A Waltz Dream

Oscar Straus’ A Waltz Dream opened last night in a Toronto Operetta theatre production at the St. Lawrence Centre.  The piece premiered in Vienna in 1907 and soon became a huge international hit with various English versions appearing quite early on.  The version given by TOT appears to be a 1970s version with book by Michael Flanders, Edmund Tracey and Bernard Dunn and the music adapted and arranged by Ronald Hanmer.

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A Northern Lights Dream

A Northern Lights Dream is a new operetta by Michael Rose which premiered this last week at Toronto Operetta Theatre in a production directed by Guillermo Silva-Marin.  A new operetta is a very rare thing.  It;’s just not a form that contemporary composers seem to take to.  There’s far too much spoken dialogue for an opera but the musical language; mostly tonal, often quite beautiful but not afraid to get more abrasive when appropriate, is much closer to that of contemporary opera than musical theatre.  So an operetta it is.

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The nightingale flies from its gilded cage

nightingale1Florence: The Lady with the Lamp, music by Timothy Sullivan, libretto by Anne Mcpherson, premiered at the Elora Festival in 1992 and n 1995 was the first Canadian work performed by VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert.  Yesterday afternoon they presented it again at the St. Lawrence Centre; staged and with orchestra.

It’s an interesting piece.  Some of it I liked a lot and some not so much.  The orchestral writing is excellent; colourful and atmospheric with some jazz influences.  I quite often found myself drifting off into listening to the orchestra when perhaps I should have paid more attention to the words, especially as there were no surtitles.  The vocal writing is less interesting but it had its moments especially in some of the ensembles.  It’s the old dilemma of whether or not to prioritise the comprehensibility of the words over strictly musical values. Continue reading

The Csárdás Princess

Toronto Operetta Theatre’s latest offering is a webstream of Emmerich Kálmán’s 1915 operetta The Csárdás Princess (Die Csárdásfürstin) presented here in English with the usual minor tweaks to the dialogue including obligatory Rob Ford jokes, which have become something of a TOT tradition.  The plot turns on the fact that an Austro-Hungarian aristo, let alone a second cousin of the Emperor, can’t marry someone with fewer than 64 quarterings on their coat of arms, let alone a cabaret singer.  Implausible impersonations etc abound and love triumphs in the end.  It’s all entirely harmless for heaven forfend that anything satirical might have made it past the Vienna censorship, especially in wartime.  And there’s no sex because this isn’t France.  The humour mostly turns on Hungarian antipathy for their Austrian masters.  It’s light hearted and very tuneful fun.

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Get your TOT fix

Like pretty much everybody else Toronto Operetta Theatre has chosen to go virtual for their latest offering.  It’s a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers filmed at the Edward Jackman Centre.  It’s very much a “bare bones” production.  The cast is reduced to nine roles and the chorus is gone.  Accompaniment is piano and accordion.  The Jackman Centre is a rehearsal space and looks like one.  The film appears to havebeen filmed with a single camera, in one take with minimal post processing though, despite which the audio and video quality is excellent.

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Voices off

I’ve seen Francis Poulenc’s monodrama La voix humaine many times and always find it troubling despite that the fact that it is often a vehicle for rather good performances.  I was intrigued then by VOICEBOX’ decision to present alongside the Jean Cocteau play on which the opera is based.  It really helped me get to grips with what I find uncomfortable about the work.

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Pinafore at TOT

Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore opened last night.  Director Guillermo Silva-Marin has chosen to translate the piece to a cruise ship in the 1920s which has its incongruities but they aren’t particularly disturbing (except perhaps for Sir Joseph Porter’s shoes!).  In fact what we get is basically a crisp, well paced and idiomatic Pinafore which is what I want in G&S.  It’s also genuinely funny, though some jokes age better than others, and occasionally even quite moving.

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Perchance to Dream

Ivor Novello’s Perchance to Dream opened in London in April 1945.  It’s fluffy, romantic and nostalgic.  It has a ridiculous plot, some great tunes (A Woman’s Heart, We’ll Gather Lilacs etc) and lots of eye candy.  It’s probably exactly what people needed after nearly six years of an exceptionally weary, dreary war.  It ran for a thousand performances.  Approached in the right frame of mind it’s still a very enjoyable, escapist way of spending a couple of hours.

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Who knew Frosch could be funny?

Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at the St. Lawrence Centre last night.  It’s a will crafted production; basically traditional as to costumes and sets and with a generous amount of more topical jokes added to the dialogue (both dialogue and musical numbers are performed in English).  The one thing about it that is a bit different and much to be praised is that the jailer Frosch, played by director Bill Silva-Marin, is actually funny and sings pretty well for a guy who doesn’t sing a lot anymore.  The schtick is that he is obsessed with singing and insists on singing lessons from Alfred (or here Alfredo) when he appears in the jail in place of Eisenstein.  The singing lessons are kind of a parody with plenty of jokes about vocal production and a fair bit of physical humour.  All this is actually set up from the beginning by making Alfred a rather larger role than usual with a fair amount of interpolated snatches of Verdi and Puccini.  It may not sound that radical but it does liven up the third act which all too often can be pretty dull and anti-climactic.

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SOLT and Classical Pursuits

soltSummer Opera Lyric Theatre has announced its 2018 season.  There are three shows.  Massenet’s Manon plays July 27th (8pm) and 29th (2pm) and August 1st (2pm) and 4th (8pm).  Handel’s Semele plays July 28th (8pm) and August 1st (8pm), 3rd (8pm) and 4th (2pm).  Mozart’s Così fan tutte plays July 28th (2pm) and 31st (8pm) and August 2nd (8pm) and 5th (2pm).  Guillermo Silva-Marin directs the young artists of SOLT and all performances are at the Robert Gill Theatre, University of Toronto, 214 College St. (entrance on St. George).  Subscription packages for $60 are available. Single tickets are $28, ($22 for students and seniors).  For subscription and single tickets call 416-366-7723 (Mondays to Fridays from 12 pm to 6 pm), at the door 2 hours prior to performances, or online at www.ticketmaster.ca.

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