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barczablog: Jacqueline

February 20, 2020

Tonight a rapturous audience welcomed the world premiere of Jacqueline, a new opera from Tapestry Opera at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.

It’s a deceptively simple piece exploring the relationship of cellist Jacqueline du Pré and her instrument.

She was a prodigious talent who had to abandon her performing career at the age of 27 when she developed Multiple Sclerosis, and died at the age of 42. What if that story were told by a singer & a cellist, where the cello were represented as if it were an actual character, given that the instrument was one of the great passions of her life?

Continue reading “barczablog: Jacqueline”

The Globe and Mail: Tapestry Opera’s Jacqueline strips away the inessential to reveal a moving story free from ego

By Jenna Simeonov February 20, 2020

Only after finally seeing the world premiere of Tapestry Opera’s latest brand-new opera, Jacqueline, is it crystal clear: Jacqueline du Pré is a perfect opera heroine. Even if her life is presented in the series of glimpses we get in this biographical work by Luna Pearl Woolf and Royce Vavrek, there’s still an opera-sized thrill in the story of an ambitious and unique woman whose career – whose true love, really – is stamped out before the age of 30 with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

It’s great tragedy, this opera. Du Pré becomes a character distilled into snapshots: the young girl boasting to her mummy that her cello isn’t too big, the 20-year-old woman caressing the vinyl on her first recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the delighted lover in the lusty beginning of her marriage to Daniel Barenboim, the professional cellist in love with her life. And inevitably, the strange acceptance of her illness, which came only after the acute fear and confusion of a woman in her 20s losing dexterity, eyesight and memory. The heights from which Jacqueline du Pré fell – or from which she was pushed – are operatic in scale.

Continue reading “The Globe and Mail: Tapestry Opera’s Jacqueline strips away the inessential to reveal a moving story free from ego”

Ludwig van Toronto: SCRUTINY | Emotional Power And Bravura Performance In Tapestry Opera’s Jacqueline

By Joseph So February 20, 2020

Marnie Breckenridge in Tapestry Opera's Jacqueline (Photo : Dahlia Katz)
Marnie Breckenridge in Tapestry Opera’s Jacqueline (Photo : Dahlia Katz)

Woolf: Jacqueline / Marnie Breckenridge, soprano; Matt Haimovitz, cello. Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis St., Toronto. 8 p.m. February 19, 2020.

For devotees of the cello, few artists past or present capture the imagination quite like Jacqueline du Pré (1945-1987). In a performing career that lasted barely a decade before she was struck down by multiple sclerosis at the age of 28, du Pré left an indelible imprint on the musical world with her dazzling artistry and incandescent personality.

Arguably the work most associated with her was the Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. I didn’t have the good fortune of hearing her live, but her recorded performances and interpretations of this work, both in the studio and in live performances, remain the gold standard. In the various video clips, one is struck by the radiant expression on her face, one that exudes the purest joy of music-making. The musical world is fortunate to have her art preserved for posterity.

Continue reading “Ludwig van Toronto: SCRUTINY | Emotional Power And Bravura Performance In Tapestry Opera’s Jacqueline”

The Strad: Opera based on cellist Jacqueline du Pré’s life opens in Toronto

19 FEBRUARY 2020

‘Jacqueline’, with music by Luna Pearl Woolf, features the playing of Matt Haimovitz alongside soprano Marnie Breckenridge in the title role.

The world premiere of a new opera based on the life of British cellist Jacqueline du Pré opens on 19 February at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in Toronto, Canada. Featuring soprano Marnie Breckenridge in the title role, the opera also includes music played by cellist Matt Haimovitz – who spent a week with du Pré in London when he was 14. 

Composer Luna Pearl Woolf was inspired to write the opera from hearing Haimovitz’s account of his relationship with du Pré. The opera is structured in four movements, in reference to Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the work most closely associated with du Pré. The soprano and cellist interact with each other throughout the performance, bringing together ’her voice, her truest sense of self, and her constant companion’, according to the composer. ’It is beautiful in a way,’ says director Michael Hidetoshi Mori. ’Marnie without Matt could not play Jacqueline, Matt without Marnie could not play Jacqueline, yet together they combine to realise something of her essence, life and struggle and in separating, her tragedy.’

