With luck, 2015 will be a year of recovery not just for the economy but for a couple of key players in the world of arts and entertainment. In very different ways, two of Toronto’s favourite artists stumbled in 2014 but are hoping to bounce back during the next 12 months.
The one who took a tumble in the most literal sense is the National Ballet’s Guillaume Côté, who had to leave the stage during a performance of The Nutcracker on Dec. 13. As reported in the Toronto Star by dance critic Michael Crabb, Côté tore a ligament while performing a solo as the stable boy who falls in love with the Sugar Plum Fairy and could not finish the show.
Côté is a spectacular asset to the company, one of the greatest dancers in its history, as he recently demonstrated performing the title role in Nijinsky. And at 33, he should still have many years of great dancing ahead of him. His injury is the serious kind, usually requiring surgery and many months of recovery. But for Toronto dance lovers, his return to the stage will be an occasion to celebrate.
Meanwhile, Côté will be represented as a choreographer from May 30 to June 7, when the company presents the world premiere of Being and Nothingness: a four-part reflection of a theme in the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, expressed in dance and using music by Philip Glass.
The multi-talented film and stage director Atom Egoyan had a different kind of mishap. His latest movie, The Captive, was booed at the Cannes Film Festival and panned by many critics. That was especially shocking because in the past, Egoyan has been a golden boy at Cannes. And it was not the first sign in 2014 that Egoyan can disappoint even his most fervent admirers.
In January, Egoyan staged a very original but ultimately confused and unsatisfying Canadian Opera Company production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Mozart also figures in The Captive. The movie is about a pedophile who kidnaps a 9-year-old girl in Niagara Falls. And this criminal enjoys listening to Mozart.
Variety’s critic dismissed The Captive as “a ludicrous abduction thriller that finds a once-great filmmaker slipping into previously un-entered realms of self-parody.”
Despite the film’s reception in Cannes, hometown moviegoers were expecting The Captive to have its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, with which Egoyan has had a rich history stretching over three decades. To the surprise of many, The Captive was conspicuously missing from TIFF’s lineup. Instead it opened quietly at theatres . . . and disappeared fast.
Will 2015 be the year for a return to peak form for Egoyan? It could happen both on the opera stage and on movie screens. First, his production of Die Walkure (part of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle) will be revived by the Canadian Opera Company in its winter season at the Four Seasons Centre.
The production has not been seen since Egoyan staged it in 2006 as part of a complete Ring Cycle mounted when the COC moved into its new home. This is no ordinary revival; opening night on Jan. 31 is anticipated with great expectations, with reason. In a stunning coup, Alexander Neef (the opera company’s general director) has signed Christine Goerke to play Brunhilde, one of the most beloved and challenging roles in opera.
In doing so, the COC has scooped the Metropolitan Opera, whose boss, Peter Gelb, had already signed Goerke to play Brunhilde in the 2018/2019 season, when Robert Lepage’s highly problematic, $16-million Ring Cycle returns to the Met stage after a six-year hiatus.
And one of the most anticipated Canadian movies of 2015 is sure to be Remember, a $13-million road-and-revenge movie in which Egoyan directs Christopher Plummer. The great 85-year-old actor plays a Holocaust survivor determined to find and kill the Nazi war criminal, a guard at Auschwitz, responsible for the murder of his family.
Remember marks the eighth occasion on which producer Robert Lantos and Egoyan have been partners. Their most acclaimed collaboration was The Sweet Hereafter (1997), based on a book by Russell Banks. The movie won three prizes at Cannes, opened the Toronto festival, won several Genie Awards and scored two Oscar nominations. When he announced plans to make Remember, I asked Lantos why he chose Egoyan to direct it.
Lantos replied: “It smelled like an Atom movie to me.”