Parlando: The COC Blog

12/19/2014

Broadsheet Music: A Year in Review

 
Mark down 2014 as the year the Canadian Opera Company put out an album with Broken Social Scene and Fucked Up. No, really. Broadsheet Music: A Year in Review is a collaborative effort between the The Globe and Mail and renowned record label Arts & Crafts, with the COC as a presenting partner, to create a diverse mix of songs based on the big issues and stories that effected the lives of Canadians this past year. These songs are collected in a free album featuring original songs created by diverse artists including celebrated indie collective Broken Social Scene, Polaris Music Prize winning hardcore punk band Fucked Up, Calgary’s Reuben And The Dark, and songstress Tamara Williamson, among others.

Topics explored in this unique project include missing aboriginal women in Western Canada, the divisive battle for Jerusalem, sexual violence and a culture of silence, and the loss of comic Robin Williams. The project comes to life in audio, video, photography and editorial, with elements featured both online at globeandmail.com as well as in print. The album is made available as a free download for a limited time from Arts & Crafts.

Broadsheet Music bucks the trend of traditional year-end best-of lists in a massive and meaningful way,” said Jared Bland, Arts Editor of The Globe and Mail. “Together with our project partner Arts & Crafts and presenting partner Canadian Opera Company (COC), our goal was to commission a peerless collection of timeless songs, built by musical peers in a crystallized time. It is our gift to our readers, and the fans of these diverse and extraordinarily talented Canadian artists.”

Working in collaboration with Arts & Crafts and music director Charles Spearin (Do Make Say Think, Broken Social Scene), a collection of unique Canadian artists assembled in late fall to create distinctive and impactful songs. You can hear the COC Ensemble Studio’s own Karine Boucher and Owen McCausland on Fucked Up’s song, “Voce Rubata”, a seventeen-minute Italian opera in six acts looking at the misleading illusions of liberty and the voice.

“We are honoured to partner with The Globe on this ambitious and creative idea,” said Jonathan Shedletzky, Project Manager of Arts & Crafts. “The project provided the opportunity for a diverse collection of our artists to collaborate on the creation of meaningful and challenging pieces.”

This collaborative effort resulted in a 38-minute album of six songs covering a breadth of topics vital to our country and our time:

  • ● Reclamation and human accountability – “Golden Facelift” – Broken Social Scene

  • ● Missing aboriginal women in Western Canada – “Red River” – Reuben And The Dark

  • ● Sexual violence and a culture of silence – “The Next One” – Tamara Williamson and Absolutely Free

  • ● The misleading illusions of liberty and the voice – “Voce Rubata” – Fucked Up

  • ● Exploring the divisive battle in the Mid-East – “Jerusalem” – Jason Collett and Zeus

  • ● Ode to one of our era’s most affective comedians – “No Doubt Or Fire” – Brendan Canning


Visit tgam.ca/broadsheet to listen to Broadsheet Music: A Year in Review and read related content.

Image Credit: The Globe and Mail

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12/16/2014

Don Giovanni – The Work of Two Geniuses

By Ian Kyer

Don Giovanni is considered one of the greatest operas of all time. The French composer Charles Gounod referred to is as “that unequalled and immortal masterpiece.” Virtually all of the lavish praise bestowed on this masterpiece is for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, its composer, but Don Giovanni is the work of two creative geniuses, not just one. The librettist Lorenzo da Ponte often does not get his fair share of the credit for this work. Da Ponte was quite a character. He was a fallen cleric, a womanizer and a gambler who regularly wore out his welcome in the cities where he worked (a character not unlike Don Giovanni himself). But there can be no doubt that he knew how to write for the opera. His other work for Mozart included The Marriage of Figaro and Così fan tutte.  

Da Ponte’s achievement with Don Giovanni is all the more amazing when you learn in his memoirs that he wrote its libretto at the same time as he wrote librettos for Vincente Martin y Soler’s L’arbore di Diana and Antonio Salieri’s Axur, Re d’Ormus – all three were hits at the time. In fact, they were all so successful that da Ponte would later wonder which was “the most perfect in words and music.” Like life itself they were a mixture of happiness and sadness, tragedy and comedy. 

