Back in January I saw Opera 5’s show Modern (Family) Opera at the Arts and Letters Club. I didn’t review it here because I was covering it for Opera Canada. It seems that there was some breakdown in communication, probably the dodgy email connection at our temporary digs last winter, and it never made it to the mag and so wasn’t printed. It’s a pity as it was a good show and so, belatedly, I’m sticking the review here, for the record, instead.
How it Storms; music by Allen Cole, libretto by Maristella Roca, is a chamber opera for four soloists and gamelan ensemble. It was premiered last night at the Array Space and is co-production of Array Music and the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan. It’s a really interesting piece. The libretto is allusive (at times even elusive) rather than being a straight forward linear narrative. There’s a soon to be wedded couple, her sister and a very strange beggar. There’s a hunting scene and a curse but what’s really going on is never entirely clear. The libretto is beautiful to listen to with repetitive elements and non-English elements. It’s clearly as much the work of a poet as a playwright(1). Using gamelan to accompany this makes so much sense. The instruments mirror, amplify and transcend the rhythmical, shimmering nature of the words. The solo vocal parts too give the singers an opportunity to sing beautifully as well as tell the story.
June is still a bit quiet but I have had word of a few more performances around the city. On the 13th Lindsay Promane, Daevyd Pepper and pianist Natasha Fransblow; all seen recently at either Metro Youth Opera or various UoT events, have a recital at Islington United Church. Featured composers include Ravel, Tosti and Saint-Saens. It’s at 7.30pm and it’s Pay What You Can.
On the 17th and 18th at 8pm Array Music are presenting How it Storms. It’s an opera for gamelan ensemble by Allen Cole. The singers will be Salzburg and Zürich bound Claire de Sévigné, Danielle MacMillan (where’s she been this year?), Chris Mayell and Keith O’Brien. This one is at The Array Space, 155 Walnut Ave and admission is $15.00.
Then on the 21st there’s a concert performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at St Simon-The-Apostle Anglican Church. It’s at 7pm and it’s Pay What You Can.
Finally, you can catch the broadcast of the Royal Opera’s recent production of Weill’s Mahagonny at the Bloor Hot Docs on the 28th at noon.
The Cousin from Nowhere is a German operetta by Eduard Künneke that premiered in Berlin in 1921. Last night it received its Canadian premier, in English translation, at Toronto Operetta Theatre. It’s a light, charming romcom with few pretensions but much to enjoy. The plot is simple in outline though convoluted in almost Gilbertian way. Julia is an heiress under the guardianship of her aunt and uncle and about to come of age and, thus, come into the fortune that hitherto the older couple have been able to enjoy. She is in love (or thinks she is) with her third cousin twice removed Roderich, who left to make his fortune in the East Indies seven years ago. Aunt and uncle scheme to marry her to their nephew August. Various more or less improbable plot twists involve August impersonating Roderich and successfully winning the heart of Julia while Roderich returns and falls instantly in love with Hanna, Julia’s bestie. It all ends happily. The music is not unlike Viennese operetta with some nods to jazz and popular post war dance music but if you are expecting pre echoes of Berg or Weill you are going to be disappointed. It’s quite conventional but essentially well crafted light entertainment.
Opera Five’s schtick is that they satisfy all five senses. In their current show that means matching a food offering with each of the three short operas on display. It’s a neat idea. In the current show a palindromic skewer of sausage, pickle and cheese is matched with the palindromic Hindemith work Hin und Zurück, assorted Russian pasty like objects are paired with Rachmaninov’s Aleko and some sort of chocolate on a stick thing with Milton Granger’s 1999 piece Talk Opera.
Last night we headed out to that part of the formerly industrial west end much beloved by tiny arts organizations to see a thoroughly eclectic series of performances by Against the Grain Theatre. This is the company that previously brought us a genuinely Bohemian La Bohème at the Tranzac club. Last night’s show cunningly built on that success by using the undoubted crowd pleaser, Lindsay Boa-Sutherland, to headline a performance of Weill’s Die sieben Todsüngen. Since the orchestra was replaced by two superbly virtuosic pianists in Daniel Pesca and AtG music director Christopher Mokrzewski it made sense to include two fiendish pieces for two pianos; Steve Reich’s Piano Phase and John Adams’ Hallelujah Junction. The program was balanced up for “virtue” with Britten’s Abraham and Isaac. So, a thoroughly eclectic but oddly coherent line up.