Tongue in Cheek’s latest show, Democracy in Action, took place at the Lula Lounge last night. The concept was pretty straightforward. There were eight (almost) singers and a pianist. Each singer offered up five numbers ranging from opera through art song to musical theatre and pop. Advanced on-line polling had selected one song per singer. Polling of the audience in the house produced the other two. The in house polling was supported by really rather well done videos in which the “composers” tried to persuade the audience to vote for their stuff.
It was an impressive line up: Krisztina Szabo, Julie Nesrallah, Natalya Gennadi, Teiya Kasahara, Asitha Tennekoon, Romulo Delgado and Alexander Hajek. Stephen Hegedus was supposed to be there but wasn’t. Alexander Hajek, Michael Nyby (who MC’d), and Aaron Durand sang his numbers.
There was some really good singing in a variety of genres. Asitha Tennekoon hit all those high Cs in Ah mes amis. Teiya Kasahara managed Puccini and Leonard Cohen with aplomb. Romulo Delgado accompanied himself on the guitar in Granada. I’m not going to list it all but it was high quality and in the right spirit. And, there were projected surtitles. Why every tiny start up group can manage that but the Royal Conservatory can’t is a mystery to me.
Overall it was a bit like Against the Grain’s Opera Pub but more ambitious. It was a bar setting, though significantly up market from the Amsterdam Bicycle Club. One could order drinks and food (again, way better than ABC). The audience was enthusiastically noisy. The singing was a cut above Opera Pub, though there were several OP regulars on stage last night, and the piano was far superior. But it was a ticketed event (i.e. not free!) and so, rather than the crush and the buzz of Opera Pub the audience was much smaller (mostly other people from the opera world I think) and more subdued.
I really like listening to good performers singing great music in a less formal setting so I want initiatives like this to succeed. It seems like it’s really hard though to reach the target audience and to find a price point that doesn’t deter people while making the whole thing viable (pretty much true for any song recital format in Toronto alas). I hope Tongue in Cheek can figure it out. Go see them if you get the chance.
Photo credit: Beste Kalender.
Ack…so many events…I’m glad though that you mention the challenges of ticketing events like this and still attracting an audience. People should absolutely have to pay to hear singers of this calibre but as you say, it’s then harder to fill the house [derp!] It’s a challenging balance for small companies for sure. And your point about surtitles…ummm, the Luca Pisaroni/Thomas Hampson recital at Koerner Hall on Tuesday really would have benefited from surtitles. I didn’t get the feeling all of the audience was die hard opera fans…and printed translations no longer do the trick, especially given the technology that’s available.
Printed texts in a darkened hall are about as much use as a chocolate teacup!