Stratford Summer Music
National Youth Orchestra of Canada, July 25
The NYOC had prepared a special program for Statford because they were scheduled to perform with Ben Heppner. Unfortunately, Mr. Heppner was unable to perform, due to the demanding programs he had scheduled earlier in the week. Instead of substituting the program with one of the two programs the NYOC are currently touring with, they played a shortened concert with no intermission.
The concert opened with the Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The conductor, Jacques Lacombe, took the fugato section at a brisk pace. The orchestra managed to keep up, though it sounded a little tentative at times. There were nice dynamic contrasts throughout, and the violins produced a suitably beefy tone for Wagner.
Scheherazade came off as the best performance of the night. Much of the section playing was commendable, and notable contributions were made by the first clarinet, David Lemelin, and from the first horn, Marie-Sonja Cotineau, who, judging by the applause at the end, was also a crowd favourite. The percussion section playing was particularly fine.
In honour of the 10th annivesary of the Stratford Summer Music Festival, the concert ended with an amusing arrangement by Jacques Lacombe of Bolero interwoven with “Happy Birthday”.
Stratford Shakespeare Festival
Kiss me Kate, July 27
It seems to be the season for absent singers. We were eager to see the much talked-about performance of Chilina Kennedy (Lois Lane/Bianca). Ms. Kennedy gave memorable performances last season as Philia in A Funny Thing Happened at the Way to the Forum, and as Maria in West Side Story. However, for the July 27 performance, her role was taken by Eran Goodyear. Our disappointment lasted only until Ms. Goodyear took the stage, and proceeded to give a dynamite performance as the brash hoofer. We initially thought that Ms. Goodyear must have been covering the part for some time, but later learned that this was her first night.
The casts of the Stratford musicals are notable both for their depth and star power. Juan Chioran (Fred Graham/Petruchio) and Monique Lund (Lilli Vanessi/Bianca) gave alternately funny and touching performances in the principal roles. Mr. Chioran displayed wonderful physical comedy skills, hamming it up only within the boundaries of character and plot, and Ms. Lund’s performance of “So in Love” was a highlight of the evening. As an audience killer, “Brush up your Shakespeare” is hard to top. Steve Ross and Cliff Saunders (First Man, Second Man) sang the single entendres in deadpan style, with choreography that was, um, compact.