One probably can’t go far wrong with an adaptation of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and the operetta, Earnest,The Importance of Being by Victor Davies and Eugene Benson doesn’t. In fact it doesn’t go far from Wilde at all following the plot of the original faithfully and containing all the well known lines. It means too, of course, that it has the flaws as well as the virtues of the original. The first act can drag a bit as Wilde gets a bit too clever but t builds to a very effective second half which flies by. The duet for the girls, To Speak With Perfect Candour is probably the best number in the piece. Davies’ music too does not try to be too portentous. It’s a bit of a pot pourri of styles with, at least, big band music, classical operetta, popular song of the period and what seems to be a nod to Andrew Lloyd-Webber. It’s perfectly consistent with the text. I don’t think though that there’s a single number that one would call truly hummable.
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.
OK, here are some proper production photos of Against the Grain Theatre’s Uncle John. All photo credits are Darryl Block.
Against the Grain Theatre opened their new show last night on the worst day of the winter so far. Over 15cm of snow fell and the TTC was in utter chaos. It’s becoming a habit. Last year’s Messiah opened in weather almost as bad. Uncle John is the latest modern, Toronto based, adaptation of the Mozart/da Ponte trilogy. It follows on from last season’s smash hit Figaro’s Wedding and was created and produced with support from the COC and the Banff Centre. It will be followed by A Little Too Cosy next season. The formula is basically the same. It;s ataged in a non traditional spave; in this case a rock concert venue on Queen West. The libretto is in English and differs in detail from da Ponte while respecting the basic spirit of the original. It’s also very Toronto and a little bit Toronto opera scene insiderish. Much of the recitative is replaced by spoken dialogue. There’s no chorus and accompaniment to the singers is provided by piano and string quartet. It’s a musical solution I like. It adds enough weight and colour that one hardly misses the full orchestra while being, of course, much more affordable. It all works really well and if you can you should see it. I’m putting my more detailed thoughts under the cut because they contain lots of spoilers which you may not want to read if you are going.
So Toronto’s hottest indie opera company, Against the Grain Theatre, has finally announced a 14/15 season. Not entirely unexpectedly they are bringing #UncleJohn; a transladaptation (©Lydia Perovic) of Mozart’s Don Giovanni to Toronto after it’s successful appearance in Banff this summer. With a new English libretto by Joel Ivany, #UncleJohn will be staged at The Black Box Theatre at 1087 Queen St. West’s vintage rock venue, The Great Hall. .
It’s that time of year which marks the passing of the baton at the COC Ensemble Studio which is traditionally marked by a lunchtime farewell concert by some of the graduates. Today’s Les Adieux featured soprano Sasha Djihanian, baritone Cameron McPhail and pianist Michael Shannon.
Once a year the COC Ensemble Studio get to show their talents on the big stage with a fully staged performance of a current production. This year’s choice of Atom Egoyan’s production of Così fan tutte was a good one. It showcased the talents of the singers really well and by using a different quartet of lovers in each act they were able to provide substantive roles for all the singers of the ensemble. I won’t dwell on the production as I have already reviewed it. The only changes I noted were a few change ups on the visual gags and that the “Albanians” kept their disguises on for quite a lot longer than with the main cast. So, how about the performances?
Today’s lunchtime concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre featured members of the COC Studio Ensemble performing extracts from Act 1 of Così fan tutte as a teaser for their performance of Atom Egoyan’s production on February 7th. This promises to beeven more confusing than usual as the young lover roles are all being shared to accommodate everyone. Today, Clraence Frazer and Danielle MacMillan being sick we had but one Guglielmo, Cameron McPhail, and one Dorabella, Charlotte Burrage. Andrew Haji and Owen McAusland alternated as Ferrando and Sasha Djihanian and Aviva Fortunata doubled Fiordiligi (those two, at least, are easy to tell apart). Gordon Bintner sang Don Alphonso and Claire de Sévigné played Despina.
Yesterday’s free concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre featured three members of the Ensemble Studio singing 20th century English language songs. The concert opened and closed with Vaughan Williams. Baritone Clarence Frazer gave us five songs from Songs of Travel (texts by Robert Louis Stevenson) and Cameron McPhail sang three songs from The House of Life (texts by Dante Gabriel Rossetti). These are some of my favourites and I must have almost worn out my CD of Thomas Allen singing them (On the Idle Hill of Summer on Virgin Classics). So, I don’t know whether that made me more or less critical but I thoroughly enjoyed both performances. Clarence sang strongly, straightforwardly and with very fine diction while Cam was more overtly emotional. Both approaches worked.
La Bohème has been running at the COC for a couple of weeks now but last night was the first performance for the second cast. There are some new faces; Michael Fabiano comes in as Rodolfo with Simone Osborne as Musetta, Tom Corbeil as Colline and Cameron McPhail as Schaunard. There are also some change ups. Joyce El-Khoury swaps Musetta for Mimi and Phillip Addis swaps Schaunard for Marcello. I’ll be back Friday to see the opening night cast with the exception of Eric Margiore coming in as Rodolfo.