The opera runs for five performances until 23 February. More information can be found here.

Read it at The Strad

Opera Wire: Tapestry Opera to Present World Premiere of Opera Inspired by Jacqueline Du Pré

By: David Salazar February 19, 2020

Tapestry Opera is set to present the world premiere of “Jacqueline: A Portrait of Virtuosity” starting on Feb. 19, 2020 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in Toronto, Canada.

The opera, which is written by Royce Vavrek with music by Luna Pearl, tells the story of iconic cellist Jacqueline Du Pré and her battle with the multiple sclerosis that ultimately took her life. The piece is written for soprano and cello with Marnie Breckenridge performing alongside cellist Matt Haimovitz, who will play Du Pré’s own instrument.

The piece’s structure is deeply indebted to Elgar’s famous cello concerto, a piece for which Du Pré was most famous, her interpretation heavily imitated for decades since she first played the work. The opera also includes Haimovitz’s popular recollections of the cellist.

There will be a total of five performances of the work running through the 23rd.

Read it at Opera Wire

Ludwig van Toronto: 12 Concerts You Absolutely Need to See This Week in Toronto

By Joseph So on February 17, 2020

concert events, Toronto, Feb 17 - 23, 2020

Critic’s Picks (February 17 – 23)

Ludwig van Toronto’s weekly Critic’s Picks are a curated list of some of the best concerts happening now through the end of the week. For a look at the full breadth of what’s available in and around Toronto, check out our curated concert listings here.

Tuesday 18

Music Toronto | Francesco Piemontesi. 8 p.m. Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St. E. $47.50-$52.00/$10(st)

Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi, a former student of Arie Vardi, is the winner of major competitions including the 2007 Queen Elisabeth Competition. He presents a program of works by Schubert, Debussy and Liszt. | Details

Wednesday 19

Canadian Opera Company | Hansel and Gretel. 7:30 p.m. Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W. $45-$350. Repeats Feb. 21 7:30 p.m.

Last two performances of Hansel and Gretel, in a new production directed by Joel Ivany set in modern day Toronto. Emily Fons, mezzo (Hansel); Simone Osborne, soprano (Gretel); Russell Braun, baritone (Peter); Krisztina Szabó, mezzo (Gertrude); Michael Colvin, tenor (Hexe); Anna-Sophie Neher, soprano (Sandman/Dew Fairy); Johannes Debus, conductor. | Details

Toronto Symphony Orchestra | Beethoven Pastoral with OSM. 8 p.m. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. $41-$154.

The Orchestre symphonique de Montreal is back in town, with conductor Kent Nagano in his final Toronto appearance as Music Director of the OSM. On the program is Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral;” Berlioz: “Royal Hunt and Storm” from Les Troyens; and Pascal Dusapin: Waves, Duo for Organ and Orchestra with organist Olivier Latry (an OSM Commission). | Details

Tapestry Opera | Jacqueline. 8 p.m.  Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis St., Toronto.  $50-$95. Repeats, Feb. 20, 21, 22 at 8 p.m., Feb. 23 at 4 p.m.

The legendary cellist Jacqueline du Pré immortalized in new opera Jacqueline, with music by Luna Pearl Woolf and libretto by Royce Vavrek. “Written specifically for and performed by American soprano Marnie Breckenridge and cellist Matt Haimovitz, who was the final protégé of du Pré.” An intriguing show for anyone interested in the art and life of Jacqueline du Pré. | Details

Thursday 20

Toronto Symphony Orchestra | Majestic Bruckner. 8 p.m. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. $41-$141. Repeats Feb. 22.

