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.
February is going to be really busy so I think I’ll take the previews in chunks. First up though one event in January I haven’t yet had opportunity to mention. This coming Sunday 21st Fawn Chamber Creative have a PWYC fundraiser for their in process opera-ballet project. It’s from 2-6pm at The Smiling Buddha. It will be party, silent auction and some performance. Previous ones have been fun but I’m booked Sunday. Details at: http://www.fawnchambercreative.com/events/upcoming/. Also in January and missed off the radar, on the 28th at 3pm at Mazzoleni Hall,the Amici Ensemble have a Strauss inspired concert featuring the lovely but tiny Sasha Djihanian who is current holder of the loudness to weight record for a soprano.
The Glenn Gould School’s fall opera production this year is Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel given in Brent Krysa’s English language, highly condensed version, originally created for the COC Ensemble Studio School Tour. It really is condensed. There’s no chorus and it comes in at just over the hour mark. The main plot elements are retained but I think quite a bit of the darkness, and most of the religiosity, are gone, though the latter isn’t eliminated entirely. After all, the Evening Prayer and the final chorus are musical highlights and pretty much have to be there. It doesn’t leave any room for the director to explore ideas like child abuse or addiction and pretty much forces, for better or worse, a straightforward emphasis on the basic story.