We were back at the COC last night for the first performance of Carmen by the alternative cast. (First cast review) As so often seems to be the case with these double cast shows it felt almost like a different production. The biggest differences are produced by the new Don José, David Pomeroy, and the new Carmen, Clémentine Margaine. Pomeroy is a very decent singer but he doesn’t have the ease, power and bloom of Russell Thomas. What he does have is vastly superior acting chops. His Don José is a believably complex human being. We can see his decline from rather boring and provincially stuck up into despair(1). It’s palpable. Margaine’s Carmen is a similar story. Her voice isn’t as big or dark as Anita Rashvelishvili(2) but she’s much more physical on stage. Further, Pomeroy and Margaine are much more credible as a couple. The net result is the drama that was rather missing in the first two acts on Sunday. The price is not hearing two absolutely incredibly beautiful voices.
Tap:Ex METALLURGY is the second experiment by Tapestry Artistic Director Michael Mori in engineering a collaboration between opera people and an alien musical form; in this case punk experimentalists Fucked Up. The program consistec of two pieces. Metallurgy A was written by Fucked Up’s Jonah Falco to a dense libretto by Mike Haliechuk and David James Brock. In half an hour it tells the story of a mother and father trying, unsuccessfully, to come to terms with the death of their young daughter. Dramatically it’s quite clever. There’s dialogue and then the performers (the musicians are on stage with the singers) leave one by one until only the mother (Krisztina Szabó) and the violinist (Yoobin Ahn), representing the ghost of the daughter, are left on stage to play out a final duet.
Next week is a bit crazy. Tomorrow is the Elizabeth Krehm memorial concert in aid of St. Mike’s ICU. They are playing Mahler 2 and it’s PWYC with a tax receipt. 8pm at Metropolitan United Church. Tueday sees the opening of Philippe Boesmann’s Julie at 8pm at the Bluma Appel. It’s an important, if bleak, contemporary piece and for the first time here, in a Soundstreams/CanStage presentation, it will be sung in English. It runs until the 29th so plenty of chance to catch it.
The competition to be the most interesting and innovative indie opera company in Toronto is fierce and Tapestry Opera’s season announcement definitely places them as one of the leading contenders. As well as the usual interesting line up of workshops etc there are two brand new fully staged works and a collaboration with a punk band. Details under the cut.
This year’s Tap:Ex is titled Metallurgy and features experimental punk band Fucked Up together with COC regulars Krisztina Szabó and David Pomeroy. This one runs November 19th to 21st at the Ernest Balmer Studio. Details here.
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.
Christopher Alden’s recent productions in Toronto; Rigoletto and Der Fliegender Holländer, were controversial, rather cerebral affairs that delighted his fans but tended to puzzle, and even infuriate, the more conservative critics and opera goers. His Die Fledermaus, which opened last night at the Four Seasons Centre, has something for everybody. There are two main threads uniting the three acts. The first is the piece as an allegory of Austrian bourgeois society from an insecure pre WW1 period through a period of unbridled hedonism in the 1920s to the beginnings of Fascism. The second is a much more explicit depiction of Falke as the ringmaster of the whole circus. He goes from manipulative Freudian psychiatrist in Act 1 to Orlofsky’s confidante in Act 2 to, bat costumed, sitting astride the giant watch that hangs above the stage; the only character aloof from the takeover of the drama by the sinisterly Fascistic Frosch. All this is strung together by prefiguring later elements in earlier scenes. In Act 1 the party goers from Act 2 invade the scene via the fractured wall of Rosalinde’s bedroom as Gabriel imagines the delights to come. A silent but frenetic Frosch appears on stage at various points in the first two acts although his identity isn’t apparent until the coup de theâtre that carries us into Act 3. Additionally Alden does not shy away from bat imagery, including it’s darker overtones. There are bat shadows on the backdrop during the overture, Falke first appears as a Dracula look alike, the ‘ballet’ are batgirls and we close out with Falke, again dressed as a bat, overseeing the denouement. There’s a lot going on and I shall be very happy to see this again and delve deeper (a recurrent theme with Alden productions). Continue reading →
There’s an event on in Toronto this weekend called “CultureDays”. The COC’s contribution last night was an open orchestra dress rehearsal of Christopher Alden’s new production of Die Fledermaus preceded by a talk in the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium by set designer Allen Moyer and costume designer Constance Hoffman moderated by the CBC’s Brent Bambury. The event was “first come, first served” and restricted to 500 tickets so we decided to be early. Doors opened at 1815 for a 1830 talk so the plan was to meet the lemur at the opera house at 1700, grab a bite to eat and then join the line-up. I got there early as I was through at work and preferred to sit in the sunshine at the Four Seasons Centre rather than at my desk so I got there around 1615. There was already a line up! By the time the lemur showed up just before 1700 there was quite a line up so we changed plan and the lemur went off to fetch burritos to eat in the line. Just as well as they ended up turning people away. Continue reading →