Scottish conductor Donald Runnicles, Music Director of Deutsche Oper Berlin, makes a welcome return to the TSO to conduct a program of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.  The Feb. 20 performance has a big bonus – at 6:45 pm, a pre-concert recital of the Wesendonck Lieder with mezzo Krisztina Szabo, the TSO Chamber Soloists, and the Maestro at the piano! | Details

Art of Time Ensemble | Take This Waltz. 8 p.m. Harbourfront Centre Theatre, 235 Queens Quay W. $64/$43/$25 Repeats Feb. 21, 22.

“Follow the path in 3/4 time as it winds from it’s origins in 19th-century Europe to the concert halls and nightclubs of the world….Maurice Ravel, Johann Strauss Jr., Bill Evans, and Frederic Chopin, plus songs by Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, and Jacques Brel.”   Sarah Slean, singer; Erika Raum, violin; Rob Piltch, guitar; Juan Gabriel Olivares, clarinet; Rachel Mercer, cello; Andrew Burashko, piano; and others. | Details

Friday 21

Royal Conservatory of Music | Daniil Trifonov. 8 p.m. Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W. Sold Out, but do call the box office for possible returns.

Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov, who made his Koerner Hall debut in 2013, makes a welcome return to play a program of Scriabin, Beethoven, Borodin and Prokofiev. | Details

Saturday 22

Toronto Symphony Orchestra | Relaxed Performance: The Composer Is Dead. 11 a.m. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. $23 Repeats March 1 (2 & 4 p.m.)

This performance is designed for people living with autism spectrum disorders, sensory and communication disorders, or learning disabilities, or anyone who wants a more casual concert experience. Simon Rivard conducts the TSO in Lalo Schifrin: Theme from Mission: Impossible; Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 – First Movement (Eugene Ye, cello); Mancini/arr. H. Cable: Main Theme from The Pink Panther; and Nathaniel Stookey: The Composer Is Dead. Details

Echo Chamber Toronto | Zingara. 7:30 p.m. Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, 106 Trinity St. $30-$40. Repeats Feb. 23.

Echo Chamber Toronto intertwines music and dance in new choreographed works. I attended Transfigured Night last year featuring Beethoven, Hindemith and Schönberg and thoroughly enjoyed it. Zingara features Corigliano ‘The Red Violin Caprices;’ Kodaly; Serenade for Two Violins and Viola, op.12; and Enescu; String Octet, op. 7.  Dancers: Naoya Ebe, Hannah Galway, Donald Thom, Kelly Shaw and Ryan Lee; musicians: Sheila Jaffe, Aaron Schwebel, Jamie Kruspe, Emily Kruspe, Csaba Koczó, Catherine Gray, Leana Rutt and Carmen Bruno. | Details

Sinfonia Toronto | Komitas @ 150. 8 p.m. Meridian Arts Centre (formerly Toronto Centre for the Arts), 5040 Yonge St., North York. $42/$35(wr)/$15(st)

To mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Armenian composer Soghomon Soghomonian, known as Komitas, Sinfonia Toronto performs works by Chobanian, Incirci, Sharafyan, Mirzoyan, Skalkottas, Bartok and Komitas. Nune Melik, violin; Beste Kalender, mezzo; Nurham Arman, conductor. | Details

Sunday 23

Royal Conservatory of Music | Takács Quartet. 3 p.m. Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W.

Takács Quartet (Edward Dusinberre and Harumi Rhodes, violin; Geraldine Walther, viola; and András Fejér, cello) performs works by Fanny Mendelssohn, Bartok and Beethoven. | Details

Orchestra Toronto | Telling a Tale with Tom Allen. 3 p.m. George Weston Recital Hall, Meridian Arts Centre (formerly Toronto Centre for the Arts), 5040 Yonge St. $25-$45.

Orchestra Toronto and conductor Michael Newnham perform Elizabeth Raum: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (as told by Tom Allen); Antonin Dvořák:  Noonday Witch; and Sergei Prokofiev:  Selections from Romeo and Juliet (Suites 1, 2 and 3). | Details

Read it at Ludwig van Toronto

The Canadian Jewish News: OPERA EXPLORES THE TRAGIC LIFE OF FAMED CELLIST

By Toby Saltzman – February 17, 2020

“Luna is a story-teller, completely immersed in the operatic world. She was inspired by the depth of my relationship with Jacqueline to tell the story of Jacqui before it’s too late.”

