Calgary once again offers three main stage performances. The season opens with Delibes’ Lakmé. It’s a Tom Diamond production so probably not very Regie. Aline Kutan, seen as Queen of the Night in Toronto not so long ago, sings the title role with Andrea Hill as her sidekick Mallika. Lakmé’s paramour, the handsome British officer Frederic, is sung by Canadian opera’s current answer to Rudolph Valentino, Cam McPhail. Gordon Gerrard conducts. There are three performances on November 21st, 25th and 27th.
Announcements for the upcoming season in Toronto are starting to come in. Voicebox: Opera in Concert have announced a thee show season at the St. Lawrence Centre for the arts. The season opens on Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 2:30 PM with Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana. This isn’t a work one gets to see very often so even a piano accompanied concert version is very welcome. Musical Director and Pianist will be Peter Tiefenbach. Soprano Betty Waynne Allison will sing Elizabeth I with tenor Adam Luther as Essex. The cast also includes Jennifer Sullivan, Jesse Clark and Mark Petracchi.
So, apparently Toronto has three opera singers from the otherwise unremarkable town of Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Today they (Michael and Peter Barrett and Adam Luther) together with Doug Naughton on guitar, Andrew Grimes on bhodran and, the definitely not from Newfoundland, Sandra Horst on piano produced a fun recital of arrangements of more or less traditional songs from Newfoundland and the British Isles together with a few pieces that aren’t actually traditional but people think they are. And actually, of course, a lot of the time differentiating between a traditional Newfoundland song and a traditional British song is a bit fraught.
Today’s free lunchtime concert in the RBA was given by Topher Mokrzewski wearing his pianist hat; as opposed to his conductor, accompanist, music director, vocal coach or tap dancing hat.
Last night we were as far removed from the elegant sophistication of the Four Seasons Centre as one can get. We were in the back room of the Tranzac for Against the Grain Theatre Company’s updated, Toronto version of Puccini’s much played La Bohème. The Tranzac is a club. It’s quite scruffy and for many years the Nomads hung out there. I have spent many a riotous evening there involving beer slides and too much booze. It also hosts music events; mostly folk and jazz. Last night’s show was in the big room at the back which, set up with tables as it was, holds maybe a hundred or so people. The bar was open throughout. The beer selection has improved markedly since I was last at the Tranzac with a good range of products from McAuslan’s and Mill Street.
Against the Grain is a newly formed company of youngish performers. Many of them are products of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. This was not an amateur show! What we got was a somewhat abridged version of La Bohème in a new English translation by Joel Ivany (who also directed) adapted to include the translation in place and time to contemporary Toronto sung with piano accompaniment and staged in and around the audience. The piece opens with Rudolfo and Marcello squatting at the Tranzac where, the libretto informs us, it is “fucking cold”. It rolls on from there in a similar vein and it’s very effective.
The singing was excellent. Adam Luther sang Rudolfo and showed that it was well within his compass, high notes and all. Laura Albino sang a serious Mimi capable of great and beautiful passion in her set pieces. Opera turned cabaret singer Lindsay Sutherland Boal was a thoroughly engaging Musetta. She pretty much stole the show in Act II when she worked the room in black corset and tight pants during her big aria. Christopher Mokrzewski was at the piano throughout and did a fine job.
All in all it was an enjoyable and worthwhile evening without the rather jarring aspect of displaying grinding poverty to the rich in their opera house finery. I really like that alongside the increasingly excellent offerings from the COC Toronto can offer opera in settings like the Tranzac.
There are two more performances; tonight and tomorrow.