Best of 2013

So what was I most impressed with on the opera and related scene in in 2013?

Big house opera

frau1The COC had a pretty good twelve months.  I enjoyed everything I saw except, maybe, Lucia di Lammermoor.  Making a choice between Christopher Alden’s probing La Clemenza di Tito, the searing opening night of Peter Sellars’ Tristan und Isolde; the night when I really “got” why people fly across oceans to see this piece, Robert Carsen’s spare and intensely moving Dialogues des Carmélites or Tony Dean Griffey’s intense and lyrical portrayal of the title character in Peter Grimes is beyond me.  So, I shall be intensely disloyal to my home company and name as my pick in this category the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Die Frau ohne Schatten.  Wernicke’s production is pure magic and Anna Schwanewilms was a revelation.

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Opera Five gala

opera5So Toronto’s weather took a weird twist pushing the Humidex into the 40s just in time for the Opera Five movie themed fundraiser at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu last night.  And some people still managed to wear suits and ties and stuff.  Made of sterner stuff than me I tell you.  And even more props to the ladies who were sporting Rosemarie’s creations.  They looked great but some of them must have been hell in the heat.

It was an interesting format with seven singers and two pianists appearing in various combinations and guests having an opportunity to sponsor a singer to sing their “feature” aria.  It was fun and there were some fine singers on display.  Two I’ve seen and enjoyed in the past were baritone Geoffrey Sirett and coloratura soprano Teiya Kasahara.  Both were on good form with some fine Escamillo from Geoffrey and the mad scene from Lucia from Teiya in a rather good arrangement for voice, flute and piano.  The other five were new to me but I’d happily go see any of them.  Favourite moments for me would be some fine Carmen from the unpronounceable Olenka Harasymowycz (who looks disturbingly like Maria Ewing), a very cute “Poor Wandering One” from Caitlin Wood and a very fine “Ebben…” (from Catalani’s La Wally) from Calgary’s Krista de Silva.  Accompaniment was from music director Mai Nash and Jo Greenaway on piano with flautist Amelia Lyon.

So, a fun event which seemed to be raising quite a bit of much needed cash.  The first show it will be helping fund is In Pace Requiescat; a trio of one act operas based on Edgar Allen Poe stories.  There will be The Cask of Amontillado by Daniel Pinkham, La Chute de la Maison d’Usher by Claude Debussy and the world première of The Masque of the Red Death by Cecilia Livingston.  Performances will be at the Arts and letters Club on Elm Street on the 27th, 30th and 31st of October.  Tickets are available from and are $30 ($25 concessions).

Tapas and puppets

I’m having a hard time keeping up with everything that’s going on in the Toronto opera scene.  The latest thing to hit my inbox is a new show from Opera Five.  These are the “food and opera” guys and this time it’s tapas and sangria and Spanish opera.  They are doing two pieces; de Falla’s El Retablo de maese Pedro, which features puppets, and Granados’ Goyescas, which is based on paintings by Goya.  I think the only “puppet opera” I’ve seen before was the mash up of Bastien und Bastienne and Der Schaulspieldirektor that Salzburg did in 2006 so this should be fun.

The show is at Gallery 345 which is at 345 Sorauren and there are three performances on April 29th, May 1st and May 2nd.  Tickets are available online at or at the door (cash only).

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Feeding all the senses

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.

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Waking up the senses

Furthering my quest to see more live opera I’m grateful to fellow COC podcaster Leslie of barczablog for drawing my attention to the following production that had hitherto escaped my notice.

Canadian directors, Aria Umezawa and Erik Thor combine their skills to help create Opera Five’s Winter production at the popular Gallery 345 venue. Alongside the senses of hearing and sight, the company is presenting a 3-course tasting menu thematically tied to each opera with food being prepared by local restaurants. The show features a cast of ten Toronto-based singers and the operas, Hin und Zurück (Hindemith), Aleko (Rachmaninov) and Talk Opera (Granger) a new American opera making its premiere in Canada. Milton Granger, the opera’s composer will be in attendance throughout the run. Musical direction is provided by Maika’i Nash and Kimberly Bartczak.

The show is at Gallery 345 (345 Sorauren Ave) on December 4th-6th at 7:30PM.

Tickets are $25/$30 and can be purchased online at or at the door.

Food and opera!  Sounds just my kind of thing.