Seven Sins at the Symphony

Last night’s Decades series concert featured three works from the 1930s plus a sesqui.  The sesqui, Andrew Balfour’s Kiwetin-acahkos; Fanfare for the Peoples of the North was definitely one of the more interesting of these short pieces.  There were elements of minimalism combined with a nod to Cree/Métis fiddle music.  Quite complex and enjoyable.  It was followed by Barber’s rather bleak Adagio for Strings and the Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.  It’s familiar enough fare and was well played by the orchestra under Peter Oundjian.  I particularly enjoyed some of the weird percussion/celesta effects in the third movement of the Bartók.  But really I was there for the second half of the program.

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Yes, it was the long awaited Weill Die sieben Todsünden presented in a semi staged form directed by Joel Ivany and with choreography by Jenn Nichols.  There was no set.  The action took place on the stage apron in front of the orchestra with the male soloists commuting from seats in the audience.  There were video projections on two screen high above the stage which were also used for the English surtitles.  Something close to the full orchestra was used which provides a different orchestral sound to smaller venue versions of this piece I have seen.  They were good but I’m not sure I don’t prefer something grittier, notwithstanding that that wouldn’t work at Roy Thomson.

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Anna I and Anna II were sung/danced by Wallis Giunta and Jenn Nichols.  It was a very effective combination.  Wally managed to get enough cabaret inflection into her singing while pushing out enough sound to carry over full orchestra in a notoriously difficult hall.  I think she sounded more mezzoish, smokier, than previous times I’ve heard her.  I liked it a lot.  Jenn, dancing en pointe, combined classical and modern styles to good effect.  As a choreographer she clearly knows how to make the most of her tall, lean frame and she executed beautifully.  The quartet of men; tenors Owen McCausland and Isaiah Bell and baritones Geoff Sirett and Stephen Hegedus were very effective individually and collectively though the ensembles did tend to get muddied up (it’s RTH!).  Joel and Jenn provided plenty of opportunity for the singers to be involved in the movement and dance and they all coped more than adequately.

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In the last few years there has been a lot of experimentation in Toronto with staging/choreographing choral works and art song.  Joel and Jenn have been central to that and it’s pretty clear that one result is a cadre of singers who are very comfortable performing that way.  This was a really integrated, effective show with none of the awkwardness of the TSO’s staged Mozart Requiem.  All in all, one of the best things I have seen the TSO do.

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2 thoughts on “Seven Sins at the Symphony

  1. The performers in the Weill were all mic’ed which surprised me. I wouldn’t have thought the amount of movement would have required it.

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