3 Things to Know About Frankenstein!!
Todd Martin is the leader of the Dirty Catfish Brass Band, and performs regularly with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Ron Paley Big Band. On October 28, he assumes the role of chansonnier in the upcoming Winnipeg premiere of Frankenstein!!, a pan-demonium for chansonnier and orchestra.
Here’s three things to know about the show:
1. A Nightmarish Cabaret
In Frankenstein!! the chansonnier, or vocalist, is tasked with performing the lyrics of the piece. Todd explains that the tone of the piece, “switches back and forth between a torture chamber and a cabaret. Sometimes I’m singing and playing a kazoo, but then I’m talking about sipping blood from tiny veins . . . there’s a fairly extended movement where I play two characters at once. One is a young boy who brings his doll to the shop to be fixed by Herr Frankenstein. Frankenstein removes the doll’s old stuffed heart and puts a heart of living flesh in it. He puts a brain in his skull, and eyes in his head, and talks about shaping his backbone on the lathe . . . that’s one of the creepier ones.”
2. Frankenstein Isn’t the Only Monster We Meet
“It covers a lot of ground,” Todd explains. Aside from Herr Frankenstein, there are vampires who sharpen their teeth and nails to sip blood, and monsters that snatch children in the park. But Gruber also peppers the piece with pop culture icons like Superman, Goldfinger, and John Wayne.
3. Going Against Concert Hall Etiquette
“Gruber wrote Frankenstein!! in 1974 for a full symphony orchestra. A year later, he created a chamber version for 13 players. For this performance, there will be 15 people on stage: 13 players, a conductor, and a chansonnier. It’s the Winnipeg premiere of the piece, and it’s relatively unusual at the Good Will. It skews the lines between classical and cabaret. There are toy instruments played. One of the descriptors for the chansonnier is, ‘as singing in the bath.’ It’s not meant to be stuffy or typically classical, as far as convention goes. It goes against concert hall etiquette and performance practice.”