The Good Season
put your trust in the artistic process and in artists. They may succeed or fail, and you can debate that to your heart's content
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Christopher "Topher" Mokrzewski is Resident Conductor at Calgary Opera, Music Director of Against the Grain Theatre and a frequent music staff member at the Canadian Opera Company. A graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio and the Eastman School of Music, he resides primarily in Toronto with his wife. More information may be found at www.christophermokrzewski.com.
I might loathe a traditional production and love the weirdest production (and vice versa).
CHARPO: Now I'd like to talk about adaptation, for a second. You've been involved in some real "abominations" with Against the Grain and coming from the world of Shakespeare I understand that. But how common is it becoming for other companies to veer away from the composer's work musically (as we know they pretty much all do scenographically)?
MOKRZEWSKI: These are important questions that lead to many interesting conversations among my colleagues. A short preamble: my musical background is as a solo pianist. I began my studies at a very early age and spent many years in conservatories and other such places for musical training. Though it is not universally so, one tends to encounter some conservative folk who approach the classical tradition with quasi-religious piety. The positive side of such an outlook is that you grow up with a healthy knowledge of, and respect for, the heavy hitters, both composers and performers. The danger, I think, in adhering too strongly to these sentiments is that you forget that this work we do is not about curating a dead art, luxuriating in a crypt, but is about recreating and engaging in a living tradition.
CHARPO: I'd like to talk about your role as a very busy répétiteur - you must see everything! Diva fits, divo fails, head-to-heads. How much do you have to keep your own head down and how much do you have to intervene musically during the very delicate process of rehearsal (especially with your other hat as a coach)?
CHARPO: Against the Grain is as much your house as it is Joel Ivany's, it seems. Tell us about your relationship with him.
Also read: Our review of The Seven Deadly Sins
Against the Grain website