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George Frideric Handel

Hot Date: Semele at the Canadian Opera Company

photo by Karl Forster

MAY 9 TO 26 The Canadian Opera Company brings its 2011-12 season to a dramatic close with Handel’s Semele, the story of a mortal woman who falls in love with the god Jupiter, but in doing so enrages his cunning and powerful wife, Juno. Director Zhang Huan weaves Greco-Roman and Eastern mythology in this visually stunning production featuring ornate and vibrant costumes and grandiose set design, the centrepiece of which is a real, 450-year-old Ming Dynasty temple. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $12 to $318; call 416-363-8231 or visit here for showtimes and tickets.

Hot Date: Dual Hallelujahs

DECEMBER 14, 16, 17, 18 & 19 Lift your spirits with two performances of the Messiah. At Roy Thomson Hall, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs Handel’s oratorio with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, $38 to $107. And for one show only, join in Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir’s joyous Sing-Along Messiah at Massey Hall, $26 to $43; for both, visit here or call 416-872-4255 for a schedule and to buy.

Holiday Q&A: Tafelmusik Chamber Choir Director Ivars Taurins on Handel’s Messiah

Ivars Taurins in fine fettle as Handel (photo by Gary Beechey)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir‘s joyous holiday concert, the Sing-Along Messiah. Both vocalists and non-singers are welcome to enjoy the show on December 18 at Massey Hall. (The ensemble also offers non-participatory concerts December 14 to 17 at Koerner Hall.) We asked Maestro Handel—er… Choir Director Ivars Taurins—what makes the Sing-Along performance so special, and what audience members can do to tune up their vocal chords should they choose to partake in a few Hallelujahs.

How would you describe baroque music
to the uninitiated?

The word “baroque” was originally used as a derogatory description of art or music which was overly extravagant, irregular, or even bizarre. It comes from the Portuguese word barroco, describing a misshapen pearl. In the twentieth century it has become the respectable term for music from about 1600, when opera was born in Italy, until about 1750, the year of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death. Some of the most often-performed baroque composers include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, and Jean-Philippe Rameau. Baroque music can be at once exuberant and extrovert, or intimate and soulful. To the layperson it is generally more “accessible” than the often turgid, dense style of romantic music, or the esoteric qualities of modern music.

How do you prepare to step into the role of George Frideric Handel?
For the last 25 years, my preparation backstage has been to go over my lines and get back into the role. The inspiration for my script usually hits me less than 48 hours in advance, so read “stressas the underlying backdrop. I have to put on the various elements of the costume enough in advance so that I can get used to feeling suitably rotund, bulky and rather ancient. I start walking around with more of a gait and take off my glasses so that my eyes adjust enough to be able to make out faces by the time of the concert. Once I get into my “fat suit,” there are technicalities that limit my movements and possibilities, so I have to carefully time make-up, dressing, meals, etc., right down to the last minute before I step onto the stage.