Tomorrow: Live performance of Handel opera Giulio Cesare with Aradia Ensemble at the Glenn Gould Studio
The big Toronto musical news for Saturday is Ben Heppner's recital with pianist John Hess at the opera house at 4:30 p.m., which will be largely about art song. If you want live music from opera, you'll have to turn to Aradia Ensemble's semi-staged concert presentation of Handel's Giulio Cesare at the Glenn Gould Studio at 8 p.m., in association with the summertime Centre for Opera Studies in Italy, which is run by University of Toronto voice professor Darryl Edwards. (Ticket info here.)
Aradia, which has recorded extensively for Naxos, has struggled for years to establish a regular live presence in the city. Without a regular subscriber base, a permanent home, a full-time manager and office or a dedicated ensemble (the musicians are all freelancers), founding music director Kevin Mallon has found it difficult to find sustained interest in his period-performance ambitions -- and it certainly hasn't been for lack of trying.
Giulio Cesare kicks off Aradia's second season based at the Glenn Gould Studio. There are four programmes between Saturday and May 14. The most intriguing is Baroque Idol! on Feb. 5, when the orchestra will present new works suited for a small Baroque ensemble by 10 young composers -- and the audience will be able to vote for its favourite.
I won't be going to Saturday's concert, but I wonder what it will be like. You'll find two related YouTube clips, below. The first is a great introduction to Mallon, Edwards and the summer opera workshop. The second is of the orchestra and cast in the Overture, as performed in Italy in July.
I would be happy to listen and play nothing but Handel for months on end, but I have two reservations about what I could see and hear on the YouTube clip: the music is not rendered with much elegance and, much worse, why bother playing the Overture if you're going to have the cast shout it down? I've appended a particularly sweet rendition of the Overture from a 2005 performance in Copenhagen, led by Lars Ulrik Mortensen, for comparison's sake.
Less than an hour after posting this blog entry, I received an email from Kevin Mallon, with some clarifications:
I very much appreciate the mention of Aradia and our concert. There are just a few things that I would like to mention:
We do have a home base for concerts now -- Glenn Gould Studio. Giulio Cesare is the first concert in our 2nd season there.
Yes, it has been difficult to establish a regular subscription base -- but it is starting now and there is a great buzz around our concert at the GG.
We do have an executive manager now: Wendy Limbertie and our own office also. So that is also a step forward.
I understand your reservations about the Overture and the cast coming on (as a theatre troupe....). The video clip is not good quality and so, you can't really tell that the overture was in fact played rather well. I have decided to take it down for that reason.