Nov 7, 2016

Smile, You’re on Camera! Tafelmusik to record Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House before a live audience at the Aga Khan Museum, December 9, 2016

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“A phenomenon that was unexpected and powerful”
—The Globe and Mail

A flawless affair, musically as well as aesthetically
—Musical Toronto

Toronto, November 7, 2016 … In association with the Aga Khan Museum, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra presents a special performance of Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House, the stunning multimedia creation from Alison Mackay that premiered last May to sold-out houses, and was seen in Kingston, Hamilton, and Toronto. Audience members attending the performance at the Aga Khan Museum’s Auditorium on Friday, December 9 at 3:30pm will have the opportunity to take part in the live recording for an upcoming Tafelmusik Media CD and DVD release. Tickets for this event are on sale through the Aga Khan Museum, 416 646-4677,, and include a 50% discount on admission to the museum.

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 “enterprising concept …  [that] blends elements that are entertaining, educational, musically rewarding and visually arresting” (Huffington Post Canada).

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 visited the German city since 2014 to research aspects of Tales of Two Cities. “We’ve collaborated with Leipzig-based Syrian poets, language scholars, activists, and musicians, and the experience has been incredibly profound and enriching. We look forward to sharing aspects of this rich cultural collaboration with our audience at the Aga Khan Museum,” she said.

In addition to music by European baroque composers such as Telemann, Handel, and Bach, the audience will hear classical Arabic music performed by guest ensemble Trio Arabica — music that may well have been heard in the coffee houses of Damascus.

For Tales of Two Cities, 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. Previous multi-media creations, such as the phenomenally successful The Galileo Project, House of Dreams, andJ.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation, are toured extensively and continue to delight audiences across Canada, the United States, Korea, China, Australia, and New Zealand. The reach of these programs is further extended through CD and DVD recordings, and Tales of Two Cities will be added to Tafelmusik’s impressive discography in late 2017.

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.

Tales of Two Cities was developed in partnership with Isabel Centre for the Performing Arts, in collaboration with the Aga Khan Museum, and is generously supported by The Pluralism Fund and by a gift from an anonymous benefactor.

Listing Information: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in association with the Aga Khan Museum presents Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House with guest ensemble Trio Arabica and narrator Alon Nashman

Alison Mackay |Programme Creator
Jeanne Lamon | MusicDirection
Marshall Pynkoski |Stage Direction
Glenn Davidson | Production Designer
Raha Javanfar | Projections Designer

Date + Time: Fri Dec 9 at 3:30pm

Ticket Prices: $25 (concert ticket includes 50% off admission to Aga Khan Museum)                     

Venue: Museum Auditorium, Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Drive (Don Mills & Eglinton)

Box Office: Aga Khan Museum: (416) 646-4677|                                                  



Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, founded in 1979, is one of the world’s leading period performance ensembles. The Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, under the direction of Ivars Taurins, was formed in 1981 to complement the Orchestra. The orchestra performs some 80 concerts each year at home in Toronto, and travels extensively around the world. The choir and orchestra’s multi-platform recording label Tafelmusik Media was launched in January 2012, along with the Watch and Listen site. Tafelmusik’s discography of 80-plus CDs has been recorded on the Sony Classical, CBC Records, Analekta and Tafelmusik Media labels. Since 1991, Tafelmusik has received nine JUNO Awards and a Grammy Award nomination. Tafelmusik is the Baroque Orchestra-in-Residence at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and operates annual artist training programs, Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute and Tafelmusik Winter Institute. Tafelmusik has been led by Jeanne Lamon since 1981, with Managing Director William Norris joining the team in 2015. In June 2014, Ms. Lamon stepped down as Music Director and continues her association with Tafelmusik as Music Director Emerita.


Tafelmusik wishes to thank the following for their generous support: BMO Financial Group, RBC Foundation, TD Bank Group, John and Margaret Catto, Margaret and Jim Fleck, Great West Life, London Life, Canada Life, Hal Jackman Foundation, KPMG, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Classical 96.3 FM and NOW Magazine. Tafelmusik is a proud partner of the Bloor St. Culture Corridor.

Media contact:
Luisa Trisi, Big Picture Communications, (416) 456-0499 |
427 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON M5S 1X7

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