La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 23 January 2016

TSO's Semi-staged Mozart Requiem Brings the Divine to the Human Level

Semi-staged Mozart Requiem Brings Grieving and Loss to the Human Level

~ Joseph So

Mozart: Requiem

Lydia Teuscher, soprano / Allyson McHardy, mezzo / Frederic Antoun, tenor / Philippe Sly, bass-baritone
Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers / Lydia Adams, conductor
Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Bernard Labadie, conductor
Joel Ivany, stage director
Roy Thomson Hall, Friday 7:30 p.m. January 22, 2016

Mozart's Requiem Mass, his last (and unfinished) creation, is arguably his greatest. No matter how many times I've heard this piece, I never get tired of it.  A ticket to this semi-staged version put on by the TSO wasn't so easy, as all three performances were sold out, a rare occurrence in Toronto. Thanks to the good graces of their press department, I was able to experience it - and what an experience it was.  I admit to being a bit of an 'old guard', a traditionalist at heart. But I'd like to think that I'm not so old as to reject all re-imaginings of the standard repertoire. When a new interpretation speaks to me, I do find that it can be a revelation.

(l. to r.) Lydia Adams, Joel Ivany, Bernard Labadie (Photo: Joseph So)

The stage director for this show is Against the Grain Theatre Artistic Director Joel Ivany, whose work I am familiar with, having seen most of his creations.  Whether one agrees with him or not, he always has something interesting to say. Given that the Latin text of the Requiem Mass doesn't really have a strong narrative structure, Ivany wisely chooses to focus on the emotional and  the personal.  
His staging is simple - no costumes or props, only a little white card written with the name of a loved one whom the card carrier is mourning. It begins with an empty stage. When the choir, orchestra musicians and soloists stream onstage from the auditorium, they put their cards on a low platform on either sides of the stage.  I was fortunate to have a seat on the side up front so I could see all the details. At one point, I saw a choir member tenderly touched the name written on her card before putting it down. That seemingly insignificant yet powerful gesture moved me very deeply. It symbolizes for me what makes us human, our ability to grief, to mourn, and to remember. The relatively simple staging brings this divine piece of music down to the human and personal level.

Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers; TSO Chamber Orchestra (Photo: Joseph So)

There were quite a lot of movements and gesturing by the choir during the performance, all meant to illuminate the text. There was a fly in the ointment - if we had all committed the text to memory, it would have made the movements and gestures more meaningful. That is obviously asking the impossible from the audience. Unfortunately, no text was printed in the program, but given the very low lighting, it wouldn't have helped. Projected titles would have been a compromised solution. But even without the text, one gets a general idea what Ivany is trying to say with his direction. His staging brings this work down to a human level for me. And I'd like to think also for each member of the audience and for the performers themselves. It makes us reflect on the personal losses in our lives. Loss and mourning are necessarily individual and private, yet it's also a collective experience. We share in our grief, we can empathize with each other. Empathy is one of the most precious qualities of being human. 

(l. to r.) Jonathan Crow, Joel Ivany, Bernard Labadie (Photo: Joseph So)

I was struck by the total absence of religious symbolism in the staging. To me, this says that loss and the act of grieving are not tied to any organized religion. It is collective, but on the human level. Throughout the piece, I found myself more moved than I'd thought I would. No, not all the staging touches worked for me - perhaps if I had been more familiar with the liturgical text, the gesticulating of the choir members would have had more meaning for me.  Occasionally some movements or stage noises were distracting, but overall the experience resonated with me, much helped by the expert lighting of Kevin Lamotte.  A few times the ceiling was illuminated, giving it a quasi-religious feel. But it was a bit ironic that the ceiling structure resembled more a spaceship than any Judeo-Christian symbols!   

(l. to r.) Lydia Teuscher, Allyson McHardy, Frederic Antoun, Philippe Sly (Photo: Joseph So)

Musically, it was a near-transcendent performance to my ears. With Bernard Labadie, his expansive, unhurried tempo brought out fully the inherent lyricism and spiritual depth, never heavy or leaden but fluid, with the right balance of urgency and repose.  The clarinet quintet that opened the performance was really wonderfully played. I am not a huge chamber fan, but I was thinking how lovely - and appropriate - the music was for the staging at that moment. The Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers under Lydia Adams provided the fervent choral forces needed. In a few spots there were some sign of strain, lacking ideal blending in the voices, a situation where a larger number of voices would have helped. But over all I thought the Choir did remarkably well, especially from memory! The four soloists were superb. German soprano Lydia Teuscher was last in Toronto in a Messiah, if memory serves. Her pure, angelic soprano was an absolute joy. The three Canadians were equally amazing. Allyson McHardy's low mezzo lent solidity and depth to her music; tenor Frederic Antoun brought to his lines uncommon Mozartian grace. Bass-baritone Philippe Sly was awesome in the low notes in his first solo lines, and he sang magnificently. Overall, a wonderfully balanced group of soloists, in a performance that will stay in memory for a long time. 

