The third of Saturday night’s webstreams was Toronto City Opera’s double bill of Menotti’s The Telephone and Poulenc’s La voix humaine. The choice of rep makes sense in that it meant that very few people had to be assembled in the Ernest Balmer Studio where the recordings took place though it also looks a bit odd for a company that in normal times is about participation.
The Menotti is essentially a rather weak joke stretched out for half an hour. A man is trying to propose to a girl but every time he gets close to popping the question she either receives or makes a phone call. I thought it was a bit feeble the first time I saw it and it doesn’t wear well. It doesn’t help that it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to marry this utterly boring girl except, perhaps, her utterly banal suitor. I guess the basic problem is that anything trying to be “realistic” from the US in the 50s and 60s is almost bound to be dull as just about any interesting aspect of human life was off limits due to various kinds of censorship. Anyway, I think TCO got as much out of the piece as there is to be got. The contemporary updating had its witty moments and both Nicole Dubinsky and Johnathan Kirby; backed up by Ivan Jovanovic gave strong performances in the singing and acting departments.
The Poulenc is more interesting. It’s musically far more complex than the Menotti and the libretto has the good sense to leave a lot unsaid. It’s a challenging sing too as there’s only the one character and she is singing pretty constantly for about 45 minutes. Even with piano accompaniment, as here, it’s challenging. It must be an absolute beast with orchestra. This time the setting was left more or less as in the original which is pretty much unavoidable given that party lines and an operator play rather a large role in the plot. It wouldn’t make much sense to use iPhones! Rachel Krehm was Elle and it was a very competent and satisfying performance. There was some real emotional intensity here and one realises that this is a piece that stands up rather better to repeated viewing.
The recording quality was excellent. I checked the Youtube settings and the video is 1080p (Blu-ray quality). Sound too was excellent. It’s good to see Tapestry’s investment being put to good use! TCO’s next show is scheduled to be Verdi’s Nabucco in February which is going to pose a whole new level of challenge unless the world has changed a lot by then!