Toronto Consort’s Sunday afternoon performance of Giasone (Jason) by Francesco Cavalli at the Trinity St. Paul Centre— of one of the most popular operas of the mid-17th century—reminded me of all the reasons why music from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque period are anything but boring.
There is often an impression that the older a piece of music it is, the stuffier the performers on stage, and likewise the audiences. While the crowd for a Sunday afternoon was older, they were not too stiff to have a laugh at some of the more politically incorrect and impossible situations that the characters find themselves in.
The opening of Act I featured the charismatic Kevin Skelton and amiable Katherine Hill in the heavens as the Sun and Cupid, the former declaring that fate had written in its books that Giasone was destined to marry his grand-daughter Medea, while Cupid firmly declares that no love can be sealed without her approval.
For the rest of the first Act, we dig deeper into the psyches and motivations of various characters, which are probably quite naïve by the standards of any era, but it makes way for the beautiful voices to develop the drama.
Laura Pudwell was a pleasure to hear in the title role of the love-struck but valiant Giasone (originally intended for an alto castrato; a mature man with an unchanged voice) as was Michele DeBoer in the role of Medea, who has a famous incantation scene in this work where she conjures up the underworld to grant her a weapon that will protect Giasone during his battle to claim the Golden Fleece.
Kevin Skelton has a winning charm that won my sympathy in his role as Aegeus, who suffers from unrequited love from Medea. Vicki St. Pierre and John Pepper were also superb in their supporting roles as Delfa (Medea’s nurse) and Bessus (respectively. Paul Oros as Orestes, Hypsipyle’s servant, was also endearing.
Despite the concert format of this performance, there was stand-out theatrical and vocal work by Katherine Hill in her role as Hypsipyle, the mother of twins by Giasone, whom he had abandoned on Lemnos. Another outstanding performance was the comedic work by Bud Roach (who also played baroque guitar in the ensemble) in the role of Demo, a stuttering hunchback that serves Aegeus, who certainly won the audiences’ affection.
Davis Fallis on organ and harpsichord lead the ensemble of multi-instrumentalist of the early music variety, with Christopher Verrette and Patricia Ahern on violin, Lucas on theorbo, Terry McKenna on baroque guitar and theorbo, Justin Haynes on viola da gamba, Paul Jenkins on harpsichord, and Alison Melville and Colin Savage on recorder.
Beautiful voices, evocative music, and a great story, is a formula that never gets old, and has resulted in a solid following of early music ensembles in the city. There is such a large repertoire of fascinating narratives that connects with audiences of any age because it’s about the human condition, something that afflicts us all.
Founded in 1972 and currently under the artistic direction of David Fallis, Toronto Consort already has plans to present a fully staged production of a master piece from the middle ages, The Play of Daniel. Their 2014-2015 promises some delightful programs that will take you on a historical tour of Europe, as only by experiencing the music of the times can.
More details on this performance can be found here.
More details on their 2014-2015 season here
is the founder of BeMused Network