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Monday, 18 January 2016

La mélodie préférée de Bruno Laplante

Notre sondage ‘La prochaine grande mélodie’ se poursuit! Votez au Le baryton Bruno Laplante nous partage ses choix ci-dessous.

Le texte de la mélodie est sublimé par la musique de Duparc, la simplicité du verbe, une seule phrase, « mort exquise, mort parfumée du souffle de la Bien-Aimée » nous est transmise comme si nous recevions nous-mêmes ce souffle, en direct. Comment ne voudrait-on pas mourir d'amour ainsi avec le poète et le musicien ? Aimer, tout est tellement simple, naturel, semble nous dire le grand Duparc !!

« Mes vers fuiraient, doux et frêles,
Vers votre jardin si beau,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Des ailes comme l'oiseau.

Ils voleraient, étincelles,
Vers votre foyer qui rit,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Des ailes comme l'esprit.

Près de vous, purs et fidèles,
Ils accourraient, nuit et jour,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Des ailes comme l'amour ! »

« Heil'ge Nacht, du sinkest nieder;
Nieder wallen auch die Träume 
Wie dein [Licht]1 durch die Räume, 
[Lieblich durch der Menschen Brust]
Die belauschen sie mit Lust; 
Rufen, wenn der Tag erwacht: 
Kehre wieder, heil'ge Nacht! 
Holde Träume, kehret wieder! »

« Sainte nuit ton ombre gagne,
Avec toi se lévent les rêves,
Comme ton clair de lune sur le monde, 
illuminant les cœurs apaisés des hommes. 
Ils s'en bercent avec délice 
Et s'angoissent du lever du jour. 
Reviens, Sainte Nuit, 
Revenez doux rèves. »

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Cette semaine à Montréal (18 à 24 janvier) / This Week in Montreal (January 18–24)

Série hommage à John Rea / John Rea Homage Series

La programmation audacieuse conçue autour de la musique du compositeur offre des concerts aux influences musicales variées.

Avec La chèvre de M. Rea, les musiciens du quatuor de saxophones Quasar s’aventurent dans la création de trois nouvelles œuvres de Macnab-Séguin, Koch et Nurulla-Khoja, en plus de deux titres de Rea. Église du Gesù, 21 janvier, 20 h.

L’Ensemble Transmission et le saxophoniste improvisateur Jean Derome nous présentent un John Rea hétéroclite à travers trois de ses œuvres. Ils complètent le programme Les blues d’Orphée avec une œuvre de Simon Bertrand, à la mémoire de Claude Vivier. Salle Tanna Schulich, 23 janvier, 15 h.
John Rea, La Scena Musicale

The SMCQ's audacious programming planned around the music of John Rea includes concerts with various musical influences.

With La chèvre de Monsieur Rea, the musicians of the saxophone quartet Quasar dive into the premieres of three new works by Macnab-Séguin, Koch, and Nurulla-Khoja, as well as two Rea pieces. Centre Gesù, January 21, 8 pm.

The Ensemble Transmission and improv saxophonist Jean Derome present an assortment of three diverse new John Rea works. They round out the concert program Les blues d'Orphée with a work by Simon Bertrand in memory of Claude Vivier. Tanna Schulich Hall, January 23, 3 pm.

Alexandre Tharaud en deux concerts / Two Concerts with Alexandre Tharaud

La Fondation Arte Musica a invité le pianiste Alexandre Tharaud à participer à deux concerts consacrés chacun à un compositeur différent. Le premier programme présente des œuvres de Schubert. Le violoncelliste Stéphane Tétreault se joint à Alexandre Tharaud pour interpréter la Sonate en la mineur pour arpeggione et piano. Le clarinettiste Antonin Cuerrier et la pianiste Meagan Milatz apporteront leur concours pour compléter le programme avec un trio et un quatuor. Salle Bourgie, 20 janvier, 19 h 30.

Intitulé Érik Satie le visionnaire, le second programme commémore le 150e anniversaire de naissance du compositeur. Il trace un portrait de Satie en différentes facettes : œuvres pour piano seul, mélodies et lecture de textes. Alexandre Tharaud sera en compagnie du ténor Jean Delescluse et du comédien Daniel Brière. Salle Bourgie, 21 janvier, 19 h 30.
Stéphane Tétreault, La Scena Musicale

The Arte Musica Foundation has invited pianist Alexandre Tharaud to participate in two concerts, each dedicated to a different composer. The first program features works by Schubert. Cellist Stéphane Tétreault will join Tharaud for the Sonata in A minor for Arpeggione and Piano, while clarinettist Antonin Cuerrier and pianist Meagan Milatz will join forces for a trio and quartet. Salle Bourgie, January 20, 7:30 pm.

