Less than the sum of its parts

Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera, which is currently playing at Meridian Hall, takes Roger Waters’ words from the original album The Wall and sets them to music by Julien Bilodeau which is new but based on the original melodic lines.  The stage production, conceived and directed by Dominic Champagne, is flashy (often literally) and makes extensive use of projections.  There’s a decent cast of Canadian singers (including Nathan Keoughan, France Bellemare, Caroline Bleau, and Jean-Michel Richer), a rather good chorus and a symphony sized orchestra all conducted by Alain Trudel.  It’s loud, expensive looking and in your face.  On paper all the elements of a sort of cross-over opera spectacular are there but they simply don’t come together.

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France Bellemare; a soprano to watch

Today saw the annual lunchtime concert in the RBA in which members of the COC Ensemble Studio collaborate with visitors from the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.  There were three singers from each program but rather unusually only one of them was female; soprano France Bellemare.  Naturally I was rather focussed on the visiting singers as the three Toronto participants; Gordon Bintner, Clarence Frazer and Andrew Haji are very much known quantities.  Of the visitors it was very much Ms. Bellemare who shone.  She has a very accurate, lovely rich voice with perhaps still some work to do on the top of her range but very easy to listen to and she’s musically and dramatically convincing too.  Her version of Micaëla’s Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante was very competent though I’m not sure it’s ideal rep for her.  The Song to the Moon from Rusalka though fitted her like a glove.  This was really lovely singing.  She also did very well in duet with Clarence Frazer in Lippen schweigen from Die Lustige Witwe or The Merry Widow or La Veuve Joyeuse as all three languages were used!  She can waltz too though perhaps not as well as Clarence.  Ladies, if you need a dance partner consider Mr. Frazer.  She also shone in the final number; the Libiamo from La Traviata.  I confess when I saw the program and saw that she would be partnered by Andrew Haji I rather expected her to be sung off the stage.  She wasn’t.  She held her own with a tenor who will sing this role on the COC’s main stage next season.  No mean feat.  This young lady is definitely one to watch.

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