Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Salomé a bit of a let down.

We saw the COC's production of Strauss' Salomé last night and were, on the whole, disappointed. The singing was fabulous, and I particularly Alan Held's Jochanaan (John the Baptist) and Erika Sunnegardh in the role of Salomé. But one expects great voices and orchestral accompaniment from this company.

What didn't work for me, surprisingly, was the direction. I normally like pretty much anything that comes through the hands of Atom Egoyan, both his films and his plays. This was my first time seeing this opera and I kind of didn't get it, I guess. There was a mixture of business suits and Roman attire. A very stark set. Projected images that, while interesting, seemed dated. It was all very...eclectic.

Now, it's not the modernity that did me in. I loved Peter Sellars' production of Tristan und Isolde earlier in the season. I'm a relatively new opera goer of only a handful of years. Perhaps I'm just starting to find my bearings.

Photos: Canadian Opera Company

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Is that Benedict Cumberbatch?"

Sitting in a screening of Atonement last night, Dorothy leans over to me and whispers those words. It had been a while since I'd seen the film and, sure enough, there he is in the role of soon-to-be-known as bad-boy  Peter Marshall, chocolate tycoon. I'm terrible at recognizing faces and, with the little reddish moustache, it probably would have taken me a while to figure out why he looked familiar.

But the entire screening was like seeing the film for the first time. We were at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the Books on Film series and I had dutifully read Ian McEwen's novel in the days before the screening. I guess that's the point of the series: to understand how books are made into films.

To assist the audience, the screenwriter for the film Christopher Hampton had been invited to join interviewer Eleanor Wachtel on stage after the screening. As you may be aware, it is not obvious who the narrator is until the end of the novel, where there is a surprise regarding the veracity of certain scenes near the end. Hampton's first draft of the screenplay began with this end. When the director was switched out and Joe Wright took over, he asked Hampton why he had chosen to do this, and on subsequent rewrites, the screenplay switched back to follow the narrative line of the novel more closely.

One other large change between the novel and the film was that final scene. Originally set in the the Tallis home, which has been turned into a hotel, the narrator returns there for a birthday party and upon retiring for the evening, she writes the final section of the book and the truth is revealed. It's a very interior scene and likely would have been difficult to film without the use of voice-over, which Hampton was dead set against. Instead, the scene is shot with the narrator being interviewed on a television talk show, permitting the final revelation to happen more naturally.

I am trying not to give away too much about the novel which, if you haven't read it, would make an excellent summer read. The first half is set in an English country home in a hot, sultry season. Kiera Knightly should get an award for best scene in a bathing cap.

The final novels in this series are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitzby Moredecai Richler, with guest director Ted Kotcheff (June 3. I'm hoping it will present a print of the restored master) and Midnight's Childrenby Salman Rushdie, with guest director Deepa Mehta (June 24).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday choral report

Circumstances only permitted a half hour rehearsal this morning, but our music went reasonably well.

During the Offertory we sang Josquin's Ave Maria, presented below by the Tallis Scholars. (My email subscribers may not be getting the embedded video. If you'd like to see it, go to the link to my blog at the end of the email.)

During Communion, we presented Jesu Dulcis Memoria, sung here by the Cambridge Singers.

We were rather short of male singers this morning, with only one bass and two tenors, one of them a substitute for our cantor, but I think we managed to pull it off with our organist singing whichever male part needed him.

I spent a lazy afternoon, finishing up another read-through of Atonementby Ian McEwan in preparation for the screening tomorrow at TIFF, part of the Books on Film series. Playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton will be there for an interview with Eleanor Wachtel after the screening. The novel is so layered with emotion (or lack thereof) that it was perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon on the porch.

It will be a busy week. Besides the screening, we are seeing two operas at the COC (Tuesday and Wednesday evenings) and then Michael's final music concert of high school on Thursday,where he will be featured playing a tuba concerto composed by another student at the school.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1.  Michael and I attended Bésame Ópera last evening, presented by Opera 5, a small group of young singers. Presented at Gallery 345, they staged two Spanish operas, El Retablo de Maese Pedro by Manuel de Fallo and Goyescas by Enrique Granados.  Opera 5 wants to bring opera back to the masses:
  2. When opera was developed it was meant to combine all art forms and we intend to push that to the limit by combining opera with any and every distinct art form such as dance, photography, visual art, performance art, creative writing, and even culinary arts by showcasing new talent in each medium. (About Opera 5 
    Last night's production included shadow puppets in the first half, sangria and tuna ceviche at the break, and some beautiful visual effects involving wardrobe in the second half. The cast was superb, with the only difficulties being the sightlines in the small-ish space. I will definitely be back for next season.  
  3. I have failed miserably at getting to anything at HotDocs this week. I went down to try to get a same day ticket for Rent a Family Inc on Tuesday but they only had rush tickets and I was there two hours in advance. I decided not to wait around and risk not getting in. Yesterdays pick was bumping up against the opera. So I need to get better organized next year.
  4. I wandered into Belle de Provence yesterday when I was on my dress-hunting expedition. They sell scented soaps, candles, tableware, and other French loveliness. I adore liquid soap from France, even the inexpensive stuff. The scents are very natural, unlike North American products that all seem to have a chemical/not-made-in-nature smell. My in-laws bring Le Petit Marseillais brand soap in these funky earth-friendly tubes when they visit, and when I run out, I get a supply of a similar product in large bottles at Winners (1L of liquid soap for 9.99), which is WAY less expensive than what I saw in the shop. I suspect that the packaging changed, or something. If you see a gal in the bath products section at Winners sniffing all the bottles, it's probably me.
  5. We're off to an engagement party this evening, but if we weren't, I'd be joining Michael at Baroque Idol with the Aradia Chamber Ensemble at the Music Gallery. Young composers have been invited to submit works for the baroque ensemble and then the audience gets to vote. The winning composer gets a commission.
  6. My new to-list app for iphone is kicking my butt. It's the gamification of personal productivity. Check it out.
  7. It was HOT outside today.
  8. We're seeing two operas next week at the COC. Because of Z's travel schedule, we had to switch around some dates, which left us with Strauss' Salome (directed by Atom Egoyan) on Tuesday and Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc) on Wednesday. 
Thanks for dropping by! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gatsby Mania

Who's not excited about the upcoming Baz Luhrmann extravaganza that will be The Great Gatsby, brought once again to film?

I wandered up to a local mall to find a dress for an event tomorrow night (last minute, I know!) and caught sight of some of the marketing spin happening around the premiere.

Chapters had a display that included two different editions of the book plus some others set in the same period or with the same theme  (Rules of Civilityby Amor Towles, Bright Lights, Big Cityby Jay McInerney, The Emperor's Childrenby Claire Messud, Call Me Zeldaby Erika Robuck.)

Over at Brooks Brothers, two of their windows had been thus styled:

I've read the novel a few times and understood more with each reading. I'm very much looking forward to the film, and won't be at all disappointed if it doesn't replicate the book (as no film really can). I enjoy Luhrmann's visual excess so it cannot really disappoint.