: how do you connect an up-bow to a down-bow? Are you doing it differently in Brahms than in Beethoven? I would say yes. Completely. There is a different connection between one note to the next in Brahms than in Beethoven; you use a different technique. Phrasing with the right arm is a little bit different than with the left arm. For Brahms, you have to deliver differently with your right arm than with any other composer, because of the musical sentence structure. When you have a phrase, it’s usually long, and more connected. We need to know exactly where to use different styles of bowing.

This kind of detailed thinking is obviously being translated into action in the Dallas Symphony rehearsals these days, and it is paying off handsomely.
In Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht and in the Brahms Symphony No. 2 at the Myerson Symphony Center recently, I heard music-making that was consistently energized and string playing that effortlessly ran the gamut from incredibly delicate to full-bodied in the style of the great European orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and, of course van Zweden’s alma mater, the Royal Concertgebouw.
Verklärte Nacht Originally a Sextet
It is important to remember that Arnold Schönberg wrote his string sextet Verklärte Nacht in 1899, just two years after the death of Brahms. The music clearly shows the influence of Brahms and other composers of the period such as Wagner and Liszt, but Schönberg soon came to the conclusion that the music of the late-Romantic period, with its increasingly chromatic and dissonant harmony, was coming to a crisis. Mahler found lots of life left yet in the older forms and techniques, but Schönberg was a much more radical character. He created what became known as twelve-tone music and set off on a course that led to ever more difficult music and. in so doing, left general audiences behind.
Verklärte Nacht gives no hint of the radical Schönberg to come. It is passionate love music in the tradition of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, albeit building on the string techniques developed by Brahms and Dvořák. In its original version for six solo string players, it is deeply personal music and very difficult to play, especially for the lead violinist.
Verklärte Nacht for String Orchestra
Schönberg himself did the arrangement for string orchestra and while this version gains immensely from the added weight of sound, it simultaneously becomes somewhat less intimate. The minute inflections which can be conveyed by a solo instrument are all but lost when the same part is played by eight musicians. It is also more difficult for eight musicians to play an exposed phrase in tune than it is for one musician. Performance difficulties notwithstanding, this is a glorious work and it was given a glorious performance by van Zweden and the strings of the Dallas Symphony.
One of the challenges for a conductor in this piece is that the music can seem to be stopping and starting arbitrarily. Not so in this performance; van Zweden made the numerous tempo changes seem perfectly natural. One can imagine a more intense and wilder interpretation of the piece, and one more agonizing in its emotion, but the careful realization of dynamics – the opening bars were almost inaudible – and the attention given to finding clarity in the dense contrapuntal textures more than compensated in this interpretation.
Dallas Symphony Ensemble Sound Rich and Glorious
After Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht, came Brahms’ Second Symphony. Van Zweden is not known to be a willful conductor who favors his own insights over the composer’s instructions. He was encouraged by Leonard Bernstein, but his interpretative preferences have more in common with conductors such as Bernard Haitink and Sir Georg Solti – mainstream, one might say - with very little pushing and pulling and no attempt to make Brahms’ brass section produce Straussian heroics. That said, this Brahms was engrossing and very satisfying.
Van Zweden’s tempo for the first movement initially struck me as a little too fast, but then I got used to it and heard how it brought a lilting waltz quality to many passages. The second movement clipped along as well. I would have preferred more expansive phrasing and more mystery. The tempo of the last movement was somewhat restrained, resulting in a certain loss of excitement. On the plus side, one could hear every detail, especially in the tricky syncopated sections.
Significantly, van Zweden chose to reseat the Dallas Symphony for this concert - a move that paid enormous dividends. The new seating was similar to that used by the Berlin Philharmonic, with the violas on the outside right of the podium facing the first violins on the left, with the cellos moved upstage behind them. The placement of the violas in this position for this concert was certainly compelling, making the two distinct viola parts in the Schönberg that much easier to hear. This seating arrangement also worked well for the Brahms, producing – at least in this performance - a wonderfully rich blend of sound in the strings.
What was remarkable about the Brahms performance was undoubtedly the quality of the ensemble playing. Phrasing and articulation was matched in all sections - strings, winds and brass alike - and the tonal quality was carefully matched too. At this level, one takes it for granted that all the musicians can play all the notes but that is not the appropriate criterion. What one hopes for and often achieves in the best chamber music performances and less frequently in symphonic performances, is a complex unity of execution. This performance of the Brahms Second Symphony had that unity of purpose and accomplishment.
Has New York heard this extraordinary combo in concert? I would venture to suggest that it’s time for van Zweden and the DSO to take their collaboration on the road, with an annual visit to New York in the five-year plan.

Losing Borok!
No sooner had this “Casual Friday” concert ended, than word came that Emanuel Borok, the DSO’s concertmaster for the past 25 years, has decided to retire. Borok is a wonderful musician and leader and a great help to van Zweden; he will be missed. Borok was born in Latvia and spent eleven years in the Boston Symphony before coming to Dallas. He has often been featured in concertos with the orchestra.

