Toronto Operetta Theatre’s latest offering is a webstream of Emmerich Kálmán’s 1915 operetta The Csárdás Princess (Die Csárdásfürstin) presented here in English with the usual minor tweaks to the dialogue including obligatory Rob Ford jokes, which have become something of a TOT tradition. The plot turns on the fact that an Austro-Hungarian aristo, let alone a second cousin of the Emperor, can’t marry someone with fewer than 64 quarterings on their coat of arms, let alone a cabaret singer. Implausible impersonations etc abound and love triumphs in the end. It’s all entirely harmless for heaven forfend that anything satirical might have made it past the Vienna censorship, especially in wartime. And there’s no sex because this isn’t France. The humour mostly turns on Hungarian antipathy for their Austrian masters. It’s light hearted and very tuneful fun.
Perhaps because of the lack of work in the sector for the last year or so TOT was able to assemble a very strong cast. That’s great and details follow but, as always with operetta, it’s the ensemble work that really counts and here it’s excellent; both in terms of music and movement. So if I don’t single out some of the roles it’s not because they didn’t contribute. The cast is led by Lauren Margison in the title role. She’s good. Her voice has matured since I last heard her and there are some really interesting colours developing. She’s also an accomplished actor. Opposite her is the ever reliable Michael Barrett as her lover and on again off again fiancé, the Prince von und zu Something-Something. It was the usual well sung and extremely mobile Barrett performance. The other young couple are Ryan Downey as Boni (Count Boniface something unpronounceably Hungarian) in excellent voice with stellar diction and lovely timing and Cait Wood as Countess something not Hungarian at all. Her bright tones made a very nice contrast with Lauren’s somewhat darker voice. Greg Finney, shorn of hair and beard, but sporting a luxuriant moustache, effectively plays his usual role as troublemaker/fixer; this time as a playboy Hungarian count with a strong dislike of Austrianst. Piano accompaniment is by the highly competent Narmina Afandiyeva.
The production itself is quite stagey though there’s no attempt to pretend that a stage performance is being filmed. So there’s lots of choreography, waltzes, chorus line stuff and so on but no attempt to give a sense of “fourth wall”.. I suspect I’d have enjoyed it a lot seen in a theatre and I did enjoy the film but it did feel a bit artificial in a way that Voicebox’ Adriana Lecouvreur; also directed by Guillermo Silva-Marin and reviewed by me for Opera Canada, did not. The filming; by Ryan Harper, is very well done and the sound and video quality are excellent. It’s a ticketed performance presented on Vimeo though so your options for getting it onto the big screen may be more limited than with Youtube (mine are!).
So it’s enjoyable, tuneful fluff very well performed. The stream is available until July 23rd and you can purchase a viewing code ($20) on Eventbrite.