Underdone Alcina

There’s not that much Handel on offer in Toronto so it seems really rather odd that Alcina should get two productions within eighteen months.  The attraction of the piece for Opera Atelier was obvious.  It’s Handel’s only opera that incorporates dance.  Why the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory should think it’s a good choice for a student production is less clear.  Dance aside, it’s classic Handel; written for an audience who expected great virtuosity from the star singers (in this case Giovanni Carestini and Anna Maria Strada) plus the very latest in analogue SFX.  Neither of these could reasonably be expected at Koerner Hall.

Photo: Nicola Betts

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The week in prospect

alcina_365sqBack to relative quiet!  The main event in the coming week is the GGS spring production.  They are doing Handel’s Alcina.  The cast includes Meghan Jamieson, Irina Medvedeva, Christina Campsall, Lillian Brooks, Joanna Burt, Asitha Tennekoon and Keith Lam.  Leon Major directs and Ivars Taurins conducts.  The publicity material suggests a 1920s setting.  Anyway it’s at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm on Wednesday and Friday.

There are a couple of kid friendly March break concerts in the RBA.  Tuesday sees what seems to have become an annual event; Kyra Millan’s Opera Interactive.  This year she is joined by Tina Faye and Charles Sy.  Then on Thursday Cawthra Park Chamber Choir and conductor Bob Anderson, one of the GTA’s leading school choirs, present various choral traditions and styles from the Renaissance to contemporary Canadian works.  Charles Sy, a Cawthra Park alumnus also features in this one.  Both at noon of course.

Then at the  Newmarket Theatre on Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm opera Luminata are performing.  This is a rather odd spectacular thing with taped orchestra and pyrotechnics.  I haven’t seen them but they got a rather more positive reception than I expected last time around.  www.operaluminata.com for details.

GGS Vocal Showcase

campsallThe Glenn Gould School Vocal Showcase at Mazzoleni Hall last night was a chance to see twenty of the school’s singers in action.  It was a curious mix actually; one bass, one baritone, a handful of tenors and mezzos and a lot of sopranos.  There was a huge range of age and experience too from 18 year old first years to quite seasoned post-grads.  As usual with these things I’m not going to attempt to be comprehensive but instead focus on the highlights as I saw them. Continue reading

Kickin’ Puss

Xavier Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas, given last night by the Glenn Gould School at Mazzoleni Hall, may not be the most profound thing in the opera canon but it is fun.  The 1948 score is jazzy and accessible and the libretto has fun with the fairy tale of the scheming cat and her gormless monkey servant.  The lighter, even absurdist, elements of the plot were rather played up, and to good effect, in Liza Balkan’s production.  Mazzoleni Hall is not the easiest place to present opera.  There’s no pit and no way to do surtitles.  Not much in the way of wing space or scenery handling either.  Balkan got round this by placing the band on stage and using very simple sets and props that often spilled over into the auditorium even getting Charles Sy, sitting in the front row, to take a selfie of the wedding party at the end.  Given that the Spanish numbers were not surtitled, it was smart to add extra English dialogue, much of it improvised.  I certainly didn’t have any difficulty following the story.  Credit too to lighting designer David Degrow too for making the most of the limited resources of Mazzoleni.

folksongs

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