Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera, which is currently playing at Meridian Hall, takes Roger Waters’ words from the original album The Wall and sets them to music by Julien Bilodeau which is new but based on the original melodic lines. The stage production, conceived and directed by Dominic Champagne, is flashy (often literally) and makes extensive use of projections. There’s a decent cast of Canadian singers (including Nathan Keoughan, France Bellemare, Caroline Bleau, and Jean-Michel Richer), a rather good chorus and a symphony sized orchestra all conducted by Alain Trudel. It’s loud, expensive looking and in your face. On paper all the elements of a sort of cross-over opera spectacular are there but they simply don’t come together.
Last night saw the second annual Centre Stage at the COC. It’s described as the “Ensemble Studio competition gala”, which is pretty much what it has become. It’s a dressy occasion and busier this year than last. Bussing in the claque from the University of Toronto upped both the noise level and the “beautiful young people” content. The competition itself is fairly conventional in that all the singers get to sing two arias of their choice. What’s a little different is that the accompaniment is the full COC Orchestra and as well as the jury prizes there’s an audience choice award facilitated by some neat electronics. Then of course there’s always the issue of a place in next year’s Ensemble Studio.
Ensemble Studio Competition finalists and winners with Centre Stage host Ben Heppner
Last night I was in a very full Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre for the second annual COC Studio Ensemble competition. Ten singers, selected down from 146 in auditions across Canada and in New York were competing for cash prizes and an opportunity to join the COC Ensemble Studio. COC General Director Alexander Neef chaired the panel of judges which included soprano and teacher Wendy Nielsen as well as assorted COC brass. Chorus Master Sandra Horst MC’d in her own inimitable fashion. The format was typical of such events. Each singer offered five arias. They got to sing one of their choice and then the judges requested a second from the remaining four. Piano accompaniment alternated between the equally excellent Rachel Andrist and Steven Philcox.