How did the Toronto-based Against the Grain opera company manage to film its version of Handel’s Messiah across every Canadian province and territory during a global pandemic? Spoiler alert: It wasn’t by the grace of God.
On Thursday, Against the Grain artistic director Joel Ivany hosts a live online discussion at 7 p.m. (EST) on the making of Messiah/Complex, the company’s wildly successful pan-Canadian spectacle that drew international attention for its innovation and ambition when it was presented online over the winter holidays.
The live chat launches a free, two-week encore presentation of Messiah/Complex, just one of five recommended classical concerts and operatic productions that are currently streaming, or soon will be.
Against the Grain’s Messiah/Complex
Reviewed in The Globe and Mail as a “breathtaking feat,” Against the Grain’s filmed adaptation of Handel’s hallelujah fest is a collaboration with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra that features 12 soloists and four choirs singing in French, Arabic, English and a variety of Indigenous dialects. Chinese-Canadian tenor Spencer Britten sings Comfort Ye My People in a tuxedo and high heels in downtown Vancouver, while Inuk soprano Deantha Edmunds performs her aria in Inuttitut, filmed in Newfoundland. As The New York Times put it: “A Messiah for the multitudes, freed from history’s bond.”
Messiah/Complex (April 1 to 13; free)
Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s Easter concert: Contemplation and Devotion with Haydn
In 1786, a cleric at the church of Santa Cueva in Spain commissioned an orchestral piece for use in Good Friday services, to be based on the seven phrases Christ spoke from the cross (as told in the Bible). A year later, a dramatic piece that begins with D-minor emotionality premiered in an oratory inside a cave. Bernard Labadie conducts the Montreal Symphony, with narration by actor Yves Jacques, in a concert taped last week in an audience-free La Maison Symphonique.
Contemplation and Devotion with Haydn (April 1 to 6; free)
Opera Atelier’s Something Rich & Strange
Toronto-based Opera Atelier was forced to cancel its fall season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but was able to launch its first livestream production. Something Rich & Strange is a fully staged new creation that explores the realms of dreams, visions and the supernatural. Included is music by Handel, Lully, Locke and Purcell, plus a piece by Toronto violinist and composer Edwin Huizinga written for soprano Measha Brueggergosman.
Something Rich & Strange (until June 1; $25)
TSO On Demand: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
“Spring has arrived with joy, welcomed by the birds with happy songs.” The birds have their tunes; Vivaldi had his. A unique concert from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents not only the Italian maestro’s music, but the paintings that inspired him to write the pieces, the poetry he wrote to accompany each season, and the notes he wrote to help musicians portray the sounds of nature and the environments of each season.
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (to April 15; $20)
Tafelmusik: On the Road
The Toronto-based Baroque orchestra isn’t touring these days – and neither is anyone else. A program that includes Vivaldi’s La Follia and Purcell’s music from The Double Dealer is meant to evoke a European soundscape covering London, Germany, Paris and Venice. Ticket buyers can access the concert for 48 hours from its original broadcast time.
On the Road (April 8, 8 p.m.; $25)