The Arts

Ashkenaz Festival – Frank London/Glen Berger’s A Night in the Old Market Place

Ashkenaz Festival – Frank London/Glen Berger’s A Night in the Old Market Place featured image

Reviewed by Paula Citron

The biennial Ashkenaz Festival celebrates the Yiddish culture that flourished primarily in eastern Europe before it was almost totally destroyed by the Nazi holocaust.

The biggest part of Ashkenaz is klezmer music, that distinctive Yiddish fusion of folk, gypsy, and religious idioms. The klezmer opera A Night in the Old Market Place, based on Yiddish author I.L. Peretz’s 1907 sprawling play, is incredibly ambitious.

The core of the story is a ghostly wedding that takes place between a bride who committed suicide and the man who was her true love. Toronto actress Marilyn Lightstone caressed the narration with her distinctive lush throaty voice, while a quintet of able singers performed the various characters and choruses against projected animation of Jewish village life.

The hero is American composer Frank London who puts Klezmer into an infinite variety of musical styles – cantorial, folk, vocalise, melismatic, jazz, cabaret, blues, new music dissonance, electronica and so on. It’s an impressively orchestrated score.

A Night in the Old Market Place
Ashkenaz Festival
Music by Frank London
Lyrics and narration by Glen Berger
Conducted by Frank London
Directed by Alexandra Aron
Performed by David Wall, Charlotte Cohn, Steven Hrycelak, Lorin Sklamberg and Adrienne Cooper
Enwave Theatre, Sept. 6, 2010

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