Observers of the Toronto opera scene will have noted the creeping influence of facial hair in the industry locally. Perhaps it didn’t start with COC General Director Alexander Neef’s intellectually Germanic goatee but who could deny that it had a profound impact. Earlier this week the four tenors of the Ensemble Studio appeared together sporting face rugs in varying stages of development and the scene is replete with other notable beardies. Geoff Sirett, Robert Gleadow, Greg Finney and Alexander Dobson come to mind. It’s almost compulsory, it seems, for baritones. Continue reading
Subscriptions are now on sale for Toronto Operetta Theatre. The line up has changed from the original spring announcement. There are still three shows but the run of Candide previously announced has been replaced with a single concert performance, with piano accompaniment of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. It’s at 3pm on November 1st. The main attraction (pun absolutely intended) is probably Greg Finney as Sir Joseph Porter KCB. There’s also Charlotte Knight as Josephine.
I’ve always been a fan of those BBC Radio 4 programs where people have to do silly things so I was naturally drawn to LooseTEA’s fundraiser “Whose opera is it anyway?” in which a select band of singers (Greg Finney, Whitney Mather, Michael York, Charlotte Church, Fabian Arcineagas and Kijong Wi) got to do silly things bid on by the audience. Some of the silly things even involved members of the audience. Asa Iranmehr was on the keyboards and comedian Andrew Johnston, despite almost total ignorance of anything operatic, MC’d.
It was great fun and much funnier than the average bel canto “comedy”. Highlights included Sit, Stand Lie where Michael, Greg and Fabian had to perform La mia Dorabella with one of them in each position at any one time, Moving People where Greg and Whitney were “manipulated” by Aria Umezawa, Michael Mori, Katja “polkadots” Juliannova and Rachel Krehm while singing the Papageno/a duet. The best/weirdest singing was probably a couple of “in the style of”s. I was really impressed by Whitney’s Deh vieni non tardar in the style of Miranda Sings. It takes real talent to sing that badly! Greg’s Catalogue Aria in the style of (a very lugubrious) Vladimir Putin was a hoot too. My sunglasses came in handy in “Props”.
The snacks were decidedly better than they often are at these events too. Really good pizza! So, a good time was had by all. More people should come to these things. Have a few drinks, meet fun people, see just how multi-talented some of our singers are and have fun. Why not?
Sorry about the photo quality. Taken by me on my phone.
It’s good to see a company like Opera by Request doing contemporary Canadian work. Better still when it’s a comedy. So I was very eager to see what they would do with John Metcalfe and Larry Tremblay’s A Chair in Love, presented last night at The Array Space. The work itself is, shall we say, “unusual”. An avant-garde film director falls in love with a chair and, despite the warnings of his jealous dog that the world isn’t ready for human/furniture relationships, makes a film about it. He is duly condemned by critical and popular opinion and despairs. The doctor prescribes her experimental Lovekiller pills. He, apparently kills his dog and is sentenced to the electric chair (what else?). Fortunately this whole episode turns out to be a hallucination brought on by the untested medication. Meanwhile the chair has run off with the film critic who condemned such things and man and dog are reconciled. Got that?
OK everything about this has me intrigued. Opera by Request are putting on a semi-staged version of John Metcalf and Larry Tremblay’s A Chair in Love. It’s about an angsty film director who falls in love with a chair despite his dog’s best efforts to avoid disaster. It’s on Friday July 17th @ 7:30pm at the Array Space (155 Walnut Avenue), and features William Shookhoff (music director and pianist), Abigail Freeman (Chair), Michael Robert-Broder (Truman), Gregory Finney (Dog), and Kim Sartor (Dogtor/Doctor). Tickets are $20 and available here. Despite Metcalf’s heritage I don’t think it’s in Welsh though the chance to see Greg bark in Welsh would be worth the price of a ticket.
Apocalypsis was actually my second show yesterday. Earlier in the day I was at an opera “meet up” organised by Alaina Viau of LooseTEA Music Theatre. This was held at a bar on Bloor Street (actually inside the Intercontinental Hotel) and featured a performance of Love in the Age of AutoCorrect; an adaptation by Alaina and Markus Kopp of Mozart’s Bastien et Bastienne which first saw the light at Rosemarie Umetsu’s last August.
It was an interesting experience. Being in a bar not closed off for the event meant that people wandered in from the hotel not expecting to be caught up in an opera performance (and they did look like typical weekend denizens of a luxury hotel). It also meant that the performances were not exactly listened to with Mahlerian dedication. There was a fair amount of chatter and it can’t have been easy for the trio of Greg Finney, Keenan Viau and the ridiculously cute Whitney Mather. The acoustic wasn’t great either but these three were very funny and sang rather well and the piece is more fun Mozart’s original!
It’s a pretty cool idea really and I enjoyed it. I wonder if it would work in a pub with decent beer rather than a bar with overpriced cocktails and crap wine?
One probably can’t go far wrong with an adaptation of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and the operetta, Earnest,The Importance of Being by Victor Davies and Eugene Benson doesn’t. In fact it doesn’t go far from Wilde at all following the plot of the original faithfully and containing all the well known lines. It means too, of course, that it has the flaws as well as the virtues of the original. The first act can drag a bit as Wilde gets a bit too clever but t builds to a very effective second half which flies by. The duet for the girls, To Speak With Perfect Candour is probably the best number in the piece. Davies’ music too does not try to be too portentous. It’s a bit of a pot pourri of styles with, at least, big band music, classical operetta, popular song of the period and what seems to be a nod to Andrew Lloyd-Webber. It’s perfectly consistent with the text. I don’t think though that there’s a single number that one would call truly hummable.