UoT Opera Division’s production of Arthur Benjamin’s A Tale of Two Cities, currently playing at the MacMillan Theatre, is really rather good. Its partly the work itself which surely deserves to be better known. It’s a 1950 work to a libretto by Cedric Cliffe. It was written for the Festival of Britain and was considered a success at the time. It is in many ways typical of mid 20th century English opera (though Benjamin was a peripatetic Australian rather than a Brit). It’s colourful and uses a large orchestra with lots of brass and percussion and combines lyricism with some fairly heavy dissonance. It also includes a few good arias, notably one for Lucie Manette, the romantic female interest.
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This year’s fall offering from UoT Opera is three short comic operas presented at the MacMillan Theatre in productions by Michael Patrick Albano. The first is Paul Hindemith’s Hin und Züruck; a twelve minute musical joke which manages to send up a lot of operatic conventions in a very short time. It’s a musical and dramatic palindrome. A man discovers his wife has a lover and shoots her. The paramedics arrive and attempt to revive her. In this staging this includes a giant syringe and no prizes for guessing where that goes. The remorseful husband shoots himself. An angel (Ben Done) appears and explains that the usual laws of physics don’t apply in opera and the entire plot and score is replayed backwards. It was played effectively deadpan by Cassandra Amorim and Lyndon Ladeur while Jordana Goddard, as the elderly deaf aunt, sat through the whole thing entirely oblivious. Good fun.
Miles Mykannen in the RBA
Tenor Mlles Mykannen, currently on the COC main stage as Steuermann in Der fliegende Holländer performed in the RBA on Tuesday accompanied by Sandra Horst. It was a bit unusual. There was no published programme and Mykannen talked a lot. Also a quiz at the end (really). He’s extremely engaging, even funny, and an excellent singer. His opera choices were unusual; Arnalta’s lullabye from L’incoronazione di Poppea, an “aria” from Silent Night and “Miles, Miles” from The Turn of the Screw. The last was particularly good with maximum spookiness achieved (though not for the first time I noticed just how “wrong” TotS sounds on piano!)
UoT Opera in the RBA
It’s been three long years since the UoT Opera Program students performed in the RBA. Unsurprisingly none of the current crop are familiar to me at all. They are a strong group though and I look forward to seeing them again over the course of the academic year.
Yesterday’s programme was a curated and directed selection of duets and larger ensembles from 19th century repertory. Introductions were provided by Sandra Horst who conducted and Michael Albano and Mabel Wonnacott who directed. With fifteen singers involved in a show lasting well under an hour including the intros there wasn’t really enough time to get more than a very superficial idea of what each singer is capable and so I think it would be inappropriate to write a conventional review. Let’s just say that it was wonderful to see them back, a great way to spend a lunchtime and that there was some very classy singing.
Watch this space…
The nightingale flies from its gilded cage
Florence: The Lady with the Lamp, music by Timothy Sullivan, libretto by Anne Mcpherson, premiered at the Elora Festival in 1992 and n 1995 was the first Canadian work performed by VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert. Yesterday afternoon they presented it again at the St. Lawrence Centre; staged and with orchestra.
It’s an interesting piece. Some of it I liked a lot and some not so much. The orchestral writing is excellent; colourful and atmospheric with some jazz influences. I quite often found myself drifting off into listening to the orchestra when perhaps I should have paid more attention to the words, especially as there were no surtitles. The vocal writing is less interesting but it had its moments especially in some of the ensembles. It’s the old dilemma of whether or not to prioritise the comprehensibility of the words over strictly musical values. Continue reading
Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park opened last night at UoT Opera in a production by Tim Albery. It’s a really interesting show that builds up in “layers” to a very satisfying whole. The Austen novel, of course, is very self consciously a novel. There’s no pretence at “immersion”. The author is both telling the story and commenting on it for the benefit of you, the reader. Librettist Alasdair Middleton both builds on this and does a quite brilliant job of compression to bring in a condensed, and only slightly simplified, version of the story in under two hours.
Brandon Cedel in the RBA
Yesterday’s RBA concert was at the unusual hour of 5.30pm and featured bass-baritone Brandon Cedel with Sandra Horst at the piano. It was a nicely balanced programme. Cedel began with Purcell’s Arise, ye subterranean winds from The Tempest. It’s one of those very Purcellian arias for low voice that feature long, not especially fast runs and put a lot of demands on the singer’s technique. Cedel’s is very solid. He can shape a line too and his English diction is excellent. There was some particular fine playing from Sandra Horst here too.
Marriage of Figaro at UoT
UoT Opera’s fall production is Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro which opened last night at the MacMillan Theatre. It’s a period production directed by Michael Patrick Albano set in the “Opera 18th Century”; more Chatsworth than palace near Seville, but it looks pretty, the action is skilfully composed and the physical comedy works.
A first look at UoT this year
The students of the post graduate program at UoT Opera were on show in the RBA yesterday with a show made up of staged opera excerpts curated and directed by Michael Patrick Albano. It’s right at the beginning of the academic year and these sorts of concerts are a bit of a calibration exercise for those of us who follow the progress of young singers. The starting point this year is decidedly high.
The Three Tenors
Today’s RBA lunchtime concert featured the three tenors; Kammersinger Michael Schade, currently appearing as Aegisth in the COC’s Elektra, Irish tenor Mick O’Schade and Scottish folksinger Michael McSchade. They were most ably supported by COC Concertmaster Marie Bérard and Sandra Horst at the piano. The concert was billed as a tribute to John McCormack and Fritz Kreisler but sad events had morphed it into also being a tribute to the CBC’s Neil Crory. I hope, and believe, that he would have appreciated the combination of whimsy and serious music making.