Water Passion

WaterPassion-v3Tan Dun’s Water Passion After St. Matthew, given last night by Soundstreams at Trinity St. Paul’s is very Tan Dun.  The work is in nine movements and scored for chorus, soprano and bass-baritone soloists, violin, cello, electronics and lots of percussion.  And bowls of water and rocks.  The texts broadly follow the Passion story finishing with a final Resurrection movement in which water is the symbol of rebirth, recycling and spiritual completeness.  There are also ritual elements.  Bowls of water laid out in a cruciform pattern are lit from beneath.  The musicians change position and the players, especially the percussionists, perform hieratic gestures with the water bowls and their contents.  It also involves a complex and dramatic lighting plot.

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Hausmusik

Hausmusik is Tafelmusik’s less formal concert series.  It’s not exactly a concert; more an “event”.  Last night director Alaina Viau mixed music (woodwind trio, harpsichord, soprano (Ellen McAteer) and electronics from SlowPitchSound) with film projections by Darren Bryant and dance by Libydo to create quite a varied series of effects but all, musically, (just about) within the range one would expect from Tafelmusik.

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LooseTEA’s Carmen

Last night LooseTEA Theatre presented a work-in-progress version of their reimagined Carmen.  Director and librettist Alaina Viau promised a “a radically envisioned” Carmen and she wasn’t kidding.  Apart from the fact that Ricardo (Escamilio) and John Anderson (Don José) are rivals for Carmen’s affections and there’s a woman, Michaela, with a prior attachment to John and, of course, that John kills Carmen there’s not a whole lot left of Mérimée’s story.  We are in Toronto.  John is a vet suffering from PTSD who has left his wife (Michaela) and kids.  Carmen manages a bar but is about to open her own place with the help of investment banker Ricardo.  She comes across as an everyday working girl rather than someone whose life is a serial process of picking up and discarding men.  Episodes that fit the big numbers of the score are quite cleverly crafted together to weave a narrative that works but rather relies on John’s PTSD to explain the two murders.  Woven into the opera are videos by Darren Bryant that contain some of the characters’ back stories.  Music is a mix of a conventional keyboard reduction played by Natasha Fransblow and live electronics from sound artist SlowPitchSound.  The use of electronics brings a grittiness that feels like an essential way of undermining the “prettiness” of the score.  Running around 55 minutes all told it feels a bit episodic and I hope (and expect) that the final version will seem more continuous.  Certainly there’s already more than just the basis for a very interesting piece of music theatre.

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