The Case for Casual Fridays
This was a “Casual Friday” concert. The concerts begin a ½ hour earlier, there is no intermission, patrons are encouraged to wear jeans, and there is a jazz band playing in the lobby after the concert. Onstage, the members of the DSO appear in casual black outfits instead of in tails.
Presumably, the idea is to attract a different type of audience - people who consider symphony concerts too formal and too long, people who may never before have attended a classical concert. An informal dress code, and an opportunity to mix and mingle after the concert are a good start, but in my opinion, the "Casual Friday" concept could go even further. Some insights on the program from the stage would enhance the experience. If the conductor is not comfortable in this role, someone else could be found to warm up the audience and introduce the music, possibly through the use of multi-media.
Personally, I suspect that ticket prices are a major reason for people staying away from symphony concerts, in which case, ticket prices for “Casual Friday” concerts ought perhaps to be cheaper, given the shorter programs.
For Those Wanting More…
As the Arts District continues to blossom in Dallas, adding new buildings every few years, it has become one of the city’s premiere destinations. With that distinction, the surrounding neighborhood is taking flight too.
A new restaurant called Samar, the creation of chef Stephen Pyles, opened last October at the corner of Ross and Olive, just a few short blocks from the Myerson. It’s a small venue, seating only about 70, but it is one of the most inviting and imaginative in the city, with a menu devoted to various kinds of tapas-like dishes from Spain, the Mediterranean and India. A couple can make a meal out of three or four of these reasonably-priced, delicious dishes.
My wife and I shared Lahmaçun (Turkish Spiced Lamb “Pizza”), Ajill Tagine Maa Couscous (Veal Tagine with Medjool Dates and Tri-Color Almond Couscous), Mumbai Ka Badi Jhinga (Tiger Prawns “Bombay Style” with Crispy Okra and Spiced Pear Chutney), and Carmelized Apple Empanada with Cinnamon Ice Cream. If you go, consider sitting at the counter where you can watch everything being prepared with love and expertise at top speed in the open kitchen.


Photo: Courtesy of Dallas Symphony Orchestra

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Saturday, 17 April 2010

This Week in Toronto (April 19 - 25)

The Flying Dutchman (c. 1896) by Albert Pinkham Ryder



The big news this week on the vocal front is the arrival of the spring operatic season. The Canadian Opera Company presents a revival of its production of The Flying Dutchman. This is the first opera conducted by Johannes Debus since his appointment as the COC Music Director. The title role of Dutchman is Russian baritone Evgeny Nikitin, who is making his company debut. All the other soloists are returnees to the COC – bass Mats Almgren, a wonderfully menacing Hagen, is Daland; soprano Julie Makerov, who sang the title role in Rusalka last season, returns as Senta; mezzo Barbara Dever, last heard in Eugene Onegin, is Mary; and Robert Kunzli, last heard in From the House of the Dead, is Erik. Tenor Gordon Gietz, originally scheduled as the Steersman, has been replaced by COC Ensemble tenor Adam Luther. For traditionalists, this production is controversial, but by Regietheater standards, it is quite mild. You can decide for yourself - the show opens on Saturday April 24 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre. The opera is performed without an intermission. For ticket information, go to www.coc.ca If conceptual re-imaginings of Wagner isn’t for you, Opera Atelier offers a new but entirely traditional production of The Marriage of Figaro, sung in English. OA with its baroque sensibilities and historically informed stagings are always pretty to look at, with singers who can act and look believable on stage. The ensemble cast is made up of OA regulars plus two debutants. Baritone Olivier Laquerre is Figaro, and soprano Carla Huhtanen is Susanna.Frequent OA guest Peggy Kriha Dye is the Countess, with baritone Phillip Addis making his company debut as the Count. Rising mezzo Wallis Giunta is Cherubino. The Tafelmusik Orchestra is conducted by David Fallis. The show opens at the Elgin Theatre at exactly the same time as the COC Dutchman, with additional performances on April 25, 27, 28, 30, and May 1. Go to http://www.operaatelier.com/season/figaro.htm for information and tickets. Other vocal presentations include Native Earth/Indie(n) Rights Reserve’s Giiwedin which continues this week, with performances on April 20, 22, 23, and 24 at the Theatre Passe Muraille. For choral music fans, the Pax Christi Chorale presents the Mozart Requiem, a piece that I never get tired of hearing. Also on the program are motets by Bach and Rheinberger. Soloists are soprano Laura Albino, mezzo Julia Dawson, tenor Sasha Bataligin, and baritone James Levesque, under artistic director Stephanie Martin. The performances take place Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm at Grace Church on the Hill, 300 Lonsdale Road. For more information, go to http://www.paxchristichorale.org/ Duo pianists James Anagnoson and Leslie Kinton, faculty members of the Royal Conservatory of Music, gives a concert on Saturday, April 24 at 8 pm at the St. James Church in Caledon East. For more information, go to http://caledonchamberconcerts.com/
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Sibelius Festival continues this week with performances on April 21 and 22 at 8 pm in Roy Thomson Hall. On the program are Symphonies No. 5, 6, and 7. In addition, Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto plays Serenades for Violin and Orchestra. Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard leads the TSO forces. I attended the opening night performance last Wednesday. Conducting entirely from memory, Dausgaard showed impressive understanding of the Sibelius symphonies and fully justifies his reputation as a specialist in this repertoire. Under his baton, the orchestra played with exceptional clarity, precision, and remarkable lyricism. I wasn’t very familiar with Symphony No. 1 and didn’t quite know what to expect. Under Dausgaard, it was one continuous lyrical outpouring, making me wanting to revisit this work as soon as possible. The more familiar Symphony No. 2 can seem rather heavy along the line of Brahms and Bruckner, but Dausgaard’s conducting was well-considered and full of chiaroscuro, with a particularly luminous third movement and Finale. There was even an encore (Valse Triste), a rarity in symphonic concerts! Dausgaard began with super-hushed pianissimos, thankfully the boisterous, applause-minded audience quieted down quickly. It was a fitting end to an enjoyable evening. On Saturday April 24th 1:30 and then again at 3:30 pm, French Canadian conductor Alain Trudel leads the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra in Britten’s The Young Persons’ Guide to the Orchestra. Peter Oundjian is the narrator of this one. For more information and tickets, go to http://www.tso.ca/Concerts-And-Tickets/Events/2009-2010-Season/The-Young-Persons-Guide-to-the-Orchestra.aspx

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Friday, 16 April 2010

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Lortie not Himself in Chopin Recital

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

I was one of the few people who didn’t give Louis Lortie a standing ovation at Koerner Hall this afternoon.

I have a deep respect for Lortie, who has long been a favourite pianist of mine, and not because he's Canadian. I have attended many of his concerts and masterclasses and he has never let me down before. Just last March, when he played Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, I quietly shed a few tears during the moving adagio.

However, Lortie was a very different pianist in an all-Chopin recital today. He struggled with some of the most rudimentary things such as memory lapses, which, as human as he is, just should not happen at his virtuoso level.

The program, built around Chopin’s four ballades and key-matching nocturnes (except for the third ballade in A-flat major), flopped from the beginning with the pairing of the G minor Nocturne, Op. 15, No. 3 and the G minor Ballade. Playing them as one continuous piece, the ballade’s solemn and weepy opening introduction in octaves felt out of place after Lortie gave the mazurka-like nocturne a groovy, jazzy treatment. Maybe the gentle Op. 37, No. 1 Nocturne in the same key with its choral middle section would have worked better.

The coupling of the F major Nocturne, Op. 15, No. 1 with the F major Ballade was more successful in character, as was the case between the F minor Nocturne, Op. 55, No. 1 and the F minor Ballade. However, instead of the cheerful A-flat major Nocturne, Op. 32, No. 2, Lortie chose the E-flat major Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 and the C minor Nocturne, Op. 48, No. 1 to precede the A-flat major Ballade.

The rest of the program was made up with the Berceuse in D-flat major, the F-sharp major Nocturne, Op. 15, No. 2 and the Barcarolle, also in F-sharp major.

Overall, there was some really nice, warm sound coming from the piano, even though the instrument’s higher register seemed often overpowered by its lower counterpart. However, Lortie’s playing came across choppy most of the time due to erratic use of rubato, his chords were not always dead-on, and his running passages, albeit technically brilliant, were sometimes sloppy in their manner of care. All of this is uncharacteristic of the kind of precision player Lortie is known for.

Playing all four Chopin ballades in one concert is a major undertaking for any pianist. Throw in some nocturnes and two of the most popular pieces by the composer and it’s a daunting recital in more ways than one. After an overwhelming standing ovation, and a few shouting bravos, Lortie ended the recital on a good note, playing theD-flat major Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 2 to perfection. It was by far the best playing of the afternoon, but it was too little too late.

That being said, I still look forward to Lortie’s next recital when the pianist is likely to be more himself.

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This Week in Toronto (April 12 - 18)

Jean Sibelius (photo taken around 1889-90)




There was a time when the Toronto Symphony Orchestra featured works by Jean Sibelius with regularity, especially during the tenure of the Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste. I recall hearing Sibelius symphonies and other orchestral works like Kullervo, Karelia Suite, and of course the famous Finlandia. If you are a Sibelius fan, the next two week's programs are for you. The TSO under guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard is presenting The Sibelius Festival from April 14 to 22. On the program will be all seven symphonies plus some of his violin works played by Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto. Symphonies No. 1 and 2 will be on April 14 at 8 pm and April 15 at 2 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. Also on the program is Humoresques Nos. 1 & 2 for violin and orchestra. Symphonies No. 3 and 4 will be performed on Saturday April 17 at 7:30 pm, together with Cantique and Devotion, as well as Finlandia. The Sibelius Festival Chorus and the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra will be performing the Finlandia alongside the TSO. This is a "Casual Concert" so there will be a live band after the show in the lobby. I have attended some of these in the past and they are fun, although the change of musical styles took some getting used to. Symphony 5, 6 and 7 will be performed Wednesday and Thursday of next week (April 21 and 22). On April 16 at 7:30 pm, at the George Weston Recital Hall, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra under French Canadian conductor Alain Trudel will be offering a mixed program that includes The Haydn "London" Symphony, Sibelius' Finlandia, Tchaikovsky violin concerto, and Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra Op. 34. For more information and tickets, go to http://www.tso.ca/Concerts-And-Tickets/Sibelius-Festival.aspx

The Toronto Philharmonia presents Swiss pianist Teo Gheorghiu in Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. Also on the program is Brahms Symphony No. 1 conducted by Kerry Stratton. This concert takes place at the acoustically friendly George Weston Hall, on April 15 8 pm. For more information, go to http://www.torontophil.on.ca/ [Updated on Friday April 16th: It turned out that there were wholesale changes to the artists that were not reflected in the Toronto Philharmonia website. Kerry Stratton was busy conducting in Israel and in his place was conductor Simon Irving. Pianist Teo Gheorghiu was replaced by Korean pianist Younggun Kim. To be honest, I feel that the Toronto Philharmonia needs to do a better job communicating changes to its audience. The website was limited to a tiny homepage with no clickable links, and it was not updated to reflect the changes. Mr. Kim was excellent in the Rachmaninoff No. 2, but I also met audience members who traveled from out of town specifically to hear Mr. Gheorghiu, and they were naturally disappointed.]

On the vocal front, there are several interesting concerts this week. The presentation by Native Earth and An Indie(n) Rights Reserve of Giiwedin continues on April 13 and April 15 at the Theatre Passe Muraille. I attended opening night last Thursday, and I was impressed by this piece co-composed by Spy Denomme-Welch and Catherine Magown. With rather basic sets and a very limited orchestra, they managed to put together a work remarkable for its emotional power and eloquence. I found myself moved by it at the end of the evening. The music is evocative of many styles and totally accessible, in fact with plenty of melodies. Kudos go to conductor Gregory Oh who worked wonders with an orchestra of four - violin, cello, archlute and harpsichord! But the greatest accolades go to the committed, passionate and enthusiastic cast, led by First Nations mezzo Marion Newman, who successfully brought to life Noodin-Kwe, the fictional and symbolic 150 year old native woman fighting for her land. Yes, I believe those were real tears on her face at the end of the final scene. Also deserving of mention is bass baritone Jesse Clark as the French Canadian Indian Agent Jean. I would be remiss if I don't mention the excellent quartet of women - Catharin Carew, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Jessica Lloyd, and Neema Bickersteth - who took on multiple roles, some of them animals! Lawrence Cotton was a deliciously over-the-top Dr. Carlton. Unfortunately the tenor James McLennan (The Minister) was ill and only mimed the role, with the voice very capably supplied by Martin Houtman. It was interesting to see the composers going against operatic convention by making the tenor the bad guy! Director Maria Lamont is to be commended for her deft staging of the piece, one that is rather heavy on storyline, especially in the second act. I particularly liked the ingenious ways of her using the columns of light to suggest a forest, and then again in its final destruction. This show runs to April 24 and is well worth attending.

On April 15 noon, the Canadian Opera Company Vocal Series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre presents Pergolesi's delightful La Serva Padrona. This short opera is a staple of opera schools and rarely finds its way to the mainstage. The singers are members of the COC Ensemble Studio. Remember to show up 45 minutes early to ensure a seat. Last but not least, Canadian soprano Monica Whicher, who is on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music, gives a recital on Sunday April 18 at 1 pm in Mazzoleni Hall of the RCM. Joining her will be mezzo Frances Pappas and pianist Liz Upchurch.



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Thursday, 8 April 2010

Claudio Abbado's Grand Tour with his Mozart Orchestra

by Giuseppe Pennisi

Music is the best medicine to cure cancer according to Maestro Claudio Abbado. Doctors removed much of his stomach and he can only eat small amounts at a time.“I found a new life, without a stomach,” he states. “I think differently. My senses are different.” His music-making has also changed: “I hear more lines now; I hear sounds I never heard before.”


