Music and Opera Appreciation's winter series to feature guest appearance by Loreena McKennitt

Introduced by Loreena McKennitt, a recorded performance of the musician's 2007 concert, Nights from the Alhambra, in Grenada, Spain will be the headliner for Music and Opera Appreciation's 2019 winter series.

Music and Opera Appreciation's winter series begins Jan. 8. Pictured, artistic leader Barbara Steed Young at her home in Stratford. (Galen Simmons/Beacon Herald file photo)

Share Adjust Comment Print

To take away a person or a people’s freedom to migrate from one country to another is to take away their culture’s ability to adapt to and merge with others.

As Music and Opera Appreciation artistic leader Barbara Steed Young is trying to prove with her lineup for the organization’s 2019 winter series, some of the world’s best music is a direct product of two or more cultural influences.

“People moving from one location to another location, either through war, or through weather conditions, or for need for work, they took with them a lot of their native customs, a lot of their native music, a lot of their native writing, and that blended with new countries that they went to, to create a whole new kind of culture,” Young said.

Starting on Jan. 8 and spanning six Tuesday afternoons from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Guthrie Room at Stratford’s Festival Inn, Music and Opera Appreciation will present four musical programs that show how the mixing of cultures and the migration of people have resulted in musical compositions that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

For the first session, Young will show the documentary, Shadows in Paradise, which tells the story of the roughly 30,000 intellectuals and artists who were exiled or chose to leave Europe for the United State to escape the rise of fascism in 1939.

“Many of them settled in California and it became (a hub for) the music and film industry,” Young said.

Using the documentary as context, Young will take those in attendance Jan. 8 on an exploration into the work of Hollywood composers like the Austrian-born Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who escaped the Nazi regime to compose film scores for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936), and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).

A highlight of the winter series, singer-songwriter Loreena McKennitt will be in attendance Jan. 15 to introduce her 2007 concert, Nights from the Alhambra, recorded live in the Medieval Moorish Palace in Granada, Spain.

“She uses Celtic music, which involves a lot of music from Ireland and England… combined with Moorish music,” Young said. “… It has interesting instruments that we don’t necessarily use in our music such as tablas, and lryas, and bodhráns — things like that.

“So the combination of the two cultures are melded together in Loreena’s own unique way to create this beautiful concert.”

Young said she has been trying to book McKennitt for a Music and Opera session for some time now, and she is especially excited that the busy musician has agreed to participate in this year’s winter series.

On both Jan. 22 and 29, the focus will once again be on Spain, as those in attendance delve into Italian-composer Gioachino Rossini’s 1819 opera, The Barber of Seville.

“It’s really Italian opera brought to Spain,” Young said, “and using Spanish rhythms and sort of Spanish idioms. I thought it was time for a comedy, so that’s why I chose The Barber of Seville. It’s a very, very funny opera, so I think it will be a nice break.”

And finally, to close out the season on Feb. 5 and 12, music and opera appreciators will revisit Korngold’s work, specifically his opera, Die Tote Stadt — The Dead City.

Having written the composition as a 23-year-old exile in the style of late romanticism, Korngold premiered his creation in the wake of the First World War. Timely both then and now, the opera represents a renewal of life and hope through the redemption of its conflicted anti-hero.

“For some reason, it’s just got this huge re-surge in popularity — four major opera companies are doing it this year… It’s quite wonderful and nobody dies at the end, so it’s a good note to leave off on,” Young said.

Tickets for each of the 2019 winter series sessions are $10 each, or $50 for all six dates. For more information, visit