No matter what happens on this planet throughout history, there will always be stories. These stories will be told in many different languages and in many different ways. Some story telling has been elevated into the realm of art. Some storytelling involves more than one art, such as the telling of stories in the form of opera or ballet.
Just a couple of days before Christmas I met downtown with Peteris Eglitis, the COC’s choice for the part of Wotan in last season’s Walkuere and the Wanderer - still Wotan, but a powerless one - in this next production of Wagner’s Ring Siegfried, which will be performed at the end of January. The story of the characters of the Nordic sagas is more familiar to audiences in Europe, feels Peteris Eglitis. This is quite important for the producer, director, and performers to understand when they bring such a monumental work to North America.
So far the two previous Wagner productions in successive years were a smash hit, but the time-lapse of the story telling probably does not help. That is why Peteris highly recommends a familiarization with the story. The website of the opera www.coc.ca is fully equipped with all the information one could need and desire to appreciate theses opera works. Wagner’s works are by no means boring, but they are certainly very long and demand a certain understanding from the audience. The synopsis of Siegfried as well as the entire Ring project, which will be performed in successive togetherness in 2006 in the new opera house can be found on the website. The stories are being told very close to their original version. Some artistic license is taken no matter where performances take place. Each geographic location has its specific need in depicting the venue for understanding, and each artistic entity understands the plot and their implications a little differently.
Toronto has chosen a very specific approach for this monumental undertaking. The set alone is a marvel of bridge building between the spiritual realm and the real world, the places where gods dwell and mortals live, where mysticism meets reality.
We the audience will sit in the heart of a metropolis, surrounded by glass towers, not deep dark woods, being led back in time to the end of the dawn of gods. Our sensibilities will understand better the industrial approach to creating these different spaces needed for the development of the plot in such a small space as a stage. The costumes have to also reflect the required decorum befitting the different characters.
Mr. Eglitis is very concerned with making the plot understandable to all the people that come. He enjoys looking at all aspects of this character that he appears to be so ideally suited to. We enjoyed his performance in Walkuere tremendously and are looking forward to his return in Siegfried, starting January 27th, to February 8,2005.
La Boheme, a real crowd pleaser is running from January 23. to February 12. I hope to see you there too.
Another story will be told by the Toronto Symphony, which is commemorating Mozart in a series of concerts in January. With Mozart’s 250th birthday being celebrated in 2006 this is a good time to get started in the appreciation of one of our great masters. Go to www.tso.ca for more details.
A Canadian friend gave me a complete set of CDs of The Magic Flute for Christmas. Little did she know just how special this gift turned out to be for me: She did not just give me one of the best stories ever told as an opera, she also gave me a German Canadian Success story. This edition of "Die Zauberflöte" was recorded in 1995 as part of the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele and features The Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists, and Michael Schade as Tamino under the baton of John Eliot Gardiner.
I have long wanted a recording of Michael Schade’s Tamino
and voila, now I do! Thank you Liz! I will enjoy listening to this magical
story again and again!
A Nut Cracking Story
Christmas time would be missing something without the performances of ballet, and of course the ideal offering is The Nutcracker. And while most of us might have seen the very splendid and famous version of the National Ballet of Canada, there is nothing quite like going to a smaller production of equally dedicated artists. In a church at Bathurst and College Street in Toronto I went to see Xing Dance Theatre’s version of this all time favourite.
Ever since I experienced my first production of Xing’s ballet company and school in the late spring/early summer of 2004 I have been a fan of this most sensitive of artists. His understanding of dance and movement is extraordinary; as are the people he associates himself with.
To be one of his students is certainly a privilege, because it is rare that a teacher shares so much and so generously. That is what I am told by dancers who have benefited from his skills and knowledge.
I found this dance company because the son of my doctor is a young dancer, Davidson Jaconello, eager to learn all there is to be learned about a discipline that requires a lot of sacrifices. He was dancing with the company and I was invited to attend. Like, and perhaps even more so than a competitive athlete, there has to be extreme discipline and a desire to succeed and a willingness to defy the agreed upon principles of gravity and the limitations of bodies.
Thus it is so gratifying to see people dance with such grace, even though sometimes they are beyond the age of teens and tweens and have no desire to dance professionally.
Xing Ballet has a feeling of community and caring; it delivers art for all, including all who want to dance. The mix of seasoned dancers with new and younger students produces incredibly charming ambiences and expands story telling into a whole new genre. Here the Nutcracker became a story to touch, not just to admire from afar as a spectator.
Sure, the church setting did not allow for the best of complete perspectives from all seats, but that was not what this performance was all about. This was about the magic that can be created on stage with dance. It was about the miracle of make-believe, and that with limited resources.
Xing Bang Fu is the Artistic Director and as such choreographed this production perfectly for the limited space and ability of his dancers, some of which are of course professional. He also designed the light. Set and costume design came from a very gifted French-Canadian, Simon Sylvain Lalonde, Executive Director of Xing Dance Theatre, who also danced in the production, proving once again that he is an all-round artist. Perhaps that is why he and Xing collaborate so well together. They both bring many years of experience and wisdom to the theatre they run.
While all the young dance students had ample chances to shine in pretty costumes and in many different roles, a few of them stood out with well noticeable presence.
Sarah Amaral shows all the attributes of a classical ballerina. Her body appears to have been built for this artistic discipline. She looked especially well when she danced with Davidson Jaconello, who too danced several parts, proving his amazing ability to jump and stay suspended in the air. Sarah also stood out when dancing as part of the company.
Some of the children showed great promise, especially Jessica Zanardo as Fritz "sold" her/his part/s very well. There was another very young and petite girl with blondish curls and a smile and grace that could set a house on fire. She was born a dancer in my book. There definitely is star material to be found in this dance school!
Kristle Jang made a lovely snow Queen and some of the Pas de Deuxs were really special: Tammy Lok as the Sugar Plum Fairy with Simon Sylvain Lalonde as her Prince were divine, Mouse King Kim Vance livened things up. There was Spanish Coffee danced temperamentally by Daniel Au and Jiang Dan. Arabian Chocolate came to us with the elegant and very flexible Sandy Tan and Loren Matthews creating magic. We were served charmingly Chinese Tee by Jem-yi hum, Kathleen Chow and Rose Lui.
Each one of the danced vignettes lived up to my imaginative expectations, allowing me to create in my own mind a feeling of participation, rather than just being a spectator. The story was told completely; I never felt that anything was left out or altered from my earliest memories of this forever-charming fairy tail presentation.
I am looking forward to more Xing Ballet!
If you would like to be involved in the company as a volunteer call 416 413-0957. For more information go to www.xingdancetheatre.com.
Until next time
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