Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, given in English translation, opened at Toronto Operetta Theatre last night. The production by Guillermo Silva-Marin is an uncomplicated and fast paced romp. There a few cuts. The scene with Orestes and his girls for instance is gone and the dialogue, as is the norm, is gently updated with a Facebook reference and an allusion to a certain orange real estate magnate.
There are some very good performances, notably by Beste Kalender in the title role. In appearance she could have stepped straight out of a Minoan fresco and vocally she navigates Helen’s very tricky music with great facility and rather beautiful tone colours. She does “petulant” and “hissy fit” really well too. Greg Finney, as ever, was the downtrodden husband; in this case Menelaus. He’s funny too and vocally secure. Adam Fisher is convincing as Paris. There’s just a hint of cougar in his relationship with Helen and he navigates the treacherous high notes of the part with ease. Matthew Zadow manages the far from easy task of making Calchas funny in a venal sort of way without descending too far into caricature. There are no obvious weak links in the rest of the largish supporting cast, many doubling as the chorus. Diction across the board is very decent and it’s easy enough to follow the action without surtitles. Peter Tiefenbach conducts. Things move along at a decent lick and his small pit band sounds suitably idiomatic.
It’s a fun undemanding show with, of course, some really good tunes. It’s worth catching even on this insanely over-scheduled weekend. There are two more shows tonight at 8pm and tomorrow afternoon at the Jane Mallet Theatre.
Photo credits: Gilberto Prioste