Theodora, Good Grief! That's Charlie BrownFriday, February 13, 2015
My friend and mentor Malcolm Parry (former editor of Vancouver Magazine, Western Living, Vista and now gossip and business columnist for the Vancouver Sun) has a theory that he calls the privileged view. If you are on the roof of a very tall building, it is privileged. If you are at ground level looking up, you are not.
Anybody can purchase (if tickets are purchased before they invariably sell out) for today’s Early Music Vancouver presentation of the Handel oratorio Theodora in Seattle, tomorrow in Vancouver and Sunday in Victoria. You might think that such an event is privileged. After all it is difficult to boast that you will see Theodora in your lifetime as this oratorio is not often performed. This is true.True privilege is to witness two performances, within days (statistically most unlikely) and even more privileged if one of them is a dress rehearsal.
Such was my privilege yesterday Thursday at St. Andrew Wesley on Burrard and Nelson. I must first define an Early Music rehearsal. Nobody is wearing monkey suits or black clothing. The dress part of the rehearsal means that the performance will be done with almost no breaks (except for tuning or a breather or two). One advantage to this is that the four solo singers are in their street clothes, they do not look like would-be gods up on the stage but down-to-earth (they even smile, used laptops and smart phones) humans.Sitting on the pew a mere four feet away you can enjoy their talent in a refreshing new way. You can see them make a few mistakes and how they laugh them off.
|Lawrence Zazzo, countertenor - Zachary Wilder, tenor|
Since I was not confined to a designated seat at the Chan I could move around and watch the natural horn players from the back. The instruments with a big bell look like the bell is attached to a brass hula-hoop!
After attending many performances of baroque orchestras I
was able to quickly answer a question from one of the sweetest voices on CBC
Radio, Sheryl MacKay (North by Northwest). She wanted to know why one of the
cellos had such a thick neck. MacKay was there as she could not attend Saturday
night’s performance as she has to get up at four in the morning for her program
on Sunday. I told her that the cello in question was a violone which unlike the
cello has frets and is larger.
|Andrew Clarke, Steve Desroche - horns|
|Soile Stratkauskas , flute|
Watching and then listening to PBO Music Director’s few instructions to his orchestra you come to the conclusion that the idea that conductors can be bombastic is not often true. Alexander Weimann does it all with piano subtlety and very good taste. I saw some of his expressions by depositing myself behind and looking through the legs of the central male chorus (the sopranos stage right, the altos stage left). I was flummoxed by one male standing with the female altos. I asked and I was told that he is a countertenor. Sometimes they are called male altos. The singers are the Vancouver Cantata Singers.
Weimann can smile ecstatically but it was also fun to be as close to Weimann’s back. From that vantage point I could see the constant smiles of delight on lute player Konstantin R. Bozhinov. Although Bulgarian he speaks a perfect Queen's English so he must find Weimann's German accented English cute.
While the church was mostly empty (I was one of the few lucky ones) I understood that the acoustics were excellent. Not knowing about sound I will have to ask violinist Paul Luchkow who is also a sound engineer if the Chan can reproduce the reverberation of a large church. A few of the beautiful stained glass windows were lit by being next door to the church chapel. The surrounding of the wooden church pews all added to my delight of the occasion.But in the end it was watching the solo singers, up close that made my evening a memorable one.
If you think that singers such as these can be boring in real life I can provide the evidence to the contrary with the example of mezzo-soprano Kristina Szabó dressed in a little black skirt, black tights, black almost knee-high boots, a brown leather jacket of a most complex manufacture, dramatic eye shadow – all the very image of the lead singer of that iconic Hungarian punk band of the past, the Puskás Dribble.
|Krisztina Szabó , mezzo-soprano|
|Lawrence Zazzo , countertenor|
|Centre, Konstantin R. Bozhinov, lute player|
|Matthew Brook, bass-baritone|
|Zachary Wilder, tenor|
|Nathalie Paulin, soprano - Lawrence Zazzo, countertenor|