Wednesday, February 15, 2012



The power of opera,

where every drama is a hoax;

with a little make-up and with mime

you can become some

one else.

But two eyes that look at you,

so close and real,

make you forget the words,

confuse your thoughts…

Caruso - by Lucio D


The Art of Time Ensemble’s Cantabile: An Evening of Italian music was a brilliant and eclectic evening featuring two incredible artists whose very distinct voices provided audiences with a program of dual virtuoso performances that came together at the end of the evening in a thrilling climax.

Canadian tenor Michael Ciufo’s program included beautiful selections from Donizetti, Verdi, Cilea, Tosti, Cardillo, Gastaldon, Denza, and ended with a very moving and powerful version of the famous aria, Vesti la giubba from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

Ciufo’s much lauded charisma was in fine form as he commanded the stage with a powerfully subtle charm and enthusiasm for the material at hand, and contrasted sharply and favorably with the more rollicking persona of his musical partner, Dominic Mancuso.

Alternating throughout the evening the two performers never faltered in a diverse array of music supported by the highly skilled and musically inventive work of Benjamin Bowman (violin), Andrew Burashko (piano), Davide di Renzo (drums), Andrew Downing (double bass), John Johnson (saxophone), VĂ©ronique Mathieu (violin), and Rachel Mercer (cello). A highlight of the evening featured Benjamin Bowen’s intricate violin stylings that Mancuso introduced by saying that he had been told that the musician would be eager, and very capable, of providing sharp non-traditional accompaniment for the evocative soundscapes that supported Mancuso’s stylish and highly textured vocal presentations.

Ciufo’s controlled and gorgeous operatic tones, reaching spine tingling crescendos, provided audiences with a variety of pieces ranging form salon music to classical opera, while Mancuso’s textured, storytelling approach to voice and song ranged from the rollicking manic layers of Pino Daniele’s Je so’ pazzo (I’m Mad) to the more romantic strains of Lucio Dalla’s Caruso, providing an intriguing meta-theatrical narrative connection to Ciufo’s more operatic tones as he sang, in one verse, in stylishly moody, gorgeous and decidedly non-operatic tones about the power of opera.

The duet at the end of the evening brought these two disparate voices together in a seamless and incredible rendition of Zucchero’s Miserere. Written by Italian rock star Zucchero Fornaciari with English lyrics by U2’s Bono, Fonacaciri had hoped, in 1992, to persuade Pavarotti to record the song. Pavarottis’ response has become legendary as he declined the offer and politely responded by saying: "Thank you for writing such a wonderful song. Yet you do not need me to sing it - let Andrea sing Miserere with you, for there is no one finer." Pavarotti was speaking of Andrea Bocelli, whose recording of the version Pavarotti first heard was instrumental in catapulting Bocelli to international fame as he toured with Zucchero in 1993 where they performed the song together.

Artistic Director Andrew Burashko must be commended for once again bringing together an incredible group of musicians able to create a truly unique and engaging evening. His work with the Art of Time Ensemble continues to provide audiences with one of a kind collaborations, including the recent I Send you this Cadmium Red (an evening of theatre, dance, and music) and the upcoming forty-fifth anniversary celebration of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that will utilize the talents of a variety of musicians as they reproduce the entire album in a variety of forms ranging from pop and jazz to more classical interpretations (May 31st - June 2, 8pm, Enwave Theatre - Harborfront).

Cantabile: An Evening of Italian Music ran at the Enwave Theatre (Harborfront) February 10th and 11th

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