Glenn Gould, the 20th-century pianist who thrilled listeners by conquering Bach's most maddening piano pieces, will again have audiences pricking up their ears when the Stratford Festival opens Glenn June 22 at the Tom Patterson Theatre.
Richard Rose directs David Young's fragmented biography, previously seen in Toronto in 1992, which has four actors exploring the various stages of Gould's life. Rod Beattie plays The Perfectionist, Paul Dunn is The Prodigy, Richard McMillan is The Puritan and Duncan Ollerenshaw is The Performer. Performances continue in repertory to Sept. 25.
Gould, who was born in Toronto, was co-director of music at the Stratford Festival 1961-64, and frequently performed there.
The play takes its dramatic shape from Gould's recordings of Bach's "Goldberg Variations," which Gould recorded twice -- early in his career and late -- and unfolds in a series of "variations." The piece, according to playwright Young, "follow[s] the voicing, structure and mood prescribed in Bach's score."
The playwright said, "Our overall objective is to illuminate the exterior and interior journeys of Glenn Gould's remarkable life and make him accessible to a large, non-musical audience." In the play, following a late-career studio recording "Goldberg Variations," an older Glenn Gould (The Puritan) remembers how he felt as a young man (The Prodigy) approaching the same piece 30 years earlier. The vignettes that follow -- Gould as a sensitive child recoiling in horror from the sight of the dying fish at his family’s cottage on Lake Simcoe; Gould as an awkward newcomer to New York, astounding Columbia's technicians with his unconventional interpretation of the "Goldberg Variations"; Gould as a world-renowned concert pianist (The Performer) - trace the arc of his life.
Gould withdrew from public performance and found a true home in the recording studio, where The Perfectionist emerges. Gould died two days after his 50th birthday, after suffering two strokes, in 1982.
Designers for Glenn are Graeme Thomson (set and lighting) and Charlotte Dean (costume). Susan MacKenzie is the choreographer.
David Young is a Toronto playwright, novelist and screenwriter whose works include Fire, a musical based on the true-life relationship between evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and rocker Jerry Lee Lewis, and Inexpressible Island, about six men marooned in an ice cave in Antarctica in the early part of the 20th century.
The June 22 opening of Glenn at the three-quarter thrust Tom Patterson Theatre is one of three early-summer openings this week at Stratford, one of North America's most prestigious theatre festivals. Also bowing are Ben Jonson's farce, The Alchemist, June 23 (to Oct. 23) at the Festival Theatre, and Shakespeare's Richard II June 24 (to Sept. 24) at the Tom Patterson Theatre.
For ticket information, cal (800) 567-1600.
-- By Kenneth Jones