R. Murray Schafer’s Odditorium is the latest production of Toronto’s Soundstreams, one of the consistently most innovative presenters in the city’s new music community. But the oddest thing about Odditorium may be the fact that it was presented at all in 2017. (Okay, soprano Carla Huhtanen does sing an aria with her head sticking out of table, you don’t see that every day.) Odditorium is a collection of four excerpts taken from Schafer’s famous music-theatre series, Patria Cycle, which at full length would run for days – Patria 6, Ra, is 18 hours long by itself. What Soundstreams artistic director Lawrence Cherney and creative consultant Chris Abraham thought was that these excerpts, run together and dramatized with the addition of two dancers, might make a successful event all by themselves. The result was an evening of fine performances, but one that felt a bit dated and somewhat oppressive.
Patria was very much a project very much of the avant-garde 1980s, with its overt theatricality, enormous scale and wide-ranging non-Western spirituality. The youngest piece on Thursday’s program, Tantrika, is over 30 years old now; the oldest was written 40 years ago. Some of the edge of Schafer’s immensely original musical mind has been softened by the sheer passage of time, and Odditorium sometimes felt like a Greatest Hits concert.