Magic Missed…

August 6, 2009

This afternoon, I decided to take a walk down memory lane and attend a showing of Max et les Ogres, with marionettist and narrator Karine St. Arnaud, accompanied by the Pentaedre Wind Quintet. Set to a magical score beautifully executed by the quintet, St. Arnaud was a captivating animator in relaying the story of a young vegetarian ogre who hides a trio of wind musicians from being eaten by his parents. The little ogre falls in love with the flute, and when his parents hear the music they fall in love with it as well, and swear off eating musicians (and lesser humans). It was a charming and effective show for the introduction of the beauty of classical music to young children.

It was in a similar setting that I fell in love with the flute, like the little ogre. In my own case, it was the magic of the Bel Canto Quintet – well known to Chamberfest and the Ottawa scene – on a visit to my Montessori school, which got me hooked.

The beauty of what was presented this afternoon was that, much like an opera in a foreign language (before the advent of surtitles in the theatre), you didn’t need to know what they were saying to understand the story line. The music captured the mood of the scene, while the actions of the marionettes allowed the story line to be understood in context. The narrator’s vocal inflections and her direct connection to the audience (she didn’t look at the puppets, she swept the audience with her eyes) drew the audience into her.

Tabaret Hall was cleverly used to create an intimate atmosphere in a very large room. Effective lighting and the proximity of the audience to the stage brought the marionettes to life and kept us feeling involved in the story.

Despite so many things going right to bring this lovely little production to life, I was disappointed by the chemistry with the audience, and I’m not even sure that I can explain what it was that didn’t quite work. To begin with, I felt the show was poorly attended – it certainly merited a much larger crowd. Because of the small size of the audience, the fact that as many as a third of this already small audience came just as the production was beginning created a distraction for those in their seats and did not allow the children entering to acclimatize to the setting. The anticipation which had been present in the room was interrupted, and I’m not sure it was ever fully recaptured. I was torn as I sat there because I would so have loved for these children to appreciate, as I did, the magic these musicians were spinning. It was such an opportunity missed…

Lindsay Bryden, flutist


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