by Lynn on June 22, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont. Presented by the Mark Morris Dance Group. Music from the Handel Oratorio; based on John Milton’s poems.  Choreographed by Mark Morris. Conducted by Jane Glover. Set by Adrianne Lobel. Costumes by Christine Van Loon. Lighting by James F. Ingalls. Singers: Thomas Cooley, Karina Gauvin, Shannon Mercer, Douglas Williams.

At the Sony Centre until June 23.

L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato was first presented in 1988 and has since become a signature piece for the Mark Morris Dance Group.

It is pure joy.

I can’t speak to the minutiae of the dancing but can speak about the theatricality, the whimsy and the beauty of it.

Milton’s poems summon the gods to banish melancholy, bring mirth and joy. There are references to going to see the works of Johnson and Shakespeare, this last is perhaps the sweetest, funniest of the sections. The men of this 24 person troupe pair, separate, slap the face and pat the bums of their fellows in a gentle romp. The slapping even has a rhythm to it. There is reference to walking proud dogs, revelling in exaltation and the most graceful, whimsical sex.

I’ve come to expect that grace, elegance and whimsy in a Mark Morris piece. Everything about this piece, from the simple set of screens, (Adrianne Lobel) to the pastel lighting of James F. Ingalls, to the costumes of Christine Van Loon that float like gossamer in the air, everything has taste and style. It’s dance for those new to it and for those who are old hands.

If I have a criticism it’s that the production in the barn known as the Sony Centre could use surtitles for the singing. The singers sing from the open pit and while the singing sounds beautiful, it isn’t always clear exactly what they are saying. Surtitles will be greatly helpful to express what Milton’s poem is saying at that moment to see how the dancing is informed by it. Other than that, pure joy.

L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato plays at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts until Sunday, June 23.

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