Arlecchino Allegro blended together the traditions of clown, improvisation and chamber music in a very entertaining manner.

Under the artistic direction of Larry Beckwith, Toronto Masque Theatre celebrated its 10th year anniversary this past weekend with their annual cabaret. This year, they shared the stage with members of the internationally known Gorgonetrevich Corps de Ballet Nationale (GCdBN), with whom they had worked in 2003 in Tears Of A Clown. That show was so successful, they decided to update it this year as Arlecchino Allegro. which ran from January 23-25 last week in the beautiful historic Enoch Turner Schoolhouse.

1669756_536581406450030_1538305390_oFeaturing musical selections based on the theme of love, laughter, joy and celebration, this cabaret night was hosted by GCdBN’s Artistic Director Nicholas Denoument and prima ballerina Mina Rafaella Kalishnikova. The title of the evening was attributed to a generous  ‘anonymous’ patron who sponsored the production to honour his beloved companion, ‘Arlecchino’.

To our surprise, this ‘anonymous’ patron and special guest were not able to attend the event. However, his regrets were sent stating that his beloved ‘Arlecchino’ had passed away and that a ‘new musical program’ was to be performed. Of course, the musicians had already practiced every piece in ‘the printed program’. As you can imagine, the evening took a different course from this point on. None of us were sure what to expect.

The whole evening from beginning to end was filled with humour and great music. Accompanied by a chamber ensemble lead by Beckwith (violin), along with Felix Deak (viola da gamba), Avery MacLean (recorders), and Terry McKenna (guitars), mezzo-soprano Laura Pudwell delighted us with her wonderful interpretations of Mahler, Mozart, Debussy, Leoncavallo, Schubert as well as some unexpected music, such as Roy Orbison’s Crying — a personal favourite!

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Oftentimes a night of chamber music may seem a bit ‘stuffy’; especially, if in a theatre where the audience does not get to interact with the artists/musicians much. Arlecchino Allegro was anything but pretentious in its presentation, from the way the audience reacted to every piece of music, to the banter between the performers. The hosts were great at keeping things relaxed and had good rapport with the audience, too.

Some aspects of this production I’d like to highlight: the selection of music were some of the loveliest Baroque music I’ve heard in a while, and I enjoyed the inclusion of non-classical faves as I mentioned earlier. The variety of musical instruments made for some interesting renditions of some major compositions. Interestingly and disconcertingly, the new musical program included some pieces for which the instruments were not available. No problem! All the performers managed to surprise us with their renditions. Madame Pudwell, with her wonderful voice, performed an impressive version of Vesti la giubna from the opera Pagliacci by Leoncavallo, a song meant to be sung by a tenor. It was absolutely astounding.

It was also nice to hear pieces from the original ‘printed program’ for the evening as well. Four pieces that stayed with me from that program are: Amarilli mia bella (Giulio Caccini), Soleta i verge estich (Bartomeu Carceres), L’eraclito amaroso (Barbara Strozzi), and Un sarao de la chacona (Juan Arañés). Sublime!

Every season, Toronto Masque Theatre holds this intimate cabaret that allows audiences to enjoy a glass of wine from a candle-lit table. Arlecchino Allegro blended together the traditions of clown, improvisation and chamber music in a very entertaining manner. My lovely companion and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

I would recommend Toronto Masque Theatre for those who prefer a smaller setting, and for audiences of any age group. Their charming productions certainly makes for a nice change of pace.

Hyes_musings_iconHeidy is a guest contributor on the BeMused Blog, sharing her love of film, theatre, music, art, and culture in general to encourage more audiences to discover what Toronto has to offer. Check out more of her writing at Hye’s Musings.