|We start to notice that Underworlds repeats itself, and monotony sets in: it's narrator and singers; solo Zepeda; narrator and singers; solo Zepeda. Often it was hard to tell whether Zepeda was deliberately mimicking the sounds of nature as described by Sandra Laronde, or whether he was playing to the recorded music, but his near over-dominance of the structure and the running time of Underworlds made Cheeby-Aub-Oozoo's story shrink in prominence. We forgot about Cheeby-Aub-Oozoo.
And sorry to say but judging by the restless and coughing audience, the static structure and its equally static staging likely distanced the audience instead of drawing them into Underworlds.
The reverse was true for the Toronto Consort's poised performance of Eurydice Variations, a new look at the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, told through the eyes of Eurydice herself.
(The Bridget Bryant text is based on Alessandro Striggio's lyrics and the variations of David Fallis are based on Claudio Monteverdi's original music for Orfeo.)
The Consort's performance was approachable, clever and thoughtful, and it was so pleasant to see that these singers, these storytellers of the Eurydice Variations, are aware of blocking. From piece to piece, they efficiently changed places on the stage, all dressed in black. Then they sang, and the illusion of a story being told was maintained.
It seems that good performances are based on some kind of useful and effective narrative structure.
For example, the polish and crisp sound of the instrumentalists served as a framework for this evening's performance. The playing of Ben Grossman hurdy-gurdy, Paul Jenkins keyboard, Terry McKenna guitar and lute, Alison Melville flutes, Lucas Harris lute, Laura Jones cellist and gambist supported the audience who read the text while the singers sang. (Now that's ambience.)
And what fine singers. There's Laura Pudwell's warm and articulate mezzo-soprano voice, and there's John Pepper, David Fallis and soprano Michele DeBoer who entertained and impressed us with their clear and deft treatment of the lyrics. Eurydice Variations is a whole presentation on stage about love lost. It's been put together well. It wasn't just a music concert.
On the plus side, Underworld is an original Canadian myth, but its narrative structure might be reworked so it consistently tells its story.
So: if you've got a good story and both companies do you've still got to package it so the audience stays.