-Cellist Matt Haimovitz

When Matt Haimovitz performs at the world premiere of Tapestry Opera’s Jacqueline: a portrait of virtuosity, the audience can anticipate music that resonates with the poignant timbre of the famed cellist’s intimate association with Jacqueline du Pré as her young protégé.

Rising from a young prodigy herself, to peak fame as one of the world’s greatest virtuosi and ultimately succumbing to a tragic finale, English cellist du Pré was recognized in her prime as an exquisitely talented female soloist.

At the heart of du Pré’s life, strings a loving relationship with celebrated pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim that blossomed in Israel. The story goes that in 1967 – while the couple were performing concerts before, during and after the Six-Day War – du Pré felt such an overwhelming connection to Judaism as a musician that she converted to Judaism to marry Barenboim. Tragedy struck in 1971 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She died at 42 in October 1987 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Golders Green in London. 

Continue reading “The Canadian Jewish News: OPERA EXPLORES THE TRAGIC LIFE OF FAMED CELLIST”

Classical FM Interview: Tapestry Opera’s “Jacqueline” Tells the Story of Virtuosic Cellist Jacqueline du Pré’s Fall to M.S.

By: Classical FM February 13, 2020

From February 19th to 23rd Tapestry Opera heads to the Betty Oliphant Theatre for its presentation of Jacqueline: A Portrait of Virtuosity.

The pieces dives into the real-life struggle between celebrity virtuosic cellist Jacqueline du Pré and the multiple sclerosis that ravaged her body, mind, and talent, robbing her of her identity, her musical gift, and her life.

This intimate piece for soprano and cello brings two contemporary virtuosi to the stage: celebrated American soprano Marnie Breckenridge as Jacqueline, and renowned cellist (and former du Pré protégé) Matt Haimovitz playing du Pré’s only constant companion, her cello.

Jacqueline is inspired by the structure and emotional landscape of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto. The form of the work echoes du Pré’s iconic interpretation of the Elgar, using the concerto’s four-movement structure to navigate an all too short life in music.

Cellist Matt Haimovitz and Luna Pearl Woolf who is responsible for this productions’ music joined Mark Wigmore on The Oasis.

Read and listen to the interview at Classical FM

The Whole Note: New Opera for Soprano and Cello Promises Multilinear Magic

Written by Jennifer Parr Category: Music Theatre Published: 30 January 2020

Marnie Breckenridge and Matt Haimovitz. Photo by Dahlia Katz

Toward the end of January I was invited to sit in on an early staging rehearsal of the new opera, Jacqueline, gaining a rare glimpse into the creation of this experimental world premiere that explores the life and legacy of celebrity virtuoso cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who, at 23, began experiencing numbness in her fingers, at 28 was diagnosed with MS and stopped playing the cello, and in 1987 passed away at age 42.

While the work’s stated format, a duet for soprano and cello, sounds as though it might be very static on stage, what I saw in the rehearsal room was the exact opposite. It moves, is playful, fun, exciting, sad, and unexpected. The music, both vocal and instrumental, is gorgeous and sometimes startling in its layering and detail, echoing the same experimental nature of the libretto and the whole approach of the production. The staging that I saw is equally dynamic: as if happening in the moment, always grounded in the characters’ motivation and inspired by the music, using the full space of the stage, finding a physical shape for everything happening in Jacqueline’s mind and memory. Versatile soprano Marnie Breckenridge embodies Jacqueline du Pré, but at many different ages and stages of her life; the second “character,” is the cello itself – Jacqueline’s closest friend, partner of her greatest successes, witness and sharer in her failures and losses, and finally a potent symbol of her legacy to the world – portrayed by renowned cellist Matt Haimowitz.

