For the benefit of any out-of-towners reading these words, Luminato is a seven-year-old Toronto-based festival held annually in the month of June. It’s made a name for itself as a gathering together of new trends in the performing arts from around the world. But it also has its critics. There are those who feel that the ten-day multimillion dollar extravaganza pays too little attention to Toronto’s local artists.
Morris first choreographed L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato back in 1988, in Brussels, to rave reviews. It’s an unlikely combination: modern dance and baroque music. When first staged, it was a breath of fresh air in the dance world – and, as Friday’s performance demonstrated, it has retained its freshness over a quarter of a century.
In its style, Morris’s L’Allegro manages to be many things at once. On the surface, it’s spontaneous, organic and lyrical. Yet beneath the surface, it’s a carefully constructed and intricately developed work. And always there is an immediate connection to Handel’s glorious music.
Morris’s company of two dozen dancers were in fine form, giving an agile and energetic performance that was tightly cohesive but never rigidly uniform.
As well, simple, monochromatic sets and costumes (by Adrianne Lobel and Christine van Loon) enhanced L’Allegro’s charms.
The only problematic aspect of the show was the vocal soloists. While I have no doubt that soprano Shannon Mercer, mezzo Karina Gauvin, tenor Thomas Conley and baritone Baritone Douglas Williams all did their best, the Sony Centre’s unfortunate acoustics effectively obliterated their diction.
Last year at Luminato, I saw a stunning production of Philip Glass’s opera Einstein on the Beach. And this year, it was another “modern masterpiece.” It’s nice to see that such works are being kept alive in the repertoire – and that they (eventually) find their way to Toronto.
© Colin Eatock 2013