LSM Newswire

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Carmina Nova: ancient times, modern ears

Carmina Nova

Folk songs and ballads from ancient times, heard through modern ears

Tuesday & Wednesday, May 5 & 6, 2009 at 8 pm

Trinity St. Paul’s Centre

Toronto’s Talisker Players conclude their 2008/09 season with Carmina Nova, a fascinating programme featuring Luciano Berio’s stunning Folk Songs, R. Murray Schafer’s captivating Minnelieder and the world premiere of The Song of Henry Pyne by Alexander Rapoport. The Talisker Players share the stage with mezzo-soprano Norine Burgess, who brings her unique flair and ease in countless styles and languages to these outstanding works. Delving into ballads, folk songs and stories from ancient times in many cultures as heard through the ears of some of the greatest composers of the modern age, Carmina Nova is presented at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre on May 5 and 6.

Luciano Berio's Folk Songs is a pioneering work from 1964 that draws on traditional melodies from America, Armenia, Sicily, Genoa, Sardinia, the Auvergne and Azerbaijan. The composer honours the original melodies while creating a highly inventive and personal framework for the ensemble – mezzo soprano with viola, cello, flute, clarinet, harp and percussion. His muse was his wife, the great mezzo soprano Cathy Berberian, who established the work's popularity through many performances and an acclaimed first recording.

Minnelieder, by Canada's R. Murray Schafer, is an early work, written in 1956 when he was studying and working in Vienna. The composer, who at 75 has recently received the Governor General's Lifetime Achievement Award, has stated that it is "the first work I would regard as a useful contribution to music." It is indeed a beautiful piece, for mezzo-soprano with woodwind quintet. The texts are in medieval German, by Minnesinger (the name derives from the word minne, Middle High German for love) from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, and they speak mostly of passionate but unfulfilled love.

As a companion to these two compelling works, Talisker Players have commissioned a new work from the well-known Toronto composer Alexander Rapoport. The Song of Henry Pyne is a retelling of an ancient middle-European ballad, for mezzo-soprano, viola, flute, bassoon and harp. The libretto, written by the composer, follows the young protagonist through various trials of love, with the instruments of the ensemble taking on the voices of the different characters in the story, in the style of medieval madrigal comedy. One of Toronto's most distinguished composers, Alexander Rapoport has had numerous commissions for orchestral and solo works, and for vocal works of all types, as well as music for film and theatre. An accomplished librettist, he also co-wrote the libretto for his acclaimed one-act opera, The Dragon in the Rocks, commissioned by the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus in 2007/08. His clever and light-hearted Music Theory Song, commissioned by the Riverdale Youth Singers in 2006, has already become a staple of the repertoire.

The evening includes readings from some of the most famous literature of medieval and Renaissance Europe, which describe the period in lusty detail. Excerpts from Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales and The Decameron will be delivered by the well-known Toronto actor and director Stewart Arnott.

Photo of Norine Burgess.Norine Burgess’s compelling stage presence and beauty of tone have brought her renown in opera houses and on concert stages around the world. She has appeared in opera production in Canada and abroad. Equally acclaimed on the concert stage, the Canadian singer performs regularly with The Aldeburgh Connection and with leading orchestras such as the Montreal Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and many other ensembles across Canada, the U.S. and in Europe.

Carmina Nova

Tuesday, May 5 & Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 8 PM

Ballads and folk songs from ancient times, heard through modern ears

Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor Street West

Norine Burgess, mezzo soprano

The Talisker Players

Stewart Arnott, actor

R. Murray Schafer: Minnelieder, for voice and woodwind quintet

Luciano Berio: Folk Songs, for voice, flute, clarinet, viola, cello, harp and percussion

Alexander Rapoport: The Song of Henry Pyne, for voice, viola, flute, bassoon and harp

*world premiere*


Individual tickets: $30 / $20 (seniors) / $10 (students)

Box office: 416-504-7529

General information: 416-466-1800


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