The COC’s Magic Flute

My review of the opening night of the COC’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is now live on Bachtrack.

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Ilker Arcayürek (Tamino) and Anna-Sophie Neher (Pamina) – Photo: Michael Cooper

Well meh!

fscSo no big launch event to herald the COC’s 2022/23 season announcement, just an email.  I’m not surprised because if the season had been announced in front of a large crowd at the Four Seasons Centre there would probably have been a riot. There are six productions on the main stage and each gets only seven or eight performances for a total of 45 which is the lowest since the house opened.  Five of them are revivals and there’s no Parsifal.  I begin to think that I have more chance of finding the Holy Grail than ever seeing Parsifal in Toronto.

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Balance of April and into May

rurThere’s a fair number of shows appearing at fairly short notice as people scramble to adapt to relaxing regulations so this post will contain events for April not previously noted plus a look forward to May.

  • April 26th at 7.30 pm Likht Ensemble have a free Holocaust Remembrance Day concert at Mazzoleni Hall.
  • April 28th at 8pm at St. Andrews on King St. Soundstreams are reprising the Vivier Lovesongs concert that was done as a stream last fall.
  • April 29th at 7.30pm at 918 Bathurst The Happenstancers have a concert featuring music by Julia Wolfe, Nahre Sol, Kaija Saariaho, Gyorgy Kurtag, Oliver Knussen, and WA Mozart.

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Twice as twisted

Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle is a twisted little opera with wonderful music.  Atom Egoyan’s film Felicia’s Journey is equally twisted and also derived at root from the Bluebeard material.  So it makes sense to mash them up and that, essentially, is what Egoyan has done in the latest on-line presentation from the COC.

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April shows

orevueHere’s what’s coming up that I know about in April with some adds for the end of March.

    • 26th March 5pm – 7pm.  Opera Revue at Castro’s PWYC.  Expect a completely Weill performance.
    • 27th March 2.30pm.  Voicebox are doing Timothy Sullivan’s Florence: The Lady with the Lamp in concert at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.  Lauren Pearl sings the title role.

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#weirdopera

Ian Cusson and Colleen Murphy’s Fantasma opened at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre last night.  It’s billed as an opera for younger audiences though I think there were more composers than kids in the theatre last night!  It’s a ghost story.  Two fifteen year old girls and their mother are visiting an old fashioned carnival which is struggling financially.  There’s a “ghost” who is employed to scare patrons and generate social media coverage.  Then the girls find a real, rather sad, little ghost and things happen.  Or maybe they don’t.  And the opera ends.  Or maybe it doesn’t.  It’s surprisingly complex for a 45 minute piece for kids and raises issues about what we see and what we think we see; why adults do and don’t believe kids and so on.  When the (virtual) curtain came down rather abruptly I didn’t think I’d be thinking so much about it the next morning.  But I am.

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Vladimir Soloviev as Dante and Vartan Gabrielian as Tino

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Leaping (or not) ahead to March

gloriaThere’s not exactly a flood of events in my calendar for march yet but there are a few.  Running March 1st to 20th at Crow’s Theatre is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ satirical play Gloria about a Manhattan magazine staff seeking fame and glory as the internet turns the industry upside down.  It’s not an opera but it’s directed by the very talented André Sills which is reason enough for me.

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Recent webstreams

Here’s a quick round up of recent webstreams.  The main event is the concert streamed by the COC over the weekend featuring Jane Archibald with the COC Orchestra and Johannes Debus.  There’s about forty five minutes of music and it’s predictably classy music making though it’s emotionally taxing to look at an empty Four Seasons centre again.  The program includes Mozart. Handel, Strauss, Massenet, Gounod and Bernstein.  Arguably it’s a bit predictable but both musical and technical values are high.  It’s avaiable free until August 27th via registration at the COC website.

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A tale of three panels

I spent three hours earlier today listening to three panel discussions about the issues involved in presenting Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.  The overall event was titled Grappling with Madama Butterfly Today: Representation, Reclamation, Re-imagination.  They were three very different panels as we shall see.  But first some context.  The event was co-presented by Confluence Concerts, Amplified Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, and the Humanities Initiative at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.  One of the “triggers” for the event was the planned revival of Madama Butterfly at the COC (now to be done as an “on-line” event of some description) though one might have listened to the discussions without actually realising that.

The first panel consisted of COC boss Perryn Leach with soprano Teiya Kasahara, soprano Jaclyn Grossman and Boston Lyric’s Jessica Johnson Brock.  I expected it to tackle the problematic nature of Madama Butterfly head on, as indeed the other two panels did, but it didn’t.  It got sidetracked into essentially blind alleys about whether the work should be performed at all and whether one should always cast Asians in Asian roles and such.  I got the strong feeling that no-one involved wanted to touch the issue of why, in 2022, the COC had planned to present a thoroughly unreflective, indeed deeply racist and sexist, production of the work.  And that in the context of a season of three problematic operas presented in equally unambitious productions.  Indeed, so unambitious that Leech’s deputy has described Mozart’s The Magic Flute as a “whimsical comedy”.  Brigid Brophy must be gyrating in her crypt.  Why was the discussion so anodyne?  I think it comes down to power dynamics.  Perryn Leech advanced views that I think can be summed up as “as long as we present enough new work (preferably short stuff on small stages) and do a few token events like this one it’s OK to give the bougie donors their fix.  Even if that fix is racist and misogynist.  Nobody challenged this.  After all, if you are a young woman trying to make her way in the deadly world of opera why would you call out the most powerful person in Canadian opera?

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