Toronto City Opera performed a concert version of Verdi’s Nabucco at St. Andrew’s church on King Street yesterday afternoon. It was strictly a concert version with the principals singing off music stands with no attempt at interaction. The principals were costumed, which helped keep straight who was who and recitative was eliminated in favour of a spoken summary before each scene. That made sense as there were no surtitles. Accompaniment was piano.
Act 1 Finale. L to R. Lauren Estey (Anna), Cristina Pisani (Abigalille), Lillian Brooks (Fenena), Corey Arnold (Ismaele), Michael Robert-Broder (Nabucco), Dylan Wright (Zaccaria), with the TCO Chorus
Voyage to Wien, presented by Sara Schabas and Daniel Norman at the Church of the Redeemer last night was a nicely constructed tribute in song to that city on the Danube. Things kicked off wittily with Bernstein’s (well he did conduct the Vienna Phil) “I hate music” followed by nicely rendered accounts of varied songs by the Mahlers and Schubert before exploiting the performers connections with the church choir to bring members of the choir in for “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit” from Brahm’s German Requiem.
Victor Davies’ The Ecstasy of Rita Joe opened last night in a production by Guillermo Silva-Marin at the Jane Mallett Theatre. It’s based on the play by George Ryga that caused a stir when it opened in Vancouver in 1967. The play was described as indirect and allusive with no clear narrative thread by the critics back then and was praised perhaps more for tackling the subject than for its intrinsic merits which were far from universally appreciated. Interestingly, as is so often the case in Canada, although rarely performed it has attained “classic” status. One word Victor Davies uses to describe the play is “expressionistic” but curiously rather than taking that as a jumping off point for the music (as Strauss and Berg did) he decides it’s an inappropriate idiom for “the lyric approach needed for the melody to unfold”. Why one needs “melody to unfold” in a disturbing tale of a young native woman’s descent into a hell of sexual abuse, alcohol, drugs, prison and, ultimately, her murder and why that melody should be couched in 1940s jazz/swing terms wasn’t obvious to me.
It’s good to see a company like Opera by Request doing contemporary Canadian work. Better still when it’s a comedy. So I was very eager to see what they would do with John Metcalfe and Larry Tremblay’s A Chair in Love, presented last night at The Array Space. The work itself is, shall we say, “unusual”. An avant-garde film director falls in love with a chair and, despite the warnings of his jealous dog that the world isn’t ready for human/furniture relationships, makes a film about it. He is duly condemned by critical and popular opinion and despairs. The doctor prescribes her experimental Lovekiller pills. He, apparently kills his dog and is sentenced to the electric chair (what else?). Fortunately this whole episode turns out to be a hallucination brought on by the untested medication. Meanwhile the chair has run off with the film critic who condemned such things and man and dog are reconciled. Got that?
OK everything about this has me intrigued. Opera by Request are putting on a semi-staged version of John Metcalf and Larry Tremblay’s A Chair in Love. It’s about an angsty film director who falls in love with a chair despite his dog’s best efforts to avoid disaster. It’s on Friday July 17th @ 7:30pm at the Array Space (155 Walnut Avenue), and features William Shookhoff (music director and pianist), Abigail Freeman (Chair), Michael Robert-Broder (Truman), Gregory Finney (Dog), and Kim Sartor (Dogtor/Doctor). Tickets are $20 and available here. Despite Metcalf’s heritage I don’t think it’s in Welsh though the chance to see Greg bark in Welsh would be worth the price of a ticket.