Brott Music Festival shifts into summer gear

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. Or actually, leave them off and start your radios, to hear Così fan tutte, the opera that opens the 2021 Brott Music Festival on July 15 in the normally not-so-operatic outdoor setting of the Ancaster Fairgrounds west of Hamilton, Ont.

Drive-in operas and concerts have become a growth industry in the wake of the pandemic but not all such events involve a happy harmony with the presentation itself. This version of Mozart’s 1790 opera buffa takes place in a 1950s drive-in diner. A vintage automobile will be part of the staging by Anna Theodosakis.

This busy Canadian director provides new dialogue. Boris Brott – founder and namesake of the 34-year-old festival – leads his youthful National Academy Orchestra through a 90-minute reduction of the normally three-hourish score.

“It’s a new production we’ve built ourselves,” Brott says with some pride. The maximum car count will be about 300. There will be backlit screens and loudspeakers for those who prefer lawn chairs to the front seats of a Cadillac. All present, of course, are required to adhere to COVID protocols.

Next up at the Fairgrounds on July 22 is a “Broadway Heroes” program featuring selections from West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Man of La Mancha, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Carousel and other Great White Way staples.

“It will be semi-staged,” Brott clarifies. “We have fabulous young singers, all with their own careers. Because there is so little happening on Broadway or anywhere else, we have the pick of people we want to feature.”

Third of three drive-ins, on July 30, is Bohemian Rhapsody: The Music of Queen, a program of music by the rock group of the title involving Jeans ’n Classics, a company that specializes in symphonic tributes of this type.

Possibly of greater interest to the classical listener is a July 29 (indoor) guest concert at Koerner Hall in Toronto under the auspices of Toronto Summer Music. Two Azrieli Music Prize winners are featured along with Kerson Leong playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor.

We go back outside on Aug. 8 for the festival finale at the Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery in the Niagara region. Brott conducts a program including Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with the acclaimed McMaster University artist-in-residence Valerie Tryon as soloist.

Suitable wine pairings are promised. The 100 seats at same-family tables sold so quickly that another performance was added.

“When we planned all this we had no idea whether the province would let us do it,” Brott says of the festival program. “We are delighted by the reaction of the audience so far.”

Best of all, the National Academy Orchestra has the opportunity to work in real time as well as taking advantage of online training with distinguished mentors. “That’s what’s behind the whole thing, and always has been.”

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. Since 2019, Arthur is co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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