Gloria

Brandon Jacobs-Jenkjins’ play Gloria, directed by André Sills is currently playing at Crow’s Theatre.  It’s a hard play to describe as spoilers must be avoided and it works at many different levels.  The initial setting is the offices of a New York “culture” magazine where we meet various members of the highly dysfunctional workforce.  A shocking event happens and the rest of the play explores how various parts of the media industries relate to such events in the internet age along with issues related to who really “owns” an experience and in what sense does that “ownership” validate or privilege their version of events versus any other.  One of the ideas here is that the “product” has become in every way secondary.  The magazine is little more than a prop for blog posts.  Book publishing is largely geared around selling the movie or TV rights.  Movie and TV production is largely about providing a package for prefabricated celebrities to feature in.  The irony of a print and internet reviewer writing about all this is not lost on me!

athena kaitlin trinh and Nabil Traboulsi in GLORIA_photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

athena kaitlin trinh and Nabil Traboulsi

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Leaping (or not) ahead to March

gloriaThere’s not exactly a flood of events in my calendar for march yet but there are a few.  Running March 1st to 20th at Crow’s Theatre is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ satirical play Gloria about a Manhattan magazine staff seeking fame and glory as the internet turns the industry upside down.  It’s not an opera but it’s directed by the very talented André Sills which is reason enough for me.

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What’s old is new

Back to the Tranzac last night for the first Toronto performance of Against the Grain’s national tour of the Joel Ivany transladaptation of Puccini’s La Bohème which started it all back in 2011.  The Tranzac has changed a lot and so, of course, has Against the Grain.  The room is way smarter, they brought in a proper piano to replace the one that Topher plonked the first performance out on (and which memorably accompanied Jonathan MacArthur’s rather startling Hitler a few years later).  And not in any way to knock that first cast it’s a sign of AtG’s rising stature that this time they are fielding a cast that would not be out of place in most regional houses in Canada.

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Nozze at Toronto City Opera

Toronto City Opera has been around for a while but its previous performance location at the Bickford Centre was quite sufficient to keep me away.  The Miles Nadal JCC is quite another matter.  The basic idea of TCO is that the chorus is open to, essentially, anybody and that their subscriptions, plus fund raising, allow the company to do a couple of staged shows each year with young professional soloists, director, conductor and pianist.  So, in theory it’s a chorus centric endeavour so the choice of Le Nozze di Figaro seems a bit odd since it has less than ten minutes of chorus and that is usually covered by a small group of eight or so ladies.  That said, Nozze is their first of two productions this season and I saw the last show in the run this afternoon.

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Glenn Gould School’s Die Fledermaus

Die Fledermaus offers a lot scope for reinterpretation.  Like so many works involving spoken dialogue there is a tradition of reworking that dialogue to work in contemporary humour and geographic relevance to the point where there is no canonical version though there’s probably a set of general expectations.  Joel Ivany’s production for the Glenn Gould School, which opened last night at Koerner Hall, goes further than most to create a “play within a play” dynamic riffing to some extent on the difficulty of staging an opera in a concert hall.  He also makes the decision to use English dialogue but have the sung text in the original German (except for the finale).

GGS Opera 2018 Die Fledermaus #1; Lisa Sakulensky Photography

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GGS Vocal Showcase in Mazzoleni Hall

It’s that mid point of the academic year when the GGS puts on a recital programme that features a fairly full selection of the available singing talent at the Conservatory.  This means one sees everything from first year undergrads to singers in the final stages of a master’s degree, who may already be singing professionally, so it’s a constant exercise in recalibration.  It wasn’t helped last night by the fact that I had serious TTC problems causing me to miss the first three numbers on the programme plus feeling a bit frazzled for the rest.  So, in no particular order, I’m going to write about what I particularly enjoyed.  Omission should not be over-interpreted.

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Repose and Dream

I was at a really rather nicely programmed recital at Rosedale Presbyterian yesterday afternoon.  Rachel Andrist, who played piano throughout, had lined up a really interesting selection of singers.  Some were known to me, some were new.  Some were fresh out of college and some had quite a bit of experience.  The programme was in two halves.  In the first half each of the six singers got to do two or three songs while in part two there were some opera numbers and some seasonal stuff arranged for various combinations of voices.

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Hnsl nd Gtl

The Glenn Gould School’s fall opera production this year is Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel given in Brent Krysa’s English language, highly condensed version, originally created for the COC Ensemble Studio School Tour.  It really is condensed.  There’s no chorus and it comes in at just over the hour mark.  The main plot elements are retained but I think quite a bit of the darkness, and most of the religiosity, are gone, though the latter isn’t eliminated entirely.  After all, the Evening Prayer and the final chorus are musical highlights and pretty much have to be there.  It doesn’t leave any room for the director to explore ideas like child abuse or addiction and pretty much forces, for better or worse, a straightforward emphasis on the basic story.

Kendra Dyck (Gretel) & Rachel Miller (Hansel); GGS opera; Lisa Sakulensky Photography;1357sm

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La Cecchina

Niccolò Piccinni’s La Cecchina or La buona figliuola is an opera buffa in two acts written for the Teatro delle Dame in Rome where it premiered in 1760.  The libretto is by Carlo Goldini and, while said to have been inspired by Richardson’s Pamela, is actually a fairly straightforward masters and servants story of a similar nature to Pergolesi’s La serva padrona or even Mozart’s La finta giardinera; all, of course, firmly rooted in the conventions of the commedia dell’arte.  Being written for Rome it was, originally, played by an all male cast.  Last night at Koerner Hall the Glenn Gould School Opera presented it with female singers in the high roles.

Photo: Nicola Betts

Kendra Dyck as Sandrina and Asitha Tennekoon as the Marchese

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