Last night I attended the dress rehearsal of the Canadian Opera Company’s upcoming double bill of Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi courtesy of Peter McGillivray who sings Marco in the latter. I’ve never been to s dress rehearsal before and I don’t think it’s kosher to “review” a production based on one so I’m going to concentrate on the “dress rehearsal experience” and just a few notes about the show.
It all seemed very informal. Peter and I had a bit of a SNAFU with the tickets and I showed up at the box office wondering whether I was going to get in. I briefly explained what had happened and the reaction was “I’m not even going to try and track that down,. How many tickets do you need.” It was an eclectic crowd; much younger than for a regular performance with lots of kids, many of them 9 or 10 year olds and their parents. Mostly the kids managed to keep their parents under control but quite a few succumbed to the urge to explain to their child exactly what was going on right through the performance or even felt the need to read the surtitles to them. The kids for the most part were very well behaved. I spotted a few “opera celebrities” in the lobby including Richard Margison and his wife. The informality of the occasion was underlined by General Director Alexander Neef turning up without a tie. I have always assumed that he wore one even when bathing let alone in public!
In the theatre the main difference was people filming and assistant stage managers and techs bustling around. We got the explanation that some singers might choose to mark but nobody did. If I had remembered my opera glasses and didn’t have eyes that were shot after a long afternoon refereeing on freezing cold and rain I think it would have seemed almost like a normal performance. As it was, a lot of the time I mostly wallowed in the music.
What can I say about the show; short a review? First the Zemlinsky, since most people won’t be familiar with it. It’s a good piece, reminiscent of Salome on many levels. The music is Straussian, the libretto is based on Wilde and the themes are sexual desire, death and the relationship between the two. It’s well worth seeing. This is the first time it’s been performed in Canada and who knows when that might happen again, let alone under the baton of someone who gets this kind of music as well as Sir Andrew Davis.
Both productions are interesting in different ways. The Zemlinsky, updated to the 1920s evokes Salome in more than musical ways. The Puccini, given a contemporary setting, is a well crafted ensemble comedy with some neat touches. Neither will offend the traditionalists but they aren’t boring. I doubt anybody will be disappointed with the music either. I’m curious to see how things mature over the run as I’m not going to see the finished show until May 18th, more or less at the end of the run. I’ve seen enough though to think that there is something here for just about any opera goer.
There are eight performances starting on Thursday and running to May 25th. Here’s a link to the official trailer with film from last night.