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Perhaps it's because they spend so much time upside down that Australians are a little crazy. Why else would a recent university graduate attempt to direct a cast of Melbourne mental patients in Mozart's opera Cosi Fan Tutte? Of course, being delusional could help one's acting career -- playing Napoleon would be a lot easier with a Napoleonic complex.
Despite being set in an asylum, the English Drama and Theatre Program's Cosi, now playing at Moyse Hall is very much rooted in the real world.
"It pertains to students because it's about this guy who's graduated from university and is trying to figure out what to do with his life," explains assistant director Sarah Yaffe.
Yaffe said that the McGill production is remaining true to the play's origins -- 1971 Melbourne. Players will don bell-bottoms and antipodean accents for the show. The politics of the time colour the story as well.
"Part of the plot is a commentary on the Vietnam war, but from an Australian perspective," said Yaffe.
And although the plot contrivance of opera in a madhouse sounds a little broad, the play delves into serious issues of politics and the sexual revolution. It is a comedy in the end, with wide appeal.
"There's some physical humour but there's also some intellectual humour," said Yaffe.
Cosi, by Louis Nowra, is playing February 12-15 and 19-22 at Moyse Hall. Show starts at 8 pm. $10 adults, $5 students, seniors and groups. Call 398-6070.
There will be no presents and the man of honour is a little too, shall we say, short of breath to blow out his candles. This year Founder's Day celebrates the 172nd birthday of Sir William Macdonald, the philanthropist who gave the land and his name to McGill's West Island campus.
The festivities will kick off with a wail and skirl of bagpipes, followed by presentations of the Golden Key Awards that recognize outstanding students in the faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. These are followed by a presentation by the keynote speaker, Jeff MacInnis, an author, outdoor athlete and recreational sailor. That is, if you call navigating the Northwest Passage in an 18-foot vessel "recreational."
"We were fascinated by all the things he's done -- we want young people to hear him. His motto is 'dream, dare, do.' I like to tell young people that anything is possible, the only obstacle is yourself," said Founder's Day chair Marcel Couture.
Of course, that message isn't just useful for young people.
"We invite all the students, staff, support staff -- the whole Macdonald community. I've signed three or four hundred invitations," said Couture, adding that the friends from John Abbott and Ste. Anne de Bellevue are welcomed as well.
"He's done wonderful things and he's going to be an inspirational speaker."
The celebration starts at 10:30 in Centennial Centre Ballroom, February 13 at Macdonald campus. For information, call Marcel Couture at 398-7814.
"Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd/His skin was pale and his eye was odd/He shaved the faces of gentlemen/Who never thereafter were heard of again/He trod a path that few have trod/Did Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
A few more will tread the path of Sweeney Todd -- thanks to the Savoy Society which will be performing the Stephen Sondheim musical about the barbarous barber of London. The society normally confines itself to the musical confections of Gilbert and Sullivan, but will be exploring the darker corners of musical entertainment, albeit in scaled down fashion.
"It's an in-concert production -- there aren't a lot of sets used, this was an addition production to our big annual show. In concert is a polite way of saying we don't have a lot of funds," said Savoy publications director Leah Carson candidly.
The sets and costumes may be limited, but the show will more than make up for that. The performance is in the intimate Birks Hall.
"The production rides a lot more on the actors ability to act and sing -- Sweeney Todd is known for being very difficult musically," said Carson.
Difficult -- and diabolical. The title character is a barber with a tendency to cut into his clients a little too enthusiastically. He then cooks them up as meat pies with his lover.
"The humour is a lot more dark -- it's kind of controversial. There are a lot of murders," said Carson.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 8pm, Birks Hall, February 13-15. $7 students, $10 regular.
The scene: a darkened theatre in Montreal. A rapt audience looks expectantly at the screen -- except for one person. The shot focuses in and we see a young student looking around at his fellow filmgoers. The student is nervous, sweating. This is his big moment -- will they like it? Suddenly there is laughter, applause. The judges stand up —the student holds his breath. Freeze frame: To be continued!
Aspiring Egoyans take note —your chance to be discovered is just around the corner. Specifically it's at the AMC, which is hosting the first annual Student Film and Video Festival.
"Right now we're opening it up to anyone who is a student in Montreal who has produced a film and is willing to submit it," said Jasmine Goyer, a Concordia communications student who is one of the co-organizers of the festival.
There will be a panel of judges who will judge the submissions —the screening will be April 2. Though it is a competition, it will also be a mini-convention.
"We want all the students who are interested in film or video to get together for fellowship, and to share their ideas and best work," said Goyer.
As this is the first, Goyer isn't sure what form the prizes will take at this point -- the organizers are still lining up sponsors. They are taking submissions from now until March 7, so get your cameras rolling and start practicing your acceptance speech.
Julian Wachner, chair of McGill's Choral Area, will be immersing the McGill Chamber Singers and Baroque Orchestra, along with Cappella Antica, in Monteverdi's Vespers this Saturday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the McGill Early Music Ensembles.
Monteverdi (1567-1643) straddled the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and nowhere is it so evident as in his Vespro della beati vergine of 1610.
The times gave rise to the recitative style and the beginning of opera as a form. Monteverdi incorporated Renaissance polyphony into the new Baroque style. The Baroque period encompassed two main compositional philosophies: the stile moderno, based on individuality and subjective expressivity; and the more austere and intellectual stile antico.
The Vespers' instruments alone display the juxtaposition of renaissance with the modern era, by having older horns -- sackbuts and cornetti -- alongside violins and violas. The music provides a sense of the rich spectrum of the mood, orchestral colour, texture and emotion of this varied time period.
Monteverdi's Vespro della beati vergine, February 15, 8:00 pm, St. Patrick's Basilica (400 Rene-Levesque Blvd. W.). $10. Info and tix: 398-4546/5145.