DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Against The Grain Theatre Gets Hot And Bothered At Ottawa Chamberfest

By Michael Vincent on July 31, 2016

Miriam Khalil (Photo: Nikola Novak)
Miriam Khalil (Photo: Nikola Novak)

Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival

An Evening With Against The Grain Theatre at Dominion Chalmers, Saturday, July 30.

Ottawa — It has been a year since Against the Grain Theatre shook the opera fence with #UncleJohn in Ottawa last season, and Chamberfest concert goers have been thirsty for more from Toronto’s little opera company that could. AtG Artistic Director Joel Ivany was on hand last night to introduce a sneak preview of AtG’s creative pipeline. He confirmed A Little Too Cozy will be coming to Ottawa next summer, but until then, the holdover was a fascinating double-bill featuring Janáček’s rarely performed Song Cycle Diary of One Who Disappeared and Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre

Starting with Diary of One Who Disappeared, the song-cycle is composed of a series of Moravian poems in a diary which Janáček became obsessed with and set to music with a former flame in mind. Written just before he became an international celebrity, the Carmenesque tale centres on farm boy who falls in love with the flaring gipsy girl and leaves his home behind to follow her.

Lauren Segal’s agile tongue was totally at home with the notoriously difficult Czech text. Barefoot, she entered from the aisle and paused at the front church pews, to gaze upon her swaggered man, tenor Colin Ainsworth who stood rugged as a country hayseed with a top-knot.

While Ainsworth struggled with the Czech consonants and complicated diphthongs, he made up for the sloppy diction with the oomph of a baritone and the zing of tenor. Ainsworth’s acting ability, which has never been a strong suit for vocalists, was impressive throughout and proved to be a crucial part of the success of this mini-drama.

Backed by a rock-solid AtG’s Music Director Topher Mokrzewski at the piano, the dynamic between Segal and Ainsworth was entirely captivating. By the end, both singers ended up on the pulpit floor embraced in a steamy sex scene that was likely still warm for the for the Sunday sermon this morning. The act made sense in light of the emotional fire in the story but was risqué enough to make a few in the audience shift and shuffle in the pews.

While the Janáček was intriguing, the incredible was left to Golijov’s Ayre. The song cycle is a tour-de-force companion to Luciano Berio’s 1964 piece ‘Folk Songs’ and has a little of everything thrown in for good measure Content moves between Jewish, Arabic Sardinian, and Sephardic elements forming a loose yarn that at once, skips merrily along yet is deeply moving.

Performed by a team of 11 instrumentalists and sung front and centre by Miriam Khalil, one part featured Khalil brooding on tyrant barons erecting great walls, which could have been the latest headline about Donald Trump.

The performers were strong, especially NACO clarinettist Sean Rice, who unloaded a whaling solo that rivalled even the best Klezmer effort by Giora Feidman.

Though it was originally written for Soprano Dawn Upshaw, it might as well have been Khalil’s all along. In fact, this was the best I’ve ever heard it. Khalil carried the melodies to an entirely new place that tied together the amalgam, and the troupe became a band — the kind that you might imagine would roam the streets of Cairo with the best of them.

I suspect this project will be an important feature in the creative pipeline for AtG. It’s not opera, but the drama is there, and along with the quality and verve that we have come to expect from AtG, the music is fertile ground for a clever, young company on the rise.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and review before anyone else finds out? Get our exclusive newsletter here and follow us on Facebook for all the latest.

Michael Vincent
Follow me

Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent has worked as a senior editor for La Scena Musicale and web editor for Norman Lebrecht. On January 21, 2014, he went to lunch and left as the publisher of Musical Toronto. Later that year he found himself as a freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star, the former employer of his favourite author Ernest Hemingway. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
Follow me
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | COC's Ensemble Studio Preview Thrills With Surprise Guest

By Joseph So on September 15, 2017

Voice lovers gathered this week for an exclusive sneak-peak at the 2017 COC Ensemble Studio, complete with a surprise guest.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Wistful Music For The Waning Summer

By Norman Lebrecht on August 25, 2017

Another otherworldly disc for Norman Lebrecht, as its Mediterranean sensuality draws inspiration from a forgotten age.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

BANFF | Scaling New Heights For Classical Music: A Field Report From Banff Centre

By Jennifer Liu on September 1, 2017

Our field report of Banff Centre's cultural renaissance on the world stage. Part one: revamping their Summer Classical Music programs.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.