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.
There are three new Youtube videos that aren’t performances but may be of interest. On the Confluence Concerts channel there’s the John Beckwith Songbook Lecture. I was expecting the usual sort of pre-show thing ahead of this weekend’s concert but it wasn’t that at all. What we get is Bradley Christensen explaining his doctoral thesis research on developing an interpretive and pedagogical guide to Beckwith’s songs. One might expect this to be rather dry and in a way it is but dry like a certain kind of British (or I guess Kiwi) humour. It’s a sort of “Note the sheep do not so much fly as plummet” performance. No sheep though. One would have thought a Kiwi could have fixed that. I shouldn’t joke really. It’s a perfectly serious and valuable project but the deadpan delivery is curiously compelling.
Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore opened last night. Director Guillermo Silva-Marin has chosen to translate the piece to a cruise ship in the 1920s which has its incongruities but they aren’t particularly disturbing (except perhaps for Sir Joseph Porter’s shoes!). In fact what we get is basically a crisp, well paced and idiomatic Pinafore which is what I want in G&S. It’s also genuinely funny, though some jokes age better than others, and occasionally even quite moving.
Loose Tea Music Theatre’s Carmen #YesAllWomen has been in the works for three years. It went “live” this week with a production at Heliconian Hall. It’s an intriguing show. Dramatically and musically it’s recognisably based on Bizet’s Carmen but only just. In Alaina Viau and Monica Pearce’s version the principal male character is one John Anderson, an Afghanistan vet with PTSD, his rival for Carmen is a rapper, Maximillian aka Hot God, and Michaela is Anderson’s estranged wife.
Last night various bits of the early music side of the UoT Faculty of Music, plus guests, put on a performance of Purcell’s King Arthur at Trinity St. Paul’s. I’m pretty familiar with the piece from both audio and video recordings (though this was my first time live) but it was clear last night that most people really don’t know the work and I suspect that the way the work was presented was not especially helpful for them.
The program contains detailed notes by director Erik Thor about his thoughts on presenting a “problem piece” without really explaining why King Arthur is a problem or why he made the choices he made. We are told it’s about conquest and erasure but not how and why it differs from what most people seem to expect when they see the title King Arthur. In short, it’s a highly fictionalised version of the very old Welsh stories about the resistance of the (Christian) Britons to the (Pagan) Saxons. Forget Geoffrey of Monmouth, Tennyson, TE White and Monty Python. Oddly, Merlin, perhaps the one character anyone would recognise, is cut here. The work itself is also a bit incoherent largely because Dryden (the librettist) tried to recast what was originally a court spectacular to the glory of Charles II as something that would work in the theatre and pass the censorship under William and Mary!
Opera Atelier’s current production of Mozart’s Idomeneo is frustrating, especially given their recent run of good form. It, unfortunately, combines a fussy, rather pointless production with histrionic antics and uneven singing. It’s just not good enough.
Opera Atelier have announced their 2018/19 season. As usual, there are two shows. In the Fall there is a double bill of Charpentier’s Actéonpaired with Rameau’s Pygmalion (Oct. 25 – Nov. 3, 2018). Colin Ainsworth, who has also been named as OA’s first “artist in residence”, features in both title roles with Mireille Asselin as Diana and Amour and Allyson McHardy as Juno and Céphise. The supporting cast includes Jesse Blumberg, Christopher Enns, Meghan Lindsay, Cynthia Smithers and Anna Sharpe. Pygmalion will be prefaced by Opera Atelier’s first Canadian commission for solo baroque violin and contemporary dancing, entitled Inception. It will be performed by composer/violinist Edwin Huizinga and choreographer/Artist of Atelier Ballet, Tyler Gledhill. Following its Toronto dates, the show will tour to the Royal Opera House in Versailles.
Last night saw the culminating concert of the IRCPA’s Encounter program. It wasn’t exactly a competition as the winner of the Career Blueprint Award had already been decided but not announced. Still, it had the air of a competition with ten singers each offering an aria accompanied by the ubiquitous Rachel Andrist. It was also being broadcast live on 96.3FM so we got the full on Zoomerplex treatment which is not far short of having flashing signs that say “Applaud Now!!” It’s the price one pays for getting young singers media exposure I guess.
Best shot I could get. Most of the singers are visible.
Niccolò Piccinni’s La Cecchina or La buona figliuola is an opera buffa in two acts written for the Teatro delle Dame in Rome where it premiered in 1760. The libretto is by Carlo Goldini and, while said to have been inspired by Richardson’s Pamela, is actually a fairly straightforward masters and servants story of a similar nature to Pergolesi’s La serva padrona or even Mozart’s La finta giardinera; all, of course, firmly rooted in the conventions of the commedia dell’arte. Being written for Rome it was, originally, played by an all male cast. Last night at Koerner Hall the Glenn Gould School Opera presented it with female singers in the high roles.
Kendra Dyck as Sandrina and Asitha Tennekoon as the Marchese
Having been tipped off that yesterday’s RBA noon concert was to be a vocal recital rather than, as previously billed, a chamber concert I made the trip through the snow to catch it. Three of the Royal Conservatory’s Rebanks fellows were singing with Helen Becqué at the piano and assorted staff and alumni added for the final number. Attendance was a bit sparse perhaps unsurprisingly given the weather and the evident confusion. That was a shame because it was an interesting, varied and well presented concert combining well known works with some much less well known fare.