Unfortunately, the therapy has weakened him: it’s now a special occasion when Maestro Abbado conducts. At 77, Abbado has mostly turned away from the kind of grand institutions he once led — La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin Philharmonic. He pours his energies mainly into a few bursts of concerts, preferably with “his own” orchestra, the Bologna-based Mozart Orchestra. Now on a grand tour, which started in Reggio Emilia in March and continued in Rome (three concerts produced by the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia as a part of the subscription series) and, after a pause in April, the orchestra will proceed to Milan, Ravenna (as opening event for the 2010 Festival), Paris and Ferrara.


Abbado has turned away the distractions of modern conducting, like administration, dealing with unions and constant travel. He plays the music he wants with the musicians he chooses. Altogether he conducts about 30 concerts a season, dividing his time between homes in Bologna and Sardinia, where in the garden at his villa he has put in 9,000 plants. As a payment for his early June Milan La Scala concerts, he asked that the city plant 9,000 trees in the brick-and-mortar town. The Milan City Council is obliging … and following through on the contract.


The Mozart Orchestra was conceived by Carlo Maria Badini (a former La Scala Superintendent) as a special project of the Philharmonic Academy of Bologna, thanks to a decisive contribution from the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio of Bologna (the Bologna Savings Bank Foundation). The Orchestra, like the OSR (see La Scena in November 2009), is a very rare example of a privately funded symphonic formation in Italy. It has 40 permanent instrumentalists (versus 90 in the OSR); this means that for works requiring larger forces (i.e. those by Mahler, Bruckner, Strauss and Nono), the Mozart Orchestra needs to contract extra-musicians or to join another ensemble–in June in Milan it will join with the Filarmonici della Scala. Maestro Abbado became Artistic Director of the Orchestra, and improved its profile by inviting such internationally-renowned instrumentalists as Giuliano Carmignola, Danusha Waskiewicz, Wolfram Christ, Enrico Bronzi, Mario Brunello, Alois Posch, Jacques Zoon, Alessandro Carbonare and Alessio Allegrini.


The Orchestra is a truly international ensemble with young musicians from all over Europe (Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Norway, Finland, Hungary and Russia). It made its debut on November 4, 2004 at the Manzoni Theatre in Bologna with Abbado at the helm. Since then other great conductors such as John Eliot Gardiner, Ottavio Dantone, Trevor Pinnock and Frans Brüggen have led the orchestra. On 25 October 2008 at Pala Dozza in Bologna, the Orchestra Mozart played a memorable performance of 
Te Deum by Berlioz, together with the Cherubini Youth Orchestra, the Italian Youth Orchestra, the Choir of the Municipal Theatre of Bologna and the Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Choir of Milan. The impressive choir of treble voices was made up of more than six hundred children. On 13 June 2009, after the Abruzzo devastating earthquake, at the Auditorium of the Guardia di Finanza (Finance Police) School in Coppito (AQ), Abbado and the Mozart Orchestra dedicated a concert to the people of Abruzzo affected by the disaster. At the same time, they also promoted the “Mozart Orchestra for Abruzzo”, Una Casa per la Musica (A house for music) initiative, to raise funds for the creation of a structure in which all the musical organizations of L’Aquila can resume their activities immediately.

On March 28
th, in the packed 3000 seats Sala Santa Cecilia in Rome, the orchestra performed the “Italiana” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, the Mozart Violin Concert K. 216, the “Jupiter” Mozart Symphony K. 551 and, at the insisting request for “encore”, a real bonus, Beethoven’s “Egmont” Ouverture. The four different pieces have a unity; they are a bridge from the elegant XVIII Century – the two Mozart’s composition are like Brussels antique lace – to the XIX Century Romanticism – delicate and intimate in the Mendelssohn-Bartoldy “Italiana” (where places and situation are filtered through memory) and stormy and passionate in Beethoven’s “Egmont”.

Abbado’s baton kept a tight but flowing beat as his left hand, at the end of a thin wrist, went its own way, deftly sculpturing phrases and so often asking for less, less, less. Mr. Abbado moves with the deliberateness of someone conserving his strength. He conducted without a score. The audience erupted in real accolades.


However, there was a flaw: the violinist Giuliano Carmignola, a specialist more of baroque than of late XVIII Century, did not sound up to the level of the Orchestra.

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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Lang Lang and Schleswig-Holstein Orchestra Wow Toronto

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh


If the performance quality of a group of young musicians making their North American debut tour is any indication, classical music is in good hands. On April 6, a near sold-out Roy Thomson Hall erupted for conductor Christoph Eschenbach and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra in a program that would appeal to any classical music novice.

Founded by Leonard Bernstein, the Germany-based Schleswig-Holstein trains in the 19th-century Salzau Castle north of Hamburg. It consists of musicians under the age of 27 handpicked through a rigorous auditioning process.

Opening the program with Prokofiev’s Symphony # 1 (the Classical Symphony), Eschenbach, who conducted by memory, got the most out of the players in every quip and quirk. Although the orchestra was not always in synch, the symphony came across fresh and dynamic. The vivace finale was incredibly fast and precise, it was stunning.

