Music Director of Tafelmusik since 1981, Jeanne Lamon is praised for her virtuosity as a violinist and her strong musical leadership. Under her direction, Tafelmusik has achieved international stature and is considered “one of the world’s top baroque orchestras” (Gramophone Magazine). To celebrate Jeanne Lamon’s 30th anniversary as Music Director, Tafelmusik presents a special concert staging of Handel’s dramatic and rarely performed Hercules, featuring a stellar cast and dancers from Atelier Ballet at Koerner Hall from January 19 to 22.
I ask Lamon ten questions: five about herself and five about her work.
1) Which of your parents do you resemble (what’s your nationality / ethnic background)?
I think I resemble both my parents. Physically and perhaps personality-wise, I resemble my father more, but I got the music gene from my mother. She was a passionate music-lover and an amateur pianist. Had she lived in other circumstances and in another era, she might very well have become a professional. She helped me in my musically formative years in so many ways; she accompanied me on the piano, taught me how to practice and even in some ways, how to listen to music.
2) What is the best thing / worst thing about what you do?
What a difficult question that is! The best part is that I get to play the music I most love with people I love. The worst part has to be the heavy load of administrative work that goes with the job. There seem to be endless meetings, emails, programming questions, personnel matters, and so on. We have a wonderful staff at Tafelmusik who organize everything, but there are still many administrative things that only the music director can do.
3) Who do you like to listen to or watch?
I have to admit that I seldom listen to music in my down time. Not that “down time” is something I have very much of. But I’m busy with music so much of the time, that to relax I mostly crave silence. I do have to admit to a weakness for CBC Radio One (preferred car listening) and on holidays, Chopin piano music and Cesaria Evora.
4) What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
I wish I had good keyboard skills to facilitate score study. And I wish I
5) When you’re just relaxing (and not working) what is your favourite thing to do?
Be outdoors, either walking, canoeing, swimming or just reading a book.
5 more questions concerning the presentation of Handel’s Hercules with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra & Chamber Choir.
1) How does conducting Hercules challenge you?
It’s a work I didn’t know at all, so as is the case with any completely new work, there is a challenge in getting to know it intimately so that you can begin to make it your own. That’s when the creative fun part starts! Also, the choir will be in the balcony way up high, so I imagine that conducting them from the stage might be challenging! And I will be switching off between playing my violin and conducting the choruses. Doing that with grace and ease might be challenging.
2) What do you love about Handel’s Hercules?
The plot is full of dramatic tension and there is amazing character development, especially on the part of the lead female role, Dejanira, sung by Allyson McHardy. The music is truly Handel at his best. It has everything from beautiful laments to dramatic mad scenes to happy duets. I love how Handel can capture an emotional moment unfailingly with the simplest musical gesture. It’s a masterpiece.
3) Do you have a favourite piece or aria in Hercules, something you’re looking forward to interpreting and hearing with Tafelmusik?
The whole thing! Iöle’s lament, Hyllus’ final aria where he’s upset about
his father (Hercules) dying, but for all the wrong reasons (“I hope his
enemies don’t hear about this; they might celebrate”), to the amazingly
profound and timeless chorus about “Jealousy” and its uselessness. Ah, the
4) How do you relate to Handel’s Hercules as a modern woman?
The women in Hercules are central and they are strong. I find the male
characters a bit less interesting, perhaps a bit more two-dimensional. True,
Dejanira is crazed with jealousy, but she is also remarkably self-aware and
willing to grow, change, learn and suffer along the way. Her openness
emotionally is something to emulate (what I really wish is that I could sing
5) Is there a performance or a recording of Hercules that you especially admire (whether it’s a historically informed version or not)?
There are two good ones that I know of, one directed by John Elliot Gardiner and the other by Marc Minkowski. Now that I know the work, I have some strong differences of opinion with both, but they are certainly well done and worth hearing, at least until there is a Tafelmusik version!
Handel’s Hercules will be presented in a semi-staged production, with Stage direction by Marshall Pynkoski and Choreography by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, at Koerner Hall, The Royal Conservatory of Music TELUS Centre Thurs Jan 19 – Sat Jan 21 at 8 PM and Sunday Jan 22 at 3:30 PM.
Box Office: 416.408.0208 or www.tafelmusik.org