Jonathan Dove’s 1994 one act opera Siren Song is a twisted little piece and very enjoyable. Apparently it’s based on a true story which just makes it weirder. Its the mid 1980s. Davey Palmer is an Able Seaman on HMS Ark Royal. He answers an ad in Navy News from a young woman, Diana, seeking a pen pal. Diana is a model and the relationship gets quite steamy but somehow whenever Davey gets shore leave there is some reason why Diana can’t meet him. Soon Diana’s brother Jonathan is showing up to make the excuses. Diana has throat cancer and can’t make phone calls and on it goes until the nature of the phone calls between Davey and Jonathan leads the MOD police to investigate a possible homosexual relationship. Surprise! There is no Diana and Jonathan is a con man. It’s very cleverly constructed with Diana appearing as a character though, we realise eventually, only in Davey’s imagination and the the pacing is such that our suspicion builds rather than the denouement being a huge surprise.
I think it’s time to get back to doing two listing posts per month as the schedule is getting pretty busy.
On November 1st at 8pm Karina Gauvin is appearing at Koerner Hall with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in a programme of opera arias from 18th century St. Petersburg. The following night at 7.30pm, in Mazzoleni Hall, the Glenn Gould School has its fall production. This time it’s Jonathan Dove’s Siren Song. Curiously UoT Opera is also doing a work by Dove this season.
I went into last night’s Glenn Gould School performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Koerner Hall with all kinds of questions buzzing around in my head; partly because of an earlier conversation with director Joel Ivany and partly, well, Magic Flute – that most enigmatic of operas. If only one could go back (more than forty years) to seeing it for the first time!
I sat down a couple of days ago with Joel Ivany to discuss his upcoming production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Conservatory. Here are some of the things we talked about.
What’s Die Zauberflöte “about”?
This opera has had whole books written about it but no-one seems to agree on what’s at the core of it. Is it a simple fairy tale? Is it an allegory of Reason versus The Church? Is it a Coming of Age story? Unsurprisingly we didn’t come to firm conclusions here but it’s clear that Joel wants to particularly explore some of the aspects of gender raised by the piece; especially the apparent misogyny of the piece. There’s potentially more to Pamina than being the bait to trap Tamino or, alternatively, his completion. What is her roles in the Trials? What happens to either of them if they fail? If Tamino needs to be “completed” what are we to make of the unpartnered Sarastro? But, if Pamina has strength what kind of agency does she have? The other female character are equally problematic. How does one humanize the Queen of the Night? Who, or what, is Papagena? Neither of us think there are easy answers here and I’m looking forward to seeing how Joel’s take pans out. What we could agree on is that even if the simple equation of male = good/rational and female = irrational/disposable worked in 1791 (if, indeed, it did), it won’t work in 2019.
Usually things slow down a bit at the end of February but not, it seems, this year. First a notice for this month. Sara Schabas and Daniel Norman present a recital of music by Bernstein, Mozart, Schubert, Alma & Gustav Mahler & more. It’s at the Church of the Redeemer on Bloor at 7.30 pm on February 27th. Tickets here. The first weekend of the month is busy with a “semi-staged” Le comte Ory at Trinity St. Paul’s on Saturday March 2nd at 7.30pm. The production is by François racine and the cast includes Asitha Tennekoon, Marjorie Maltais and Caitlin Wood. On Sunday at 3pm Toronto Operetta Thaetre are presenting Ivor Novello’s Perchance to Dream. That’s at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Also on Friday night and Sunday afternoon Opera York are doing Don Giovanni. The Donnas are Natalya Gennadi and Beste Kalender. That’s at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Arts.
It’s always an interesting evening. It’s the first chance of the year to see what the Conservatory has to offer. The first thing I noticed was that the tenor famine seems to be over. There were four tenors on offer to two baritones. Just the one mezzo though and more sopranos than I could count.
Here’s what’s coming up in the first part of March. Thursday 1st is Opera Pub Night at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club at 9pm. On Friday March 9th Soundstreams are presenting Tan Dun’s Water Passion at Trinity St. Paul’s at 8pm. On Wednesday 14th and Friday 16th the Glenn Gould School is presenting Die Fledermaus in a production by Joel Ivany. That’s at 7.30pm in Koerner Hall. It’s a good looking cast and recommended. Thursday 15th through Sunday 18th the UoT Opera is presenting Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing in the MacMillan Theatre. The production is by Michael Patrick Albano and start times are 7.30pm except for Sunday at 2.30pm.