As things will soon slow down for the holidays I am going to do one listings post from now through to the New Year. There are of course still the TSO and Tafelmusik Messiahs. There are also holiday concerts at Roy Thomson Hall. New Year’s Eve sees an opera pops concert conducted by Marco Guidarini while on New Year’s Day there’s a Vienna themed extravaganza with Matthias Fletzberger conducting.
There’s a lot to like in the COC’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata that opened at The Four Seasons Centre last night. Arin Arbus’ production; a co-production with Chicago Lyric Opera and Houston Grand Opera avoids the cloying sentimentality of many productions of this piece and, without being in any way gratuitous, deals very directly with the world Verdi wanted us to see; a world of hypocrisy, sex for sale and early, pointless death.
Verdi’s Il Trovatore notoriously has an episodic and highly improbable plot. It’s also famously difficult to cast. Creating a compelling production and staffing it with capable singers therefore presents a formidable double challenge. The current Canadian Opera Company production gets it half right. The problem is Charles Roubaud’s much travelled production. There’s not an idea in it. It’s not surprising that the director’s programme notes run to three short paragraphs. Roubaud sets each scene in a sort of grey box of towering walls. Unfortunately each grey box is just different enough that that the curtain comes down at the end of each scene and the stage crew spend what seems like an interminable amount of time setting up the next grey box. We just aren’t used anymore to sitting quietly through interminable scene changes. We expect slicker stagecraft and in a modern opera house there’s really no excuse for this 19th century approach. Within in each grey box the grey clad cast come and go and in between mostly stand around. Blocking is perfunctory, acting superfluous and old fashioned “park and bark” the order of the day. It’s the sort of production that might have passed muster thirty years ago but really doesn’t cut it in 2012.