There have been other dramatic interpretations of the life of Jacqueline du Pré: notably the play Duet for One by Tom Kepinski made into a film starring Julie Andrews in 1986, and the successful but controversial 1998 film Hilary and Jackie, starring Emily Watson and Rachel Griffiths, with a screenplay by Frank Cottrell-Boyce based loosely on conversations with du Pré’s siblings. There is even a new ballet, The Cellist, being created for England’s Royal Ballet this year by Cathy Marston. All of these, however, follow a primarily linear narrative of du Pré’s life from early success to international stardom, to her famously sad diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and the devastating effect that this had on both her personal life and her career.

Jacqueline, on the other hand, is not linear but multi-layered, moving through time but also freewheeling into the emotional life, memories and dreams of its central character and her other half, her cello. The concept and inspiration for the new opera came from celebrated Montreal-based composer Luna Pearl Woolf, who says Jacqueline du Pré has always been in my consciousness as a legend, as a tragic hero, and certainly as integrated into the lives of all the cellists that I know.

The first impetus to create Jacqueline, in this unique form of duet for soprano and cello, came in 2015 as Woolf finished creating a new medium-sized work for the Washington National Opera. All the producers and opera promoters she was speaking to were looking for even smaller works, with smaller casts, able to be easily produced in smaller performance spaces and taken on tour.

With this “idea of trying to tell an operatic story with very, very, small forces” percolating in her mind, she went to see a concert where, as it happens, two pieces of hers for soprano, cello and piano were being performed by Breckenridge and Haimovitz. “The way they made music together,” she says, “was so electric and just so compelling that I could not look away. They are both intensely creative musicians who have played or sung quite a few of my pieces, and I find that each time, no matter the circuitous path they might follow, it ends up feeling as though they are truly inhabiting the ideas in the music, and finding joy in discovering the musical relationships within what I am writing. Watching them pass this joyful energy back and forth made the music explode even more and inspired me. So, I thought, what if I was writing an opera for the two of them? Well, it’s obvious, the opera for the two of them has to be about Jacqueline du Pré.”

Part of the reason for that, she explained, “is that Marnie has a radiant beauty that transcends time and age and character. I have seen her play dark characters and light characters, I have seen her play young and play old, and there’s something about her that radiates, and that can be said about Jacqueline du Pré to the nth degree. Jacqueline’s essence was that she had this otherworldly glow of talent and energy and personality.”

The other impetus for creating Jacqueline as an opera for these two artists, Woolf says, was “Matt, whom I’ve worked with as composer, performer, and on many other levels of partnership for over 20 years. We had talked about [du Pré] a lot, and I knew, when I first had the idea, that he had met her and spent time with her. What I discovered in the process of working on the opera was that Matt’s connection to Jacqueline is very deep.

When Matt was just 14 and performing in New York, he met Jacqueline’s husband, the famous pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, whom she had married at age 21 and with whom she had performed around the world until the time she got sick and could no longer play. Since that time Barenboim had not performed with another solo cellist, but when he heard Matt, as Woolf says, “The musicality, the energy, the spirit, that Matt had as a musician inspired Daniel and he thought ‘I’d like to play with this person, but I have to introduce him to Jackie first.’ So, he brought Matt to London and he spent time with Jackie, played her instruments for her, studied with her, and even watched her videos with her while she was incapacitated, as it was almost the end of her life. Obviously, that had a great impact on Matt as a young person, and what we learned about her through his experience has been invaluable to the process of making this opera.”

In 2016, at the suggestion of Marnie Breckenridge, Woolf teamed up with Pulitzer Prize-winning Canadian librettist Royce Vavrek, whom she knew but had never worked with, and who, she says, has “a real sense of being able to capture that vibrant innocence that Jacqueline du Pré has.” Tapestry Opera’s artistic director, Michael Mori, also, soon came on board as dramaturge and director, and the development process began, leading to several workshops whenever and wherever the team could gather, and finally to rehearsals at Tapestry. The structure, as well as the music, would be inspired by Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a work synonymous with du Pré’s career, and her most famous recording. Like the concerto, the opera has four movements, four stages in the journey of “delving into what Jacqueline was as a spirit, what made her so otherworldly and so incredible, as well as what it means for a person who is experiencing a life of such international fame and glory to have it all taken away.”

