• Monday, February 21, 2011
    7:00 pm
    • In person

Works by Klanac, Rea and Shi.

Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour is a triptych about love. It delicately brings together three poems sung by Krisztina Szabó and Xin Wang, accompanied by an accordion. The Toronto company Queen of Puddings Music Theatre presents a concert version of its latest creation, where three works written by three different composers on poems of unrelated eras and cultures — and commissioned for this occasion — are juxtaposed. From Medieval France to Tang-Dynasty China and Renaissance Italy, from Medieval French to English and Mandarin, expect a journey through time and eras.


Early in 2009, we had two interconnecting artistic desires: there were three particular Canadian composers from whom we wanted to commission new chamber operas (Pierre Klanac, Fuhong Shi, John Rea) and we wanted these operas to be sung together in the form of a Triptych. Secondly, we wanted this Triptych to be the second opera specifically commissioned for our new international touring initiative. We thought the combination of two female voices and accordion would provide us with a delicate, refined sound world with access to a full harmonic sonority while the miniature forces would provide us with a flexible and portable touring production.

We asked the three composers to choose texts inspired by love and beauty. Québec composer Pierre Klanac, now living in France, has a fascination with setting French medieval text and we collaborated to discover the text Jeux à vendre by Christine de Pisan of which Pierre has used excerpts. Medieval French poet Christine de Pisan was Europe’s first professional female writer (c.1365-c.1430). Her poetic work is notable both for its technical mastery of the accepted forms of her time, and for its innovativeness that critically challenged renowned male writers. She excelled in the complex metrical forms of courtly poetry: ballads, lays, and rondeaux. Her poems Jeux à vendre (Songs for Sale) were a lively game of the mind, typical of the era.

From the outset Chinese composer Fuhong Shi clearly wished to set a poem from the Tang Dynasty and she chose Spring, River, and Flowers on a Moonlit Night by Zhang Ruoxu. The poem fuses poeticism and lyricism with the aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy, painting, philosophy and drama to praise love and human emotion, as well as to explore the true meaning of the life and the profound mystery of the universe through describing the five main images of a sublime natural landscape—spring, river, flowers, moon and night. The moon, especially, functions as a pivotal symbol with personified imagery interwoven throughout the poem. We asked Fuhong to set the text in her native language of Mandarin.

Montreal composer John Rea chose the texts Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour, four Italian poems from the 17th century. Once serving as lyrics for Venetian composer Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677), renowned then also as “la virtuosissima cantatrice”, these texts were penned by two writers: her father, poet and librettist Giulio Strozzi (1583-1652), as well as most probably Giovanni Francesco Loredan (1607-1661) or Loredano, a Venetian public figure who gathered around him a group of intellectuals, littérateurs, philosophers, and musicians including Monteverdi, all members later of his libertine “Accademia degli Incogniti” (“Academy of the Unknowns”). These texts, almost always construed from a woman’s point of view, are all love poems and invariably look to the suffering caused by unrequited love, presented across a full range of emotions, from ironic mockery to weeping melancholy. Being a fluent Italian speaker, John Rea crafted his own English translation.

Dáirine Ní Mheadhra, Music Director, Queen of Puddings Music Theatre



Coproduction MNM / Queen of Puddings Music Theatre in collaboration with Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur