Toronto, May 3, 2016 … Tafelmusik’s 2015/16 concert season wraps up May 19 to 24, 2016 with Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House, a stunning new multimedia creation from Tafelmusik’s Alison Mackay, who conceived and programmed the phenomenally successful The Galileo Project and House of Dreams. Mackay and her creative team employ theatrical sets, lighting design, scripted text, and spectacular projected images to create the kind of immersive concert experience for which Tafelmusik is world-renowned. Thanks to overwhelming audience demand, a fourth Koerner Hall performance has been added onSaturday May 21 at 8 PM. Tickets are also available for the performance at George Weston Recital Hall on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 8 PM. The world premiere of Tales of Two Cities takes place on May 17 at Queen’s University’s Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston, Ontario. A seventh Ontario performance of Tales of Two Cities takes place at Melrose United Church in Hamilton on May 25.
Tales of Two Citiesis inspired by the colourful, opulent world of eighteenth-century Saxon and Syrian coffee houses, and is performed entirely from memory by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, guest ensemble Trio Arabica — Maryem Tollar, voice and qanun; Demetri Petsalakis, oud; and Naghmeh Farahmand, percussion — and narrator Alon Nashman. Tales of Two Cities is “an immensely engaging premise — taking two cities, thousands of miles apart —and viewing them through the musical lens of the same moment of historical and cultural time.” (The Wholenote).
The year is 1740, and coffee houses are the cultural and social hubs in both the famous trading centre of Leipzig, and in one of the oldest cities in the world, Damascus. As far back as the era of J.S. Bach, Leipzig was already established as an important centre of Arabic scholarship, and to this day, the city remains a repository for Syrian culture.
“Current world events have brought the citizens of Damascus, Leipzig, and Toronto together in challenging but exciting ways, and Tafelmusik wanted to make contact with Syrians living in Leipzig today,” said Mackay, who has been visiting the German city since 2014 to research aspects of Tales of Two Cities. “We’ve been collaborating with Leipzig-based Syrian poets, language scholars, activists, and musicians for the past several months, and the experience has been incredibly profound and enriching. We look forward to sharing aspects of this rich cultural collaboration with our audiences in Toronto, Kingston, and Hamilton” she said.
In addition to music by European baroque composers such as Telemann, Handel, and Bach, audiences will hear classical Arabic music performed by guest ensemble Trio Arabica — music that may well have been heard in the coffee houses of Damascus. To mark the occasion, Trio Arabica will release Al-Qahwa (“coffee house” in Arabic), a recording of classical music from Syria, Egypt, and Iraq, some of which will be heard performed live in Tales of Two Cities.
Stage direction for Tales of Two Cities is by Marshall Pynkoski, co-artistic director of Opera Atelier. Production design is by Glenn Davidson, and projections are designed by Raha Javanfar.
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