Bel Canto bliss

annachristycdarioacostaIt’s one of the nicer things about Toronto that from time to time  a visiting star at the COC will agree to do a free lunchtime recital in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  Today was the turn of American coloratura Anna Christy who is currently singing the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor.  It was an exceptionally fun sixty minutes.

I was a little worried when she and accompanist Liz Upchurch just took their places and started.  I need not have been.  We got a set of three bel canto art songs that were full of virtuosity and personality.  The sheer technical skill was obvious but so was the range of tone colour.  Those doomandgloomists who think modern singers can’t act with the voice should listen to Ms. Christy.  It’s all there.  After that opening she did open up and explain the middle part of her set; pieces by Bolcom and Copland that she sees as natural successors to bel canto.  Sung with exquisite attention to the texts one can see her point.  She was also very funny and very human.  I do like modern divas so much more than the one’s who get in a snit because the caviar isn’t the right temperature.

She finished up with arias by Rossini, Handel and Donizetti, all sung stylishly and with tasteful ornamentation.  It was really classy.  And to round things out her parents were there and it was her dad’s seventieth and there are no prizes for guessing how things finished up.

Alden productions heading for London

12-13-02-b-MC-D-3024English National Opera’s new season includes two Christopher Alden productions that originated at COC.  Die Fledermaus is brilliant and a must see.  Rigoletto may be a bit more of an acquired taste though it certainly has its strong points.  The London cast for Fledermaus doesn’t look as strong (to me) as the Toronto cast but the Rigoletto has the estimable Quinn Kelsey in the title role, Barry Banks as the Duke and Anna Christy as Gilda.

Dates and casts are on the ENO website; Die Fledermaus and Rigoletto.

My reviews of the Toronto performances; Die Fledermaus, with Ambur Braid and with Mireille Asselin (as Adele) and Rigoletto, with Lynch, Lomelli and Osborne and with Kelsey, Pittas and Sadovnikova (Rigoletto, Duke, Gilda).

Paedophilia di Lammermoor

David Alden chooses to set his production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, currently playing at Canadian Opera, in Victorian Scotland in a rather decayed country house.  It’s all set up as classic Gothic schtick.  The angle is that Lucia herself is very young and is being sexually abused by her brother Enrico.  OK, I don’t have a problem with that.  It’s a better solution than the idea that women are all just inherently unstable and liable to go from shrinking violet to shrieking murderess at the drop of a forged letter.  So, it’s an interesting idea but it poses real problems about the nature of her relationship with her “fiance” Edgardo.  If he’s the hero of this thing what is he doing having a clandestine relationship with a girl who’s not yet out of the schoolroom?  (We can tell this by how she’s dressed).  This is a major Victorian taboo.  Respectable men don’t go after girls until they are “out”.  Are we then to see Edgardo as as a big a cad as Enrico?  Maybe.  The trouble with that concept is then why do we care what happens to him?  Edgardo kills himself.  Goodbye paedophile creep.  So what!  So bottom line, I can take the groping and the creepiness that some critics have complained about but I wonder what Alden is really trying to tell us about the piece.

67 – Anna Christy as Lucia and Brian Mulligan as Enrico in the

Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson

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Free Concert Series 2012/13

The COC has announced the line up for the 2012/13 series of free concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre. There’s the usual mix of vocal, instrumental, jazz, world music and dance. There are plenty of opportunities to see the Ensemble Studio members as well as solo gigs by Franz-Josef Selig and Anna Christy. For fans of Indian classical music there’s also a sarangi recital by Aruna Narayan. Also of interest is a concert by Queen of Puddings Music Theatre “Inspired by Lorca”.

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