The second program, titled Erik Satie the Visionary, commemorates the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. It traces a multi-faceted portrait of Satie including works for solo piano, art songs, and text recitation. Alexandre Tharaud will perform with tenor Jean Delescluse and actor Daniel Brière. Bourgie Hall, January 21, 7:30 pm.

Bruckner et Stravinski à l'Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste / Bruckner and Stravinsky at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church

Directeur artistique du Chœur classique de Montréal, Louis Lavigueur a choisi de rompre avec le style des précédents concerts qui présentaient des œuvres classiques avec orchestre symphonique. Ce programme, en collaboration avec l’Ensemble Sinfonia de Montréal, réunira donc deux compositions de facture plus moderne : la Messe en mi mineur de Bruckner et la Symphonie des Psaumes de Stravinski. Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste, 23 janvier, 19 h 30.


Louis Lavigeur, artistic director of the Montreal Classical Choir, has decided to break with the style of previous concerts, which presented classical works with symphonic orchestra. This program, in collaboration with Ensemble Sinfonia de Montréal, will bring together two compositions in a more modern mold: Bruckner’s Mass in E-minor and Stravinski’s Symphony of Psalms. Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church, January 23, 7:30.

Cet hiver au Théâtre Outremont / This Winter at Outremont Theatre

Le Théâtre Outremont, devenu en 2015 le premier théâtre municipal de l’histoire de Montréal, a maintenant une vocation artistique variée incluant cinéma, danse, musique et théâtre. Il vise à favoriser la ­participation du public montréalais à la vie culturelle, incluant le public jeunesse. Plusieurs spectacles seront à l’affiche en décembre et janvier.

Le 20 janvier, le groupe ukrainien Dakhabrakha promet un spectacle à la croisée de la musique folklorique et du théâtre.

Du 20 au 23 janvier, les nostalgiques pourront apprécier Les années Cat Stevens grâce à un trio hommage composé des musiciens Pierre Trépanier, Martin Lessard et Alain Couture.


In 2015, the Outremont Theatre became the first municipal theater in Montreal's history, and it now has a varied artistic vocation including cinema, dance, music and theater. It aims to promote the Montreal public participation in cultural life, including public youth. Many shows will be at the theatre in December and January.

On January 20, the Ukrainian group Dakhabrakha promises a show at the crossroads of folk music and theater.

From January 20 to 23, nostalgics will appreciate Cat Stevens Years with a tribute composed of the trio of Pierre Trépanier, Alain Lessard and Martin Couture.

Concert-bénéfice pour les camps musicaux / Benefit Concerts for Music Camps

Un concert-bénéfice au profit du Camp Musical Père Lindsay et du Camp Musical des Laurentides aura lieu le 23 janvier ­prochain, 19 h 30 à la Cathédrale Christ Church. En vedette, une quinzaine de musiciens talentueux, parmi lesquels Frédéric Lambert et Frédéric Bednarz, du Quatuor Molinari, Claire Ouellet, pianiste membre d’Orford Six Pianos, Hubert Tanguay-Labrosse, clarinettiste et directeur musical de BOP et Lysianne Ménard, pianiste et comédienne que l’on a pu voir et entendre dans le film La Passion d’Augustine.

On entendra des œuvres de Respighi, Franck, Mozart, Sibelius, Vitali, Prokofiev, Chopin et Schumann. Le concert est ­organisé par le violoniste Alexandre Sheasby, récipiendaire de la Bourse d’excellence Yannick Nézet-Séguin-Camp Musical Père Lindsay 2015. ­


A benefit concert for the benefit of Father Lindsay Musical Camp and Camp Musical des Laurentides will be held on January 23, 7:30PM at Christ Church Cathedral. Featuring fifteen talented musicians, including Frédéric Lambert and Frédéric Bednarz, the Molinari Quartet, Claire Ouellet, pianist Orford Six Pianos member, Hubert Tanguay-Labrosse, clarinet and music director of BOP, and Lysianne Ménard, pianist and actress, we will see and hear the movie La Passion d’Augustine.

We will hear works by Respighi, Franck, Mozart, Sibelius, Vitali, Prokofiev, Chopin and Schumann. The concert is organized by violinist Alexandre Sheasby, recipient of the Excellence Scholarship Yannick Nézet-Séguin-Camp Musical Father Lindsay 2015.

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