Today’s free concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was given by the University of Toronto’s Opera Program. It was a semi staged assortment of songs and excerpts from operas, operettas and musicals based on the works of Shakespeare with a distinct leaning to the operetta/musical theatre side of things. That’s understandable enough with young singers but it does make the game we all play (at least I do) of trying to guess who the next Jonas Kaufmann or Anna Netrebko is that much harder. Not that I’m very good at it. I’m far more able to predict what a newly bottled Bordeaux will taste like in ten years time than whether the young soprano I’m listening to might go on to sing Siegfried or Turandot at the Met!
Predictions aside it was fun with a nicely balanced program put together by Michael Albano and Sandra Horst and featuring 17 singers. They started off with an arrangement of Purcell’s setting of “If Music be the Food of Love”. It was pleasant indeed but my attention was immediately drawn to one tenor voice that was obviously a bit special. This turned out to be Charles Sy who returned later to perform the balcony scenes from both Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and West Side Story with soprano Karine White. These scenes were beautifully done and in the former Sy revealed a genuinely free and easy operatic tenor. Very nice. Ms. White too has a very nice voice and is a very engaging actress who was perhaps more at home in the Bernstein than the Gounod.
The second number was “Caro! Bella! Più amabile beltà” from Handel’s Giulio Cesare. I was impressed here by mezzo Alessia Naccarato who sing Cesare. It’s not a big voice but it has a very pleasing smoky mezzo timbre well suited to the music. She was well matched by soprano Caitlin McCaughey who sang fearlessly and even ventured some ornamentation in the repeat.
Next we were in Falstaff territory with excerpts from Vaughan William’s Sir John in Love and Nicolai’ s The Merry Wives of Windsor. There was some good acting from the trio of Kristina Agur, Lyndsay Promane and Megan Quick in the first piece. Strong singing too, especially from Agur, before a fairly silly but fun rendering of the Nicolai with some of the chaps standing in as Windsor Forest. Max van Wyck is probably not a true bass but he sang with spirit as the antlered and deluded knight. What caught my eye here though was the obvious comedic talent of soprano Andrea Lett. She confirmed this later when she sang “Wunderbar” from Kiss Me Kate with Nicholas Borg. She has a pleasant and versatile voice and is a great mover and spirited actress. It’s a combination that could go down very well in operetta or musical comedy.
We also got to hear “Alors, Portia” from Hahn’s Le Marchand de Venise. I guess I’m a bit Hahned out after the recent Opera 5 show but I didn’t think this was particularly interesting or a particularly good vehicle for the four singers cast in it. The printed program concluded with a spirited rendering of the rather silly “Sing for Your Supper” from Rodgers’ The Boys From Syracuse. Full marks to Danika Lorèn, Gwenna Fairchild-Taylor and Victoria Marshall for making a very decent fist of it. I guess the encore was predictable; a rather good ensemble performance of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”. A fitting conclusion really.
Piano playing duties were ably shared between Sandra Horst, Kate Carver and Hyejin Kwon.
And here are a cople of photos taken on the day by Yasmine Budirahaju. The first one shows Andrea Lett, Nicholas Borg and Kate Carver. The second is Charles Sy and Karine White who is obscuring the one member of the audience you really wanted to see!