Cherubini’s Médée is a French opéra comique (i.e. with spoken dialogue) which premiered in March 1797. It’s based on Euripides by way of Corneille whose Médée of 1635 was written, as one might expect, in alexandrines. So its roots, and the work itself, are very much in the French classical tradition. The complication is that the work is much better known in its Italian version with sung recitatives (not authorised by Cherubini) and has developed as a “show off” vehicle for star sopranos; notably Maria Callas and, more recently, Sondra Radvanovsky. Along the way it’s lost a lot of its classicism and become almost verismo like. So I was intrigued to see how much Guillermo Silva-Marin, in presenting the work “in concert” at the St. Lawrence Centre, would try, and how much he would succeed, in reclaiming the Cherubini of a Paris tipping from revolution to Bonaparte.
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The Csárdás Princess
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.
Get your TOT fix
Like pretty much everybody else Toronto Operetta Theatre has chosen to go virtual for their latest offering. It’s a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers filmed at the Edward Jackman Centre. It’s very much a “bare bones” production. The cast is reduced to nine roles and the chorus is gone. Accompaniment is piano and accordion. The Jackman Centre is a rehearsal space and looks like one. The film appears to havebeen filmed with a single camera, in one take with minimal post processing though, despite which the audio and video quality is excellent.
I’ve seen Francis Poulenc’s monodrama La voix humaine many times and always find it troubling despite that the fact that it is often a vehicle for rather good performances. I was intrigued then by VOICEBOX’ decision to present alongside the Jean Cocteau play on which the opera is based. It really helped me get to grips with what I find uncomfortable about the work.
I due Figaro
Mercadante’s I due Figaro(1) is one of a number of operas that continue the story of Figaro, Almaviva etc into a third instalment. It sets a libretto by Felice Romani based on Les deux Figaro by Honoré-Antoine Richaud Martelly. It premiered in Madrid in 1835 but was lost for many years before being rediscovered in 2009 and given at the 2011 Ravenna Festival. Yesterday in got its Canadian premier at VOICEBOX:Opera in Concert.