The Queen in Me

Watching The Queen in Me at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre last night I thought to myself that this was probably the first time I’d heard Teiya Kasahara singing classic opera arias with an orchestra.  Given how many times I’ve seen Teiya on stage that seemed really weird.  And that, I suppose, is one major aspect of what this show is all about; how casting is so rigidly stereotyped that it demands that people become something other than themselves to get cast.  A tall, muscular, tattooed Queen of the Night isn’t that much of a stretch but a tall, muscular tattooed Cio Cio San or Mimi is a bridge too far.

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Photo credit: Gary Beechey

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As we head into summer…

SE_Raccoons_180201_164As we head into summer, as usual, things start to quieten down.  I only have five shows in my schedule for the month of June:

  • June 2nd, 4th and 5th Toronto City Opera are presenting Cavalleria Rusticana at the Fleck Dance Theatre.  It’s the usual TCO format; piano accompaniment, amateur chorus, young professional soloists.  Jennifer Tung conducts.
  • June 2nd, 3rd, 4th at &.30pm at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre it’s the latest iteration of Teiya Kasahara’s The Queen in Me.  It looks like this time it may be with small ensemble rather than just piano.  There’s a promo video on the COC’s Youtube channel.
  • June 3rd to 10th (preview June 2nd) at Crow’s Theatre it’s Maxime Beauregard-Martin’s Singulières; a play about “single ladies” in Quebec.  It’s in French with English surtitles (and/or 3D glasses).
  • June 5t at 4pm at Grace Church on the Hill, Soundstreams are presenting a homage to the late R. Murray Schaefer.  This one is free but registration is required.
  • June 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th at 8pm at Roy Thomson Hall the TSO are presenting Beethoven’s ninth symphony with an impressive line up of soloists including Rihab Chaieb.  It’s coupled with three short premiers including a piece by Adam Scime.

That’s about it until Toronto Summer Music opens on July 7th.

SOS Sketch Opera Singers 3

The third SOS – Sketch Opera Singers from Tapestry Opera is now up on Youtube.  It’s quite similar to the previous episodes with inspired lunacy from KrossØver (Teiya Kasahara, Keith Klassen, Krisztina Szabó, Korin Thomas-Smith and a snail but definitely not Simone McIntosh).  I think it’s a bit darker and a bit weirder than earlier episodes, even a bit surreal in places.  The sketch where people are helped through break-ups by soft toys singing well known arias comes to mind.  Still, it’s half an hour of (mostly) harmless fun.  Definitely worth a watch.

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SOS: Sketch Opera Singers 2

SOS2 was at least as good as the first instalment.  Krisztina Szabó came in as replacement for Simone McIntosh who is back on the west coast and showed that she’s at least as crazy as anyone else involved in this show (even Keith Klassen and that’s saying something).  Highlights include Korin Thomas-Smith auditioning for Papageno and being asked to sing everything from Sarastro to the Queen of the Night, Krisztina as a manic photographer, the previously mentioned ABBA-nera, Teiya Kasahara breathing COVID on Keith Klassen and lots more rather dark virus humour.  All sorts of people chipped in with cameos and/or music, Michael Mori and Keith Klassen directed with Jennifer Tung and Juliane Gallant providing music direction.  Technical quality is excellent and it’s free.  It’s only 30 minutes long so there’s no excuse for not watching.  It’s available here.

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More Youtube projects

There’s an interesting new project on Youtube from Natalya Gennadi and Catherine Carew.  It’s called HBD! Project and the idea is to produce a short themed video each month featuring composers whose birthdays fall in that month.  The February pilot is online and it’s a bit different from other “shows” in similar vein that I’ve come across.  This one features a song by Alban Berg sung by Natalya with a fluffy puppy, music for cello and piano by Jean Coulthard played by Alice Kim and Hye Won Cecilia Lee and Rodney Sharman’s Tobacco Road sung by Catherine.  So what’s new you ask (apart from the puppy)?  It’s the graphics with Mozart in a party hat, animated Emily Carr paintings and a look for the Sharman that could double as the witches’ scene in Macbeth.  Yes it’s a bit weird but oddly compelling.

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Disruptors

There was a really interesting announcement from the COC earlier today.  To cut a long story short it announced that the four principals of Amplified Opera; Teiya Kasahara, Marion Newman, Asitha Tennekoon and Aria Umezawa, would become “Disruptors in Residence”.  I think this is a very positive move.  Many of us have been following the various conversations about evolving opera beyond being the preserve of (almost) dead white people to being an art form that more fully reflects the diversity of our communities.  I have to admit to being somewhat sceptical about how much of the energy and goodwill that has been generated will survive the return to some sort of post-covid normality.  It.’s surprisingly hard to make change in large, hierarchical organisations go viral.

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Electric Messiah 2020

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”.

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New voices at Amplified Opera

Amplified Opera was created by Teiya Kasahara and Aria Umezawa to promote the values of equity, diversity and inclusion in and through opera.  They have produced shows like The Way I See It, showcasing blind soprano Laurie Rubin and visually impaired pianist Liz Upchurch in a show about visual impairment and its challenges in the opera world (and anyone who nows me will realise how near the bone that cut).  They’ve also produced Teiya’s The Queen in Me (which I missed but which was based on the earlier show Queer of the Night); both shows exploring the pressures placed on a gay diva by the opera world.

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Good and not so good news

Arts Anyway Episode 2 featuring some musical theatre performances and an interview with the the amazing Teiya Kasahara is up on their YouTube channel.

And, this year’s Toronto Bach Festival has been cancelled.  Since that was scheduled for the last weekend in May that’s the furthest out cancelation yet.

The Wager

Theatre Gargantua’s production of Michael Gordon Spence’s The Wager, which opened last night at Theatre Passe Muraille takes as its starting point Alfred Russell Wallace’s (the other natural selection guy) bet with a Flat Earther to prove that the Earth is round.  He does do, of course.  Or at least to the satisfaction of any reasonable person but merely succeeds in provoking a storm of personal abuse and insults from the Flat Earther.  All of which tends to prove the old adage that arguing with a crackpot is like wrestling with a pig.  You get covered in s**t and the pig enjoys it.

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