Messiah/Complex joyfully proves beauty of a vast ‘Canadian’ experience

Leah Borts Kuperman, Opera Canada Magazine

I feel I must preface this review with the confession that I have never–not ever–seen a holiday-season Messiah. I am grateful that Messiah/Complex, a filmed collaboration between the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and Against the Grain (AtG) Theatre, seen Dec. 13th, was my first.

Messiah has long been a Christmas tradition for some, but as a Jewish-Canadian oft-excluded from mainstream holiday cheer, it was lovely to see a joyful adaptation by co-directors Joel Ivany and Reneltta Arluk that deftly crosses denominations. Their Messiah/Complex is an hour-and-18-minute-long film celebrating different facets of the Canadian experience with 13 soloists and four choirs representing every Province and Territory to the gorgeous sounds of the TSO.

The arias were translated into several languages, allowing singers to best express emotion in the language that felt right–and the impact was clear in the heartfelt joyousness of the performances.

Leela Gilday sang in Dene from the Northwest Territories, while Deantha Edmunds and Looee Arreak sang in Inuktitut from Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut respectively. The impressive list of soloists also includes Cree-Métis baritone Jonathon Adams; British Columbia tenor Spencer Britten; Canadian-Tunisian Rihab Chaieb in Montreal; Edmonton-born mezzo-soprano Catherine Daniel; Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil; Saskatchewan soprano Andrea Lett; Diyet van Lieshout, singing in Southern Tutchone, from Yukon Territory; Métis singer Julie Lumsden; and Toronto baritone Elliot Madore.

This choice to include many singers–departing from the typical 4-soloist structure of a traditional Messiah–provided unusual musical variety between soloists and choirs on the crystalline recording. The featured choirs were Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (with a sublime “Hallelujah” chorus), UPEI Chamber Singers, Le Choeur Louisbourg and the Halifax Camerata Singers.

Read the full review here.