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An enchanting hour

Royal Ontario Museum
02/16/2018 -  
Henry Purcell: “Music for a While” from Oedipus, Z.583 – Chaconne from King Arthur, Z.628 – Hosanna to the Highest, Z.187 – Chacony in G Minor, Z.730 – Rondeau from The Fairy Queen, Z.629 – Country Dance from Dioclesian, Z.627 – Close thine eyes: Upon a Quiet Conscience, Z.184 – Sonata in F Major, Z.810 “Golden Sonata” – The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation, Z.196 – Evening Hymn, Z.193
Edwin Huizinga: Inception*

Mireille Asselin (soprano), Jesse Blumberg (baritone)
Julia Wedman, Christopher Verrette, Edwin Huizinga* (violins), Patrick G. Jordan (viola), Felix Deak (viola da gamba), Sylvain Bergeron (lute), Christopher Bagan (organ), David Fallis (music director)
Juri Hiraoka (dancer), Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg (choreographer/dancer), Tyler Gledhill (choreographer*/dancer)

J. Hiraoka & J. Blumberg (© Bruce Zinger)

The title of this hour-long program, Harmonia Sacra leads one to think it will consist of sacred music, whereas it contains both sacred and secular. Sacra refers to ritual, and there is an emerging ritual arising within the performance of 10 works by Henry Purcell and Inception, the first composition commissioned by Opera Atelier, by composer and violinist Edwin Huizinga.

Some of the pieces are strictly orchestral, five require singing and, much to my surprise, only four had dancing as well. It is a work in progress and I suspect more dancing will emerge - who can resist the lilting rhythms of the Rondeau from The Fairy Queen? And after all, Opera Atelier’s whole approach emerged from their research into baroque dance and stage deportment. The best parts were those where all three elements - orchestral, vocal and movement - blended.

Except for Mr. Huizinga, the instrumentalists were from the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Their special highlight was the “Golden Sonata” with the two violinists (Julia Wedman and Christopher Verrette) accompanied by the continuo (Felix Deak, Sylvain Bergeron, and Christopher Bagan).

The highlight of the evening was Mr. Huizinga’s new work, a Bachian piece for his baroque violin. It began off in the shadows and as Mr. Huizinga walked into the performing space Tyler Gledhill entered with dance in barefoot modern style. The piece subsequently returned to the distant shadows before its quiet ending.

Both singers made a fine impression. As far as I can tell this was Jesse Blumerg’s local debut - too bad it was so short. Mireille Asselin, a welcome regular with OA, sang the piece that closed the performance, the Evening Hymn, accompanied by the three dancers.

Harmonia Sacra was first performed at the Royal Theatre, Versailles, in May, 2017, and this was the chance for OA’s hometown supporters to see the work. It is of interest to note that it was in the Royal Ontario Museum’s theatre where the company staged its first performance almost 33 years ago. The company will return to Versailles later this year with an expanded version of this work.

Michael Johnson



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