Though roughly chronological, this is by no means a linear biography, more a series of “psychological snapshots” that can, in the later part of the opera in particular, hop between time periods. In the first movement, Woolf explains, “we see what Jaqueline was when she was totally alive, including when she is five years old and falls in love with the cello.” This followed by flash points as her career soars, until there is a “snap” to the second movement where she is at “this matrix of a life that was so intense, with signals that were crossing, the beginning of the disease.” Part of the tragedy was that when she tried to seek help for what was wrong with her, no one knew what it was. “People would tell her that she was exhausted because she was a woman trying to do a man’s job.” The third movement gets more fantastical, as she has to retreat from public view and at the same time is being bombarded by personal betrayals on all sides, to the fourth movement where she is almost incapacitated and can only drag herself around the stage.

“Through this whole thing,” Woolf says, “what we’ve developed is that the cello who is onstage with her is her closest ally. It’s her. The cello is anthropomorphized in Matt. Matt is that ‘person’ who is right next to her, her lover, her friend through her whole life until that moment when she has to split with him because she can no longer play; and, really, that is the moment that Matt, the actual person, actually met her.”

As Woolf was telling me this it sent shivers up my spine.

Toward the end, although Jacqueline can barely move and is separated from her cello – who plays alone as if singing an ode to her – she does begin to realize that she can live on through her recordings. As Woolf says, “this is a complicated ending because we are not happy for her, but we are glad for her, and for us, that her talent, her gift to the world, is still with us.”This points as well, to a theme: to Woolf’s and Breckenridge’s shared belief that part of the purpose of the opera is to say We all have our spark, we need to use it, and we need to pass it on. Jackie only had ten years to do these things, but look at what she did in that time. We may not all be extraordinary like her, but whatever we have can be launched into the world.”

Jacqueline plays at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, February 19 to 23. Cast – Soprano: Marnie Breckenridge; Cello: Matt Haimovitz; Libretto by Royce Vavrek; Music by Luna Pearl Woolf; Dramaturgy & Direction by Michael Hidetoshi Mori; Set & Costume Design by Camellia Koo; Lighting Design by Bonnie Beecher. 

Read it at The Whole Note

TheWholeNote Editor’s Corner – February 2020 | Luna Pearl Woolf: Fire and Flood

Written by David Olds January 27, 2020

“A wonderful cross-section of Woolf’s vocal writing that bodes well for the new opera.”

This month Tapestry presents the world premiere of American composer Luna Pearl Woolf’s latest opera, Jacqueline. Coinciding with this is the Pentatone release of Woolf’s Fire and Flood on the Oxingale label (PTC5186803 naxosdirect.com). This striking vocal disc features mostly recent works for a cappella choir (the Choir of Trinity Wall Street under the direction of Julian Wachner) with soloists in several instances and, in the most memorable selection, Après moi, le déluge, obbligato cello (Matt Haimovitz). After a virtuosic cello cadenza, this work develops into a bluesy and occasionally meditative telling of the story of Noah and the Flood which culminates in the gospel-tinged LordI’m goin’ down in Louisiana before gently subsiding. After a rousing arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows for vocal trio and cello, comes a modern-sounding but fairly tonal Missa in Fines Orbis Terrae with the choir accompanied by Messiaen-like organ (Avi Stein). The vocal trio (sopranos Devon Guthrie and Nancy Anderson with mezzo Elise Quagliata) return for One to One to One, in this instance accompanied by the low strings (three cellos and three basses) of NOVUS NY. Having begun with the close harmonies, murmurs, shouts and extended vocal techniques of the a cappella To the Fire with full choir, the disc ends with the vocal trio once again joined by Haimovitz for a raucous setting of Cohen’s Who by Fire to close out an exceptional disc. A wonderful cross-section of Woolf’s vocal writing that bodes well for the new opera.

Read it on thewholenote.com