Magazine article Opera Canada

A Midwinter Night's Dream: Part of Musicools: A Circumpolar Music Theatre Festival for Families

Magazine article Opera Canada

A Midwinter Night's Dream: Part of Musicools: A Circumpolar Music Theatre Festival for Families

Article excerpt

ON paper, Musicools: A Circumpolar Music Theatre Festival for Families probably looked like a good idea. Festival organizer Lawrence Cherney, artistic director of Soundstreams Canada, which focuses on new music, brought together operas for children from Canada, Iceland and Finland to introduce young people to the genre. The result was a mish-mash of styles, ranging from sung-through opera to storytelling with musical accompaniment. Collectively, they gave an impression of how musicians attempt to entertain children in the classical arts these days.

The most polished was Montreal-based Chants Libres' Pacamambo (music by Zack Settel and libretto by Wajdi Mouawad). The story is about Julie, a little girl whose grandmother dies, and how she copes with the death. Guillaume Lord's set was whimsical, as were Marie-Pierre Fleury's costumes, and the production was imaginatively directed by Claude Poissant. Settel's music (flute and percussion) was dramatic and interesting. Soprano Ethel Gueret (Julie) and mezzo Lysiane Tremblay (the grandmother) led a strong cast.

The big event was A Midwinter Night's Dream, a remount by the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus of the 1988 opera by Harry Somers and librettist Tim Wynne-Jones. It's about a young Inuit boy who has seen the glories of Edmonton and then has trouble re-adapting to his Arctic heritage. Somers' music is an engaging mix of folk themes and melodious recits, with piano and percussion accompanying Ann Cooper Gay's musical direction. This piece was performed in the Bluma Appel Theatre, and, children's voices being what they are, the unclear diction and small sound rendered the lyrics impenetrable. But John Michael Schneider (Jimmy) and the other young soloists gave it their best shot. Only the adult voices--tenor Michael Colvin (Shaman), baritone James Westman (Chief), mezzo Allyson McHardy (Village Woman) and the Inuit Sylvia Cloutier, Sarah Laakkuluk Williamson and June Shappa (Aaqsarniit Performers)--had the heft to cut through the hall. …

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