The COC’s Magic Flute

My review of the opening night of the COC’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is now live on Bachtrack.

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Ilker Arcayürek (Tamino) and Anna-Sophie Neher (Pamina) – Photo: Michael Cooper

#weirdopera

Ian Cusson and Colleen Murphy’s Fantasma opened at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre last night.  It’s billed as an opera for younger audiences though I think there were more composers than kids in the theatre last night!  It’s a ghost story.  Two fifteen year old girls and their mother are visiting an old fashioned carnival which is struggling financially.  There’s a “ghost” who is employed to scare patrons and generate social media coverage.  Then the girls find a real, rather sad, little ghost and things happen.  Or maybe they don’t.  And the opera ends.  Or maybe it doesn’t.  It’s surprisingly complex for a 45 minute piece for kids and raises issues about what we see and what we think we see; why adults do and don’t believe kids and so on.  When the (virtual) curtain came down rather abruptly I didn’t think I’d be thinking so much about it the next morning.  But I am.

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Vladimir Soloviev as Dante and Vartan Gabrielian as Tino

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In Winter

In Winter is the latest digital offering from the COC and is available free until June.  Described by the COC as a concert that “explores and celebrates winter” it’s more a Eurocentric potpourri of seasonal fare with a decidedly Christmas twist.  It’s a cut above “Christmas’ Greatest Hits” though a John Rutter arrangement of Deck the Halls and I’ll be Home for Christmas are in that vein and even the exuberance and lovely voice of Midori Marsh can’t make more of The Twelve Days of Christmas than is there to be had.

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Barber revived

Catalan collective Els Comediants’ production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is back at the COC in a revival of the 2015 production.  Five years ago I described it as a “glorious romp” and, based on yesterday’s performance, I see non need to amend that judgement.  It may be even better this time.  It still has Joan Guillén’s wonderfully colourful and silly costumes and sets and it still has Joan Font’s inspired directing; perhaps even crisper this time.  Once again it has a wonderful cast of international and Canadian singers including a reprise of Bartolo by the admirable Renato Girolami.

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Ensemble Studio Competition 2019

The Ensemble Studio Competition again last night.  Seven singers were competing with Ben Heppner’s jokes for cash prizes, champagne and, possibly, a place in the COC Ensemble Studio.  There’s one thing I think is vital to understand about the Ensemble Studio Competition.  The judges have been working with the singers for a week.  The audience gets to hear them sing one aria.  It’s easy to see why there isn’t always concurrence between the hall and the judging table.  (That’s my excuse anyway).

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The contestants with Alexander Neef and Johannes Debus

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Rusalka – Dream or Nightmare?

David McVicar’s production of Dvořák’s Rusalka opens with a prelude while the overture plays.  We see the Foreign Princess and the Prince.  She appears to be upbraiding him and he is drinking hard.  Are we seeing a failed/forced marriage that in reality the Prince made rather than some preferred alternative?  Is what we see over the next three and half hours some dream version of what might have been?  In this most Freudian of operas, why not?

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Is Iago a nihilist?

I managed to catch the fourth performance of the COC’s current run of Verdi’s Otello last night.  It’s a David Alden production that first aired at ENO and it’s a very dark take on an already dark story.  It’s set maybe circa 1900 and the sets are stark but the lighting is dramatic with lots of contrasts and giant moving shadows.  The overall Zeitgeist seems to be of a society that has seen too much war; a sort of collective PTSD.  This comes over in a number of ways.  The scenes that usually lighten things up a bit; the victory celebrations in Act 1, the children and flowers in Act 2, don’t here.  In fact they are downright creepy.  There’s also a female dancer, used rather as Christopher Alden used Monterone’s daughter in Rigoletto, who clearly doesn’t expect good things from returning soldiers.

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