Candide with the Toronto Symphony: using our imaginations

Leslie Barcza, barczablog

Earlier this week Joseph So was rapturous in his description of a concert performance of a Wagner opera in Cleveland with their orchestra.  One of the ironies of high definition broadcasts, particularly with bizarre director’s approaches to the staging, is to make some of us rebel at the notion of realism, pushing us back to the music, and indeed embracing concert performances as an ideal.  It’s especially valid for those works requiring the imagination, that are near impossible to stage in a realistic fashion.

If one were to ask for a list of such works, Wagner’s operas might be the first one would think of: yet Candide is every bit as impossible.  People die and come back to life. The action takes us back and forth across the Atlantic, and the whole time we’re really in the presence of a story that is told to us as if for instruction rather than for the purpose of creating a dramatic illusion.

One might argue that too much illusion is counter-productive.When I think of the music-theatre nerds I know:

  • I remember Leigha Lee Browne, the founder of the theatre program at Scarborough College, who gave her name to the theatre they built at UTSC, telling me that this was the finest musical ever written
  • And yes I could name three others who told me that Candide is their favorite musical
Judith Forst & Bramwell Tovey dancing (baton betwixt his lips) as Tracy Dahl, Mendelssohn Choir & TSO look on (photo Jag Gundu)

Of course they were speaking from their acquaintance via recordings, aka virtual theatre.  When you listen to it you can create the illusion in your head, and won’t trouble yourself about the inanity of the plot.     And so this is a nerd’s dream.

They’re playing with us in this presentation from the TSO, as we watch members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir put on a bit of costume, which is to say, they’re still in a concert tux with a funny hat.  So this is hugely theatrical, demanding that we use our imaginations, like good nerds.  It doesn’t matter if Cunegonde is older than Candide, not when we’re in this virtual theatre of music, words & our flights of fancy.

This felt like a very authentic performance to me, Bramwell Tovey kicking the TSO, chorus & soloists along at a wonderful pace.  Tovey even got into the act, singing & dancing himself, but he was having a great time.

Read the full review.