New comic operas are rare. New comic operas that are actually funny are vanishingly rare. The Overcoat: A Musical Tailoring is such a beast. It’s a new piece with music by James Rolfe and a libretto by Morris Panych derived from his twenty year old stage adaptation of Gogol’s short story. Originally commissioned by Tapestry Opera, the Toronto staging was under the joint auspices of that company and Canadian Stage with the work also to be staged by co-producer Vancouver Opera as part of their summer festival.
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
The Royal Conservatory announced the concert line up for the 2016/17 season last night. As usual it’s a very eclectic mix with over 100 concerts in a rather staggering variety of genres. The one loose them is the Canada Sesquicentennial with 70% or so of the line up having some CanCon. Here are the highlights for the classical vocal music fan.
Koerner Hall will feature recitals by Deb Voigt (November 11th) and Natalie Dessay (May 2nd) plus Phillippe Jaroussky with Les Violins du Roy (April 13th).
The GGS fall opera is Viardot’s Cendrillon with Peter Tiefenbach as music director in Mazzoleni Hall (November 18th and 19th). The big spring production, at Koerner, will be Piccini’s La Cecchina with Les Dala conducting (March 15th and 17th). No word on directors yet. There’s also the GGS Vocal Showcase in Mazzoleni Hall on February 4th.
We are remarkably lucky in Toronto to get as much contemporary opera as we do. Courtesy of groups like Tapestry and Soundstreams , it seems that two or three new pieces get performed every year. They tend to be home grown, which is fine but does mean we don’t often get a glimpse into what’s happening with new work in Europe. In fact, in the last few years, I think the only European contemporary piece I’ve seen in Toronto was Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin. So, I was really pleased, courtesy of Soundstreams and CanStage to be able to see Philippe Boesmans’ Julie which opened last night at the Bluma Appel theatre.
The second show for me yesterday was presented by Soundstreams at Koerner Hall. It was a programme of works written since 1970 and featured Adrianne Pieczonka and Krisztina Szabó with a percussion heavy chamber ensemble conducted by Leslie Dala. I’ve heard Krisztina a lot in contemporary work but it was a rare treat to hear Adrianne do something other than Verdi, Strauss and Wagner. The “opera grind” as she put it in an introductory chat with Lawrence Cherney of Soundstreams. Continue reading →
The casting for Philip Boesmans’ chamber opera Julie, to be staged by Soundstrams and Canadian Stage in November has been announced. The title role will be sung by London, Ontario mezzo Lucia Cervoni. I’ve not seen her but judging by reviews she seems to be very much in the same space; physically and vocally, as Malena Ernman who premiered the role. Jean, her feckless lover, well be sung by Clarence Frazer. He’s been on terrific form lately and seems a good pick, though it’s a rather thankless role. The toughest sing in the piece is probably Christine, Jean’s fiancée and a servant in the household. This goes to Ottawa’s Sharleen Joynt. She really impressed me as Zerlina in Against the Grain’s #UncleJohn and I’m really intrigued to see what she does with a high coloratura role which is, I believe, her normal turf. Continue reading →
Dominick Argento’s 1971 work Postcard from Morocco is unusual. It’s opera meets Ionesco meets acid rock. It’s a weird and wonderful kaleidoscope of scenes and music “about” a group of characters who seem to have nothing in common except that they have showed up at a railway station in Morocco c. 1914. Michael Cavanagh’s production for UoT Opera plays it straight veering to OTT which seems about right. This piece doesn’t need directorial “interpretation” but it does need careful organisation and lots of energy. Cavanagh’s approach provided plenty of both.
Shelter; music by Juliet Palmer, libretto by Julie Salverson, has been ten years in the making. It premiered in Edmonton a couple of years ago, finally, got its Toronto premiere at the Berkeley Street Theatre last night under the auspices of Tapestry. It’s a complex and eclectic piece dealing with what it is to be human in a nuclear age. There are two parallel plots which intersect in a way that makes dramatic sense but violate conventional notions of synchronicity. This is, after all, a piece rooted in post Einsteinian physics. The first concerns Austrian Jewish physicist Lise Meintner, one of the discoverers of nuclear fission. She has been forced into exile by the Anschluss and is seen here refusing to work on the Manhattan project. The second plot concerns a highly stereotypical 1950s American couple Thomas and Claire who meet at a social, marry and quickly produce a child; Hope. Their “American Dream” is shattered when it turns out that the baby glows! Fast forward 21 years and Hope is demanding her freedom in a world from which she has thus far been sheltered. Reenter Meintner, engaged by Thomas to be Hope’s tutor, and still obsessing about the Manhattan project. The final twist comes with the arrival of the Pilot, in WW2 Army Air Corps uniform, who uses a Geiger counter to find his prey. He fails to convince Meintner to change her mind but does persuade Hope to fulfill her destiny as He pilots the Enola Gay to 31,000 feet and a clear sky. It’s weird, disturbing and powerful.
It was quite a party at the MacMillan Theatre this afternoon. The MacMillan opened fifty years ago with a production of Britten’s Albert Herring and this afternoon marked the final performance of a new production to celebrate the occasion. Directed by Joel Ivany, it was a straightforward but lively and very well characterised interpretation that brought out many of the very specific and quirky elements of the local culture while taking it mysteriously up market in some ways. (*). Coupled with very good singing by any standard, and this was a student production, it made for a most enjoyable afternoon.