I don’t often get deeply emotionally affected by an opera video. Generally it’s less immersive than a live performance in a way that diminishes emotion. That wasn’t my experience though with the 2022 recording of Handel’s Theodora from the Royal Opera. Admittedly Theodora is an opera I can get very emotionally involved in but Katie Mitchell’s production really did get to me.
Ahead of Opera Atelier’s upcoming production of Handel’s The Resurrection (La resurrezione) at Koerner Hall next week (6th to 9th April) there was a lunchtime preview in the RBA on Tuesday. Later that day I sat down with director Marshall Pynkoski to find out more about the work, OA’s relationship to it and its rather tortuous journey to the Koerner Hall stage.
This was the seventh time I’ve seen Soundstream’s Electric Messiah. It’s different every time of course but some things stay, more or less, as features. The biggest change this year is the shift from the Drake Underground to Crow’s Theatre. It’s staged as a conventional proscenium arch type show with the audience sitting in tiered rows facing the stage rather than being set up night club style. There’s no bar in the actual performance space but you can still take a drink to your seat. The drinks are cheaper than at the Drake too!
I suppose it’s fair to say that Philippe Jaroussky is a singer who divides opinion; you either love his light bright “soprano” sound or you prefer something more muscular (Sesto vs. Cesare perhaps). He has a cult following and he knows it. That side of things was very much on display at Koerner Hall last night when he appeared with the Ensemble Artaserse in a programme of arias from18th century Italian opera. It was clear that a goodly section of the audience had travelled from out of town for the concert and knew exactly what to expect. This was exemplified by the three encores leading up to Handel’s “Lascio ch’io pianga” which the hard core fans had been shouting for and weren’t going to go home without hearing!
The 2021 production, by Keith Warner, of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto at the Theater an der Wien uses Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre as a framing device. Sometimes the action is clearly the actors, producers, cigarette girls etc involved in the screening of a silent German movie version of “Caesar and Cleopatra”. Other times they are performing the action of the film/opera. Sometimes the cinema screen shows clips from the movie. Other times it shows pictures of the characters on stage. For example, at the beginning of Act 2 Tolomeo, whose other persona is some kind of sleazy mafioso movie exec, is shooting up. There’s a B&W picture of him on the screen that slowly changes to bright colours and then becomes more and more a depiction of a pretty heavy trip.
Handel’s Saul gets another “fully staged” treatment in this recording of a Claus Guth production at the Theater an der Wien in 2021. Inevitably it invites comparison with Barrie Kosky’s Glyndebourne version.. They are quite different though each is very enjoyable n its own way. Those not familiar with the piece might find the introduction to the earlier production helpful as I’m not going to repeat the outline of plot etc here.
There’s not exactly a flood of events in my calendar for march yet but there are a few. Running March 1st to 20th at Crow’s Theatre is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ satirical play Gloria about a Manhattan magazine staff seeking fame and glory as the internet turns the industry upside down. It’s not an opera but it’s directed by the very talented André Sills which is reason enough for me.
The sixth iteration of Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah unsurprisingly morphed from a live show in the intimate setting of the Drake Underground to a streamed video recorded on location in various places in Toronto. There is much that was the same as previously and some interesting differences. The selection of arias and choruses is very similar to previous years starting with “Comfort Ye”; arranged for all four singers and finishing up with “Hallelujah”.