This year’s fall offering from UoT Opera is three short comic operas presented at the MacMillan Theatre in productions by Michael Patrick Albano. The first is Paul Hindemith’s Hin und Züruck; a twelve minute musical joke which manages to send up a lot of operatic conventions in a very short time. It’s a musical and dramatic palindrome. A man discovers his wife has a lover and shoots her. The paramedics arrive and attempt to revive her. In this staging this includes a giant syringe and no prizes for guessing where that goes. The remorseful husband shoots himself. An angel (Ben Done) appears and explains that the usual laws of physics don’t apply in opera and the entire plot and score is replayed backwards. It was played effectively deadpan by Cassandra Amorim and Lyndon Ladeur while Jordana Goddard, as the elderly deaf aunt, sat through the whole thing entirely oblivious. Good fun.
Offenbach’s Monsieur Choufleuri is longer and rather more vocally demanding. It too is a parody of opera, specifically Bellini. I’m sure I could hear echoes of I Puritani. Here Monsieur Choufleuri is a nouveau riche Parisien eager to make his mark on society by staging a musical soirée including the three greatest singers of the day. Unfortunately they all cancel so Choufleuri, his daughter and her poor, therefore unacceptable to papa, amour who happens to be both a bassoon player in the orchestra at L’Opéra and, fortuitously, a tenor, save the day by impersonating the three stars. Cue an exceedingly silly Italian aria in which the cruel father attempts to prevent his daughter marrying his enemy but has to concede in the end. So lots of flashy coloratura for the daughter, very well sung by Emily Rocha with highly effective support from Ben Done as the boyfriend and Jun Lam Hui as Choufleuri. The whole thing is held together by the butler who delivers an English narration created by Michael Patrick. He/she is very nicely played by Nathania-Rose Chan who gets off, in a suitably gender bending way, with George Sand at the end. Absolutely everybody is at this party my dears.
After the interval the stage is transformed into a 1950s TV set for Douglas Moore’s Gallantry; a satire on soap operas and their accompanying commercials. It’s brilliantly MC’d by Elita Gagner who does a really good line in cheesy ads for soap and floor wax. There’s a very funny dance ad for Billy Boy Wax, choreographed by Anna Theodosakis and wonderfully executed by Megan Jones, Rayleigh Becker, Dascha Tereschenko and Taline Yeremian. The main plot concerns a married surgeon who is making advances to his nurse. It gets complicated when their next patient turns out to be the nurse’s fiancé. There are lots of sight gags including a disturbing amount of intestine and some very funny acting and solid singing from Ayana Platt as the nurse, James Coole-Stevenson as the surgeon and Burak Yaman as the fiancé. It’s not as vocally flashy as the Offenbach but it;’s very enjoyable.
Sandra Horst conducted all three operas with the musicians of the UoT music faculty in the pit. The stage pit balance was excellent and everything stayed coherent even during the Feydeau like comings and goings in the Offenbach.
So UoT Opera has emerged from its COVID bunker with a bang. This show is lots of fun and just the thing on a cold, foggy November night. There are three more performances tonight through Sunday with tonight and Sunday having slightly different casts.
Photos courtesy of UoT Opera.