Translating Handel in Canada, via Toronto Symphony and opera company’s filmed “Messiah/Complex”

Posted on: December 23, 2020

Members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” while socially distanced in downtown Toronto as part of Messiah/Complex, a project of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Against the Grain Theater opera company.

“A gay Chinese-Canadian tenor struts through the streets of Vancouver, joyously proclaiming that ‘ev’ry valley shall be exalted’ as the camera focuses in on his six-inch-high stiletto heels,” writes Dan Bilefsky in Monday’s (12/21) New York Times. “In Yukon, an Indigenous singer praises the remote snow-covered landscape in Southern Tutchone, the language of her ancestors…. The … performers are part of ‘Messiah/Complex,’ an iconoclastic new production of Handel’s classic oratorio…. An 80-minute film featuring a dozen soloists from all corners of the country, this unabashed celebration of Canadian multiculturalism has recast the work as a series of deeply personal video narratives. (The performance will be streaming through Jan. 7.) The brainchild of Joel Ivany … and his Toronto indie opera company, Against the Grain Theater, in collaboration with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, ‘Messiah/Complex’ seeks to revamp a Christmas favorite for a world upended by a pandemic and a renewed consciousness about the rights of Black people and other minorities…. In Canada, where the global reckoning about systemic racism has spawned debate about the dearth of minority voices represented in popular culture, the production is also being seen as a cultural corrective of sorts.”