The main draw of the night was Mozart’s Piano Concerto # 17 in G major, featuring 28-year-old pianist Lang Lang. It was Eschenbach who gave Lang his now-legendary debut at the Ravinia Festival in 1999.

Lang is a powerhouse. He likes to show off his impeccable skills and does so with drama and flair. In this dreamy and bubbly Mozart concerto, Lang romanced each and every note and rest, soaking up the sound, eyes closed, while his left hand conducted above the keys. It was Mozart with a bit of a Chopin treatment in the styling of phrasings. However, with little use of the pedal, the sound was crystal crisp, the turns articulated clearly, and his soft melodies just about killed it.

The standing crowd insisted on an encore and received Chopin’s Aeolian Harp Etude, Op. 25, No. 1 after many bows from Lang. He played through the massive web of arpeggiated chords in one breath and with total control — it was beyond words.

After intermission, Eschenbach and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra gave a riveting performance of Beethoven’s Symphony # 7. The orchestra excelled here, especially in the famous slow movement markedallegretto. Eschenbach took the tempo at adagio and produced a solemn effect that is in perfect contrast to the subsequent presto and allegro con bio.

For encore, they played the overture of Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus to more standing applause, causing one man to shout, “Sit down!”

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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Cette semaine à Montréal (7 à 17 avril) / This Week in Montreal (April 7 - 17)

Musique / Music

 Canadian trumpet virtuoso Guy Few (pictured to the left) joins the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal on April 7 to perform a concerto for trumpet and orchestra by the renowned and recently deceased Jacques Hétu. Under the baton of assistant conductor Nathan Brock, the orchestra performs works that include Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1 and Smetana’s The Moldau. 514-842-2112, www.osm.ca  — Hannah Rahimi
 
The Trio Fibonacci presents its final concert of the season on April 9 at the Chapelle Saint-Louis. Audiences can experience the wide range of compositions for string trio with a varied programme that begins with Haydn and concludes with Beethoven’s Archduke Trio. Also included are two contemporary works: Jean Lesage’s Chopinade for cello and piano, marking  Chopin’s 200th anniversary, and the Albertan composer Allan Gordon Bell’s Phénomènes. 514-270-7382, www.triofibonacci.com  — Hannah Rahimi
 
Le dernier concert de l’Ensemble Magellan, dans le cadre de sa résidence à la Chapelle, aura lieu le dimanche 11 avril à 15 h 30. Composé du violoniste Olivier Thouin, de l’altiste Yukari Cousineau, du violoncelliste Yégor Dyachkov et du pianiste Jean Saulnier, le quatuor nous propose des œuvres de Mozart, Brahms et Cléo Palacio-Quintin. 514-872-5338  — Renée Banville
 
The Matsu Také Ensemble, the only ensemble of traditional Japanese chamber music in Montreal, presents Le souffle du bambou at Le Rendez-Vous du Thé on April 15. The ensemble performs Zen Buddhist works on traditional instruments, including founders Michel Dubeau and Bruno Deschênes on the shakuhachi, a bamboo flute. For $36.95, audiences also have the choice of having dinner during the concert. 514-384-5695, www.musis.ca  — Hannah Rahimi
 
L’Ensemble de la Société de musique contemporaine du Québec s’associe au Chœur du Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal pour présenter Les Vêpres de la Vierge de Gilles Tremblay. On entendra en plus une création de Serge Provost en hommage au compositeur. Ces œuvres contemporaines côtoient des œuvres polyphoniques sacrées du XVIe siècle. Avec la soprano Sophie Martin et Jean-Willy Kurtz à l’orgue positif. Sous la direction de Walter Boudreau et Christopher Jackson. Jeudi 15 avril à 18 h. Église de l’Immaculée Conception, 514-843-9305, www.smcq.qc.ca  — Renée Banville
 
Un forum réunira diverses personnalités du milieu musical pour discuter des « musiques du monde ». Le premier volet, le jeudi 15 avril à 19 h 30, est consacré aux définitions de ces musiques variées, des croyances et des préjugés associés, ainsi que des éléments communs que l’on peut en dégager. Y participeront : Yves Bernard, journaliste au Devoir, chroniqueur, auteur, animateur et spécialiste des musiques du monde; Ralf Boncy, chroniqueur et auteur dédié aux musiques du monde et animateur-programmateur à Espace Musique; Patrick Darby, fondateur et directeur artistique de Tracquen’art et de Cross Current Music; Monique Desroches, titulaire d’ethnomusicologie à la faculté de musique de l’Université de Montréal; Liette Gauthier, musicienne, fondatrice/directrice artistique de MMM (1990-2009) et agente culturelle à la maison de la culture Ahuntsic – Cartierville; Sophie Laurent, auteure, ethnomusicologue, productrice et réalisatrice à CBC, Radio 2. Entrée libre. 


Dans la série d’événements Musiques au bout du monde qui a lieu du 13 au 17 avril, on pourra entendre les groupes suivants : Tradición flamenca, Medjim, Labess et invitées, Cabaret hip-hop Klezmer Socalled (dans le photo à gauche) et invités, Karen Young et Michel Faubert et le Trio Stéphane Tellier. Des laissez-passer sont requis pour ces spectacles. Maison de la culture Ahuntsic-Cartierville, 514-872-8749  — Renée Banville
 

Jazz
 
Ven. 2, sam. 3 » Yves Léveillée (pno) invite Eri Yamamoto (pno) de New York. Jazz club, restaurant Dièse onze. [223-3543] 20 h 30
» Le Lifelines Ensemble de Christine Jensen avec invités de Toronto, Sienna Dahlin (vx.), Dave Restivo (pno), Jim Vivian (cb.) et Alissa Falk. Upstairs Jazz Bar. [931-6808] 20 h 30
 
Dim. 4 » de Berlin, le Gebhard Ullman Clarinet Trio. Casa del Popolo. [284-0122] 21 h
 
Lun. 5 » Le trio du guitariste Steve Ragele avec Adrian Vedady (cb) et Thom Gossage (btr.) Casa del Popolo. 21 h
 
Mar 6 » La série hebdomadaire de musiques improvisées Les mardis Spaghetti, au Cagibi. 21 h 30 [Programmation en ligne : www.myspace.com/mardispaghetti]
 
Mer. 7 » Trio Antoine Berthiaume (gtr.) Michel Donato (cb.) et Pierre Tanguay (btr.). Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal. [872-5266] 20 h
» La série hebdomadaire de musiques improvisées Mercredismusics. La Casa Obscura. [Programmation en ligne : www.casaobscura.org} 21 h
 
Jeu. 8 » Le trio du contrebassiste Rémi-Jean Leblanc, Upstairs Jazz Bar. [931-6808] 20 h 30
» Normand Guilbeault (Artiste du mois au Dièse onze. 20 h 30 (En rappel les 15 et 22 avec invités différents à chaque semaine.)
 
Ven. 9 » Le quartette du saxophoniste ténor Al McLean. Dièse onze. 20 h 30
 
Ven. 9, sam. 10 » De New York, le trio du pianiste John Stetch. Upstairs Jazz Bar. 20 h 30
 
Sam. 10 » Trio Yannick Rieu, Adrian Vedady et John Fraboni. Dièse onze. 20 h 30
 
Mar. 13 » Lancement du disque du guitariste Stéfane Carreau (anciennement du duo Bet & Stef). Upstairs Jazz Bar.
 
Mer. 14, jeu. 15 » Le trio de contrebasses de Jean-Rémi Leblanc. Upstairs Jazz Bar. 20 h 30
 
Ven 16 » Quartette du contrebassiste Dave Watts, avec Julie Lamontagne (pno), Dave Mossing (trpt.) et Richard Irwin (btr.) Dièse onze. 20 h 30
 
Ven. 16, sam. 17 » Le quartette du bassiste Fraser Hollins avec Joel Miller (saxo ténor) et invités spéciaux de New York, le batteur Brian Blade et le pianiste John Cowherd. Upstairs Jazz Bar. Spectacles à 19 h 30 et 22 h 30. (Réservations recommandées.)
 
Sam. 17 » Trio des guitaristes Thomas Carbou, Jocelyn Tellier et Joe Grass. Dièse onze. 20 h 30
 
— Marc Chénard
 

Arts visuels / Visual Arts
 
DHC/ART jusqu’au 9 mai : La cinéaste, photographe et vidéaste finlandaise Eija-Liisa Ahtila, reconnue pour ses récits complexes à écrans multiples, est en vedette au DHC/ART. INT. STAGE-DAY (INT.SCÈNE-JOUR), dont le titre fait directement référence aux indications spatiotemporelles apparaissant en tête de chaque scène d’un scénario, est la plus grande exposition de l’artiste présentée à l’extérieur de l’Europe.
 
Le Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal expose actuellement trois artistes canadiens : Marcel Dzama, artiste multidisciplinaire originaire de Winnipeg qui vit à New York depuis 2004; l’artiste montréalais Etienne Zack; et Luanne Martineau, née à Saskatoon, professeure adjointe en théorie et dessin à l’Université de Victoria (Colombie-Britannique).
 
Aux mille tours (Of Many Turns) est la plus grande exposition solo de Marcel Dzama jamais présentée dans un musée. Son plus récent travail mise sur des thèmes qui lui sont chers et qui caractérisent son œuvre : la nostalgie, les débuts du modernisme, les rapports entre l’ironie et le cynisme, la politique et la subjectivité.
 
