I spoke earlier today with Lucia Cesaroni and Adrian Kramer (via Skype to the west coast where Lucia is appearing with Pacific Opera Victoria) about their upcoming “recital” Extensions of Us; Melody and Movement at the Extension Room on November 13th. It’s pretty much received wisdom that in Toronto the traditional art song recital is dying or maybe already dead. Certainly audiences have declined and the format seems unable to draw the younger audience, even of opera goers. I asked Lucia and Adrian about the motivation and inspiration for their show and also asked them to tell me a little more about what we are going to see and hear.
The show will feature dancer/choreographer Jennifer Nicholls and her partner Justin Bernardi “mirroring” the singers in movement and dance and Maika’i Nash on the piano. There is quite a complex motivational dynamic driving the format and content of the show. On the one hand both Adrian and Lucia have a strong wish to do more work with dancers and dance. They also want to explore their Italian heritage and sing more of the music they get asked about by friends and family (one might not guess it but Adrian has Italian roots too). Fun and accessibility (both material and atmosphere) are big motivators too so the programme will mix up the familiar and the less familiar (with a particular desire to present some material that will be very familiar to people of Italian background) and be quite informal (there will be a bar with a realistic possibility of decent beer as Amsterdam is sponsoring!) So, a positive desire to present something more engaging, more intimate and more Italian. They also expressed some frustration with the traditional recital format. (They are both quite experienced recitalists). They see the format as staid, a bit stuffy and lacking audience engagement. Adrian mentioned the frustration of seeing the audience all heads down in their translation of the song being sung and the dreaded page turning sound! For this show there will be surtitles; not a word for word translation but a summary, in the hope that will help the audience focus on the performers.
We talked quite a bit about outreach, younger audiences and the Italian community too. I’d never really thought about it before but the Italian community (very large in and around Toronto) isn’t much of a presence in the classical music world unlike, say, the Russians or Austrians who aren’t as numerous. Lucia’s take is that the Italian community, especially in the 905, sees opera as a stuffy, downtown WASPish club and consequently stays away. She has plans to take more work out to venues in the ‘burbs and target that demographic through smart marketing. The choice of material for Extensions of Us explicitly looks to attract this group too. We also talked about the potential crossovers between the dance and vocal music audiences, especially in the younger demographic. It’s an interesting challenge and may best be attacked at the indie project level as deep seated and long standing Toronto cultural politics make co-operation at major company level fairly unlikely.
So, two young singers trying to blend fun, accessibility and carefully targeted marketing in another of the many attempts in Toronto to bring a new vitality to the opera/vocal music scene. I’m all for it.
Here’s the full line up for Extensions of Us:
(Lucia) Son pochi fiori – from L’Amico Fritz by Mascagni
(Duet) The Cherry Duet – from L’Amico Fritz by Mascagni
(Mai, Jenn, Justin) Traumerei – by Schumann
(Adrian) Core ‘Ngrato
(Duet) Un di felice – from La Traviata by Verdi
(Lucia) E strano…Ah forse lui…Sempre libera! – from La Traviata by Verdi
(Adrian) De miei bollenti spiriti – from La Traviata by Verdi
(Duet) Rejoice, beloved – from The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky
(Mai, Jenn) Variations for the Healing of Arinushka – by Arvo Part
(Lucia) La Dame de Monte Carlo – by Poulenc
(Mai, Jenn, Justin) La Séparation – Nocturne in F by Glinka
(ALL) Dance at the Gym – from West Side Story by Bernstein
(Duet) One hand one heart – from West Side Story by Bernstein
(Adrian) Maria – from West Side Story by Bernstein
(Duet) Tonight – from West Side Story by Bernstein
Full details on timing tickets etc on the poster below: