Against the Grain Theatre’s Orphée+; a burlesque inflected version of Gluck’s Orphée, opened a three show run last night at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront. There are many, many things I want to say about this show and the challenge is going to be to present them in some kind of orderly sequence. First off there are expectations for an AtG show in Toronto that probably weren’t present when it opened in Columbus (It’s a co-pro with Opera Columbus and the Banff Centre). We have come to associate AtG with various kinds of “doing differently”; transladaptations, site specific stagings, staged art song and so on. In that context this is a rather conservative show. It’s a production of a canonic opera in a conventional theatre. It’s not a traditional production and would likely shock at the Met or the Lyric but would probably raise only half an eyebrow in Berlin or Barcelona. So I’m inclined to treat it as if I had seen it in Europe.
Naomi’s Road; music by Ramona Luengen, lbretto by Anne Hodges, has been around as an opera for ten years or so and it got its Toronto premier last night at St. David’s Anglican Church in a production directed by Michael Mori for Tapestry Opera. It’s based on Joy Kogawa’s novel for children of the same name which tells the story of Naomi and her brother Stephen; Japanese-Canadian children torn from a comfortable middle class Vancouver home by the WW2 era Canadian government’s policy of interning Canadians of Japanese descent as “enemy aliens”. It’s a shameful story and one that Canadians need to know about in an era when fear of the “other” is being stoked on all sides. Perhaps we like to look down our noses at the antics of our neighbours to the south but our own history has its dark side and we need to remember.
Cecilia and Bryn at Glyndebourne is the DVD recording of a concert from 1999 featuring two of those singers who prove you don’t have to be dead skinny to be a great singer and have a commanding stage presence. It’s great fun, focussing on the lighter end of the repertoire for the most part. It’s mostly Mozart with some Rossini, Donizetti, Haydn and Handel thrown in. There are a couple of overtures and a few arias but the greatest pleasure comes in the duets. For the second time in a week I got to see Lá ci darem la mano sung by singers of extremely contrasting heights and where else is one going to see Mr. Terfel and Ms. Bartoli sing the Pa-pa-pa-pa duet from Die Zauberflöte. As ever Ceci’s coloratura is a thing of wonder and Bryn is no slouch. The accompaniment is ably provided by Myung-Whun Chung and the London Philharmonic. It’s the perfect antidote to a week of watching Wozzeck.