Après avoir brièvement fréquenté l’Université Concordia, l’artiste montréalais Etienne Zack a étudié au Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design de Vancouver. Lauréat national du Concours de peinture canadienne RBC en 2005, il a aussi été lauréat du prix Pierre-Ayot en 2008, année où son travail s’est vu présenté au Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal dans le cadre de la Triennale québécoise. L’exposition Etienne Zack rend hommage à son œuvre réalisée au cours des six dernières années. Outre la présentation d’une vingtaine de tableaux, l’exposition présente deux nouvelles œuvres créées spécialement pour cet événement.
 
Le processus créatif de Luanne Martineau, qui s’inscrit dans la lignée des artistes féminines et féministes des années 1960, s’appuie sur l’utilisation des techniques d’artisanat et l’exploration des matériaux traditionnels, à l’image de ses étonnantes sculptures de feutre et de laine dont la complexité visuelle et matérielle rend impossible une description juste et adéquate.
 
Musée d’art contemporain, jusqu’au 25 avril 2010.
 
— Julie Beaulieu
 

Théâtre
 
Festival Vue sur la relève. Depuis 15 ans, cet événement propose un panorama d’une composante essentielle de notre culture : la nouvelle génération d’artistes. Plusieurs jeunes créateurs issus de diverses disciplines (chanson, théâtre, cirque, danse) s’y produisent dans une cinquantaine de spectacles. Le festival comporte même un volet international, accueillant des artistes canadiens, français, américains ou originaires des îles de la Réunion et de la Guadeloupe. Du 1er au 17 avril, au Lion d’Or, National, Divan Orange, Cabaret La Tulipe et à la Maison de la culture Frontenac
 
La Fin. La plus récente création du Nouveau Théâtre Expérimental s’intéresse à un sujet fort actuel dans notre monde en mutation : notre obsession pour l’apocalypse et, plus généralement, la fin des choses. Avec Alexis Martin et Daniel Brière aux commandes de ce spectacle à sketches, l’intelligence et l’humour devraient être au rendez-vous. Du 30 mars au 24 avril, à l’Espace libre
 
Trans(e). Deux éléments allument notre intérêt ici : le thème de l’œuvre, la transexualité, rarement exploré sur nos scènes, et son créateur, Christian Lapointe (Limbes), qui pratique un théâtre exigeant très remarqué ces dernières années. L’auteur, metteur en scène et interprète qualifie sa pièce de « tragédie “futuriste” sous forme de poème incantatoire ». Intriguant. Du 6 au 10 avril, à la salle Jean-Claude-Germain du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui
 
— Marie Labreque
 

Theatre
 
Red Noses, the D.B. Clarke Theatre’s offering, has been called the funniest play about the Black Plague ever written. We follow a priest in 14th century France who is convinced that God wants him to help people through laughter rather than through prayers and sermons. He assembles a bizarre troupe of clowns, including a blind juggler, a mute poet, two one-legged dancers and a stand-up comedian with a serious speech impediment, and travels through plague-affected villages attempting to make people laugh. Red Noses runs from April 15th to the 18th.
 
— Jessica Hill
 

Danse / Dance
 
Le 1er marque le commencement d’un mois très chargé dans les salles du réseau Accès Culture où de nombreux spectacles sont gratuits. Ce jour-là, Mélanie Demers et Laïla Dialo redonnent le percutant Sauver sa peau, Katy Ward et Thea Patterson reviennent avec Man and Mouse, inspiré de Steinbeck, Sonya Stefan et Yves St-Pierre reprennent leur savoureux panorama sur divers styles de danse dans Sonya et Yves (aussi les 26 et 27) et Les Printemps de la danse donnent leur coup d’envoi. On y verra des extraits du drôlissime Duet for one plus digressions d’Andrew Turner, du trio post-féministe humoristique The Shallow End d’Erin Flynn ainsi que Sax Addict où Yaëlle Azoulay ne dévoile que les jambes de ses danseurs de gigue. Ce programme sera représenté aussi les 8, 9, 10 et 21. Élodie Lombardo démystifie la mort les 7, 9 et 10 en réunissant humour et drame dans le remuant Ganas de vivir, Ismaël Mouaraki passe par le hip-hop contemporain le 9 pour évoquer l’évolution de l’humanité dans Futur proche.
 
Hors réseau, le mois est aussi très riche. Avec El 12, Myriam Allard et Hedi «el moro» Graja actualisent le flamenco avec audace à la Cinquième Salle jusqu’au 13. Le 6, Aline Apostolska poursuit ses grands entretiens avec Hélène Blackburn à l’Agora tandis que Virginie Brunelle y va de Foutrement, une étude sur l’adultère, au Théâtre La Chapelle du 6 au 10. Du 7 au 11, les Brésiliens de Grupo Corpo investissent le Théâtre Maisonneuve avec deux œuvres aussi dynamiques que contrastées et l’Usine C nous donne à découvrir la danse-théâtre du Nature Theater of Oklahoma du 15 au 17.
 
— Fabienne Cabado

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