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Berlioz's passion inspires Seventeen Voyces choir


Peter Robb, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: March 9, 2015

Louis-Hector Berlioz, the 19th-century French Romantic composer, holds a particular fascination for Kevin Reeves, music director of the Ottawa choir Seventeen Voyces.


"We do share the same birthday and we are both former redheads," Reeves says with a laugh.

But it's a bit more than that.

"Ever since I bought his memoirs when I was a university student and read them, I've been interested. First of all I thought this was one of the most hilarious books I have ever read."

In part that's because many of the problems that confronted Berlioz in his time face artists in Ottawa today, Reeves says.

"I thought this is someone who could have lived at any time because of his comments on being an artist and his revelations about all the people who put obstacles in his path, especially bureaucrats in 19th-century Paris. In the show I compare them to the same sort of people in 21st-century Ottawa. He was also treated miserably in France and loved everywhere else he went." Sound familiar?

The show is a multi-media presentation that mixes film, music by Berlioz, Beethoven (who influenced the Frenchman) and Mendelssohn, his Romantic contemporary, and a performance by actor Peter James Haworth portraying the composer.

The script is based on the memoirs.

"I took the most salient features from the book, including an unfulfilled plot to kill a fiancee who had dumped him for a manufacturer of pianos," Reeves says. Clearly Berlioz was a passionate fellow.

In the memoir Berlioz also complains about the lack of a proper concert hall in 19th-century Paris, something that resonates with this city today.

A performance this week will be the first since it was performed in 2003 and 2004.

Berlioz (1803-1869) is best known for his Symphonie fantastique, composed early in his career. But he was also a virtuoso conductor, musician and critic.



 

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