U50: York artists offer a contemporary take on an ancient tale

York University’s Department of Music celebrates the heroic genesis of a new era with The Aeneid: A Compendium of Scenes from Virgil, an original cycle of musical tableaux based on the famed Latin epic.

A dynamic mix of opera, oratorio, cantata, dance and digital media, this contemporary retelling of an ancient tale unfolds Nov. 11 in York University’s Tribute Communities Recital Hall.

Above: Federico Barocci’s Aeneas’ Flight from Troy, created in 1598, is on display in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The founding myth of classical Roman culture, The Aeneid was the final work of the poet Virgil, who dedicated it to Rome’s first emperor, Caesar Augustus. The story follows the warrior-hero Aeneas and his fellow Trojans as they sail to find a second home after the fall of Troy. Fraught with divine intervention, their journey encompasses momentous battles, love affairs, suffering and sacrifice. It culminates in a final battle in Italy where Aeneas emerges victorious, setting the stage for a glorious new epoch leading to the founding of Rome.

Bringing Virgil’s myth-history to life are professional musicians, performers, academics and students in York’s Music Department and Faculty of Fine Arts, joined by leading guest artists.

Music Professor Michael Coghlan conceived the project, composed the music and scripted the English and Latin texts, devising a distinctive musical setting for each of the 12 dramatic scenes.

Featured performers include York faculty members, mezzo soprano Catherine Robbin, multi-instrumentalist Rob Simms, choral conductor Lisette Canton, conductor of the York University Wind Symphony Bill Thomas, clarinetist Patricia Wait and flamenco guitarist Roger Scannura. Guest artists include the award-winning Mississauga Children’s Choir, internationally renowned trumpeter Guido Basso, bass-baritones Daniel Lichti and Peter Wall, and York alumna, soprano Leigh-Anne Martin (BFA Spec. Hons. ’09).

Coghlan, the director of York’s Graduate Program in Music, has extensive professional credits as a composer, performer, conductor, record producer and music director. He has worked in a wide range of musical genres and techniques, from medieval and classical to jazz, popular, world and contemporary music, with dozens of published scores and recorded compositions. His most recent compositions are two pieces, Peregrine Riffs and Lucky Cube 343, commissioned for the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ 100th anniversary this year. A specialist in digital music production, he is known nationally for his work in the development and use of contemporary music technologies in artistic and pedagogical practices.

The Aeneid: A Compendium of Scenes from Virgil is a U50 event, created in celebration of York University’s 50th anniversary. The performance will take place Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 7:30pm in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall in the Accolade East Building. Tickets are $15, or $5 for students and seniors. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the York University Box Office Web site or call 416-736-5888.