Selections from L’Abore d’Diana from Gran Teatre del Liceu

 

How da Ponte carried off this triple play gives us an insight into his genius. He did not conceive of these stories afresh. In each case he built on the work of others. For Don Giovanni he started with a libretto by Giovanni Bertati that had been set to music not long before by Giuseppe Gazzaniga. Da Ponte, however, did not copy Bertati’s work. He refined, improved, shaped and focused it.

His skill and sense of musical theatre is clearly demonstrated in how he turned Tarare, a French opera with libretto by Beaumarchais and music by Salieri, into one of the most popular operas of the day, Axur, Re d’Ormus. He and Salieri realized that Beaumarchais’ approach would not suit the Austrian Emperor and the operagoers in Vienna – it was just too sparse for their taste. So they set out to adapt the words and the music for Viennese audiences. The original French version of the opera, for example, began badly. The opening was flat and did not capture the interest of the audience. Beaumarchais began his work with a prologue, followed by a dialogue in recitative. There was no drama. Da Ponte dropped the French opera’s dull prologue and began his Italian version for Vienna with a lovers’ duet, which served as an introduction to the returning war hero and his soon-to-be-abducted wife. This touching duet was followed by the wife’s musical declaration of her love culminating in a further duet thereby setting the stage in a far more appealing and dramatic fashion. That was the creative genius of da Ponte and that is what he brought to Don Giovanni.

Overture to Axur Re d’Ormus

 

By the way, da Ponte’s attempt to write all three operas simultaneously was not entirely successful. It was then customary for the composer and the librettist to work together on a new opera almost up to the time when the curtain was raised. It was a collaborative effort, important to the successful opening. The problem was that Don Giovanni was being staged in Prague. Da Ponte went off with Mozart to Prague only to be called back to Vienna days before Don Giovanni was to be debuted. The premiere of Axur, Re d’Ormus had been moved up in Vienna because of a royal visit, and Salieri, as the Imperial Kapellmeister, had first rights to da Ponte’s services as the Court Poet. This was one of the cruel “tricks” that Salieri was said to have played on his rival Mozart. If, however, there was anyone to blame, it was the three-timing librettist. Even da Ponte with his theatrical genius could not be in two places at once.


In June 2008, the COC presented Giuseppe Gazzaniga’s rarely-seen Don Giovanni (on which da Ponte based his libretto), performed by its Ensemble Studio members.

 

COC Ensemble Studio members Melinda Delorme as Donna Elvira and Jon-Paul Décosse as Pasquariello in Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni, 2008.

COC Ensemble Studio members Lisa DiMaria as Maturina and Adam Luther as Don Giovanni in Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni, 2008. Photos by Michael Cooper.

For more information about the COC's upcoming production of Don Giovanni in 2015, visit here.


Ian Kyer is the author of the novel, Damaging Winds about Antonio Salieri (ePub file available here). You can also listen to him as a guest on the National Arts Centre podcasts.

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12/12/2014

Honeybee Update

 

The honeybees that live on the roof of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts have a great view, but they’re probably too busy to notice it. Beekeeper Fred Davis reports that about 150 pounds of honey have been collected so far from the Four Seasons Centre hives. One thing he’s noticed is that the honey that has been produced this year is darker and this indicates that it's gathered more from flowering trees and bushes and less from flowers. This same darker honey is being gathered from other downtown Toronto hives as well. 

Darker honey is very flavourful and Fred finds that it tends to have more body than the lighter honey he gathers from some of his other hives. Some say that the health benefits of the darker honey made from the nectar of flowering trees is greater than honey that comes from wildflowers.

The honey is being bottled and will be ready for sale at the Four Seasons Centre bars sometime in the new year.

A big thank you to Fred, and the honeybees!


Photo courtesy of Fred Davis

Posted by Kiersten Hay / in FSCPA Honeybees / comments (0) / permalink

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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001