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Open-air theatre, early music

by Marion Van Driel

 

There are plenty of options when it comes to summer events in Vancouver. Two that stand out for lovers of the performing arts are offerings by Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) and the Bach Music Festival. 

 

Theatre Under The Stars 

For 72 seasons, a few challenging interruptions aside, TUTS has welcomed tourists and locals to summer open-air theatre productions. It happens at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park; lights go up in the early gathering of dusk, but the show’s cast takes its final bow under star-studded skies. A large grassy field faces the grand stage housing impressive sets, an impeccable sound system, bright lights and the orchestra pit below. Be forewarned about the cooling temperature as the evening progresses, though. Bring chair cushions (also rentable on-site), plus jackets and blankets to keep you warm as you sip coffee, hot chocolate or perhaps a glass of wine available for purchase. 

TUTS continues through August 19. For tickets and information, visit www.tuts.ca.

Cinderella: This year, Broadway’s version of Cinderella is delighting families with more than just fantasy and glitter. Familiar characters show their true colours: Prince Tofer, slayer of gargoyles and dragons, hero of the people – struggles with his identity and calling. Is he just a figurehead, or is there more to this job of ruling a country? Gabrielle, fun-loving idealist and one of Cinderella’s stepsisters falls in love with Jean-Michel, social justice advocate and champion for London’s poor and homeless. Meanwhile, Cinderella goes head to head with her stepmother (Madame), pitting kindness against ridicule (bullying). Eventually, Ella (Cinderella) speaks forgiveness (albeit a little too easily, perhaps) to the questionably repentant Madame. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella comes to life under TUTS director Sarah Rodgers. This musical version of a delightful classic tale offers not only great entertainment, but relevant family discussion material as well. 

42nd Street: A lively musical revue production, 42nd Street takes place in the 1930s, with the depression well underway. Brusque manager Julian Marsh runs 42nd Street theatre in New York and money’s tight. He’s just secured a season in Philadelphia that could be the troupe’s big break.  But when the show’s star – the famous Dorothy Brock – is injured during rehearsal, it seems there’s nothing for it but shutting the production down. Marsh makes the announcement, leaving the cast in despair. Yesterday they had months of promising and rewarding work; today, it’s all evaporated. How will they eat? There must be a way. Then they remember Peggy Sawyer, the very talented newcomer from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who Billy just fired. Is she still in the building? Can they convince Marsh to give her a chance? If he does, is Sawyer good enough and tough enough to do what it takes? Can she learn the starring role in 48 hours? 

Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes, 42nd Street brings rousing song and dance by an impressive cast and ensemble. It also offers themes of hopefulness, persistence, encouragement and the sure truth that people can often surprise us. The adult subject matter includes innuendo and mild language. 

 

Early Music Vancouver: Bach Festival

Although Vancouver’s annual summer Bach Festival is only in its third year, Early Music Vancouver (EMV) has showcased renaissance, baroque and classical music for more that 45 years, fostering appreciation and understanding for early music. Their annual Festive Bach Cantatas for Christmas has been a seasonal favourite for many years; now audiences can enjoy the composer’s larger repertoire of music written for other liturgical seasons and secular performance.

From July 30 to August 10, Bach’s music will performed in Vancouver’s historic Christ Church Cathedral and other venues throughout the city. The festival brings together musicians from our own West Coast and all over Europe who perform the beloved composer’s music through voice and an impressive array of instruments that include early sounds of harp, harpsichord, organ and lute. 

“Earlier this summer, I had a chance to visit for the first time some of the most important places in Bach’s life. Sitting in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, it struck me as extraordinary the extent to which the work of this deeply religious man from 18th century Thuringia continues to have a life-changing effect on so many people from so many different backgrounds,” says Matthew White, Executive and Artistic Director of EMV  “In a world where classical and other non-corporate music is increasingly being relegated to the edges of public awareness, his name is still one of the most powerful advocates for communicating the values inherent in deeply inspiring music of any type. The name Bach means great music – period. This is our most ambitious festival yet and we look forward to sharing Bach’s incredible music with more audiences than ever before this summer.”
 

The crowning performance will take place on August 10, at 7:30 pm at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. Distinguished conductor and organist Alexander Weimann leads this performance featuring the internationally renowned soloists of Gli Angeli Genève and the instrumentalists of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in dramatic readings of two of J.S. Bach’s most richly scored cantatas, Bach – Trauer Ode (BWV 198) and Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal (BWV 146). “The two works on this exciting programme are widely accepted to be rarely performed masterpieces that demonstrate Bach’s unparalleled ability to mirror and augment the power of a given text through music. Though the great Passions, Oratorios and Masses are the best known of Bach’s works for choir and orchestra, the Cantatas represent a treasure trove of some of his most inspired music,”
 says White.

Composed in 1726, Cantata 146 (Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal) is a meditation on Jesus’ farewell message: “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” The juxtaposition of the sorrows of mortal life and the comfort offered by faith and the hope of heaven characterize this entire cantata. 

Cantata 198, also known as The Trauer Ode or Mourning Ode, is a large-scale secular cantata for orchestra and soloists, composed in 1727 for the funeral of the beloved Saxon Electoress and Polish Queen, Christiane Eberhardine. One of Bach’s most critically lauded and beloved works, this piece was written to honour the Queen’s role as ‘protector of the Lutheran faith’ despite her husband’s conversion to the Catholic Church.

EMV’s highly anticipated culmination of the 2018 Vancouver Bach Festival will feature several internationally recognized Bach vocal specialists who are all core members of Switzerland’s celebrated Gli Angeli Genève. These include founder and artistic director Stephan MacLeod (bass-baritone), Aleksandra Lewandowska (soprano), Alex Potter (counter-tenor), and Thomas Hobbs (tenor). Gli Angeli Genève will be joined by a quartet of Canadian ripieno soloists for the choruses featuring Emma Hannan (soprano), Nicholas Burns (counter-tenor), Colin Balzer (tenor), and Paul Grindlay (bass-baritone).

Tickets from $18 at www.earlymusic.bc.ca or 604.822.2697

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