Wednesday night (September 30) I was pleased to attend Mozart’s Final Piano Concerto: Beyond the Score at the National Arts Centre. The Beyond the Score series is an innovative concept created by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s creative director, Gerard McBurney. The first half of the program tells the story of the score (Mozart Piano Concerto No.27 in B-flat major K. 595) and for the second half the audience is treated to the work in its entirety performed by the orchestra.
In the NAC’s production, this story is told through a wonderful collaboration of local artists of various disciplines. Bill Richardson (CBC radio) acts as a narrator providing historical, artistic and the cultural context of the score. Well known local actor, Pierre Brault, effectively plays a whole host of characters inspired by historical documents. Brault is famous for his one man shows with numerous characters. He is always fun to watch.
As a change of pace, Nick Di Gaetano and Thea Nikolik provide some comedic relief as characters from the Comedia del arte. I would have liked to see some actual mask work. Unfrotuantely, this wasn’t possible given the format of the piece.
In my view, Donna Brown’s solo soprano performance stood out. A taste of opera was a real pleasure and this part of the program sent chills up my spine. Brown’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and I will keep an eye out for other performances by this talented soprano.
I could have done without the streaming 18th century paintings of Vienna, Mozart etc. This Powerpoint presentation adds very little to the show as a whole. In fact, it often distracts from the performances on the stage. A few still photos in key places would have been more effective than this repetitve series of images.
The NAC orchestra played beautifully and Katherine Chi (piano) was delightful. These skilled musicians really shined through-out the program. It had been awhile since I had seen an orchestra live and I had forgotten how powerful an experience that can be.
Overall, the show is well done and worth seeing, but what I found most impressive was the acknowledgement by the NAC of the power and reach of blogs and social media. Jennifer Covert has been very active in building relationships with the community through Twitter and the blogosphere. I am very optimistic that others will follow the NAC’s lead and this will lead to a greater engagement of the arts in this city as a whole. In a twitter conversation, Covert nick named us “The Blogger Blob”. The nick name is quite apt. Much like that amorphous mass of B movie fame, bloggers are replacing and assimilating the “more conventional media.” This will only serve to enrich the arts scene in this city. I am very excited for the present (as much as the future). It is a thrilling time for Ottawa and the arts!
On a related note: I will be attending the Anxiety cabaret at the Cube gallery on Sunday. This also is a collaborative effort of local artists. It sounds like a great way to spend a chilly autumn evening.