Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at the St. Lawrence Centre yesterday. It’s a revival of their 2018 production and I don’t think my opinion of the production has really changed. The jokes have been updated a bit; mostly to reflect the anticipated imprisonment of a certain former US president (I wish!). But basically the schtick is the same.
VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert presented Mozart’s early opera Lucio Silla yesterday at the St. Lawrence Centre. Inevitably it was in a much reduced version (the original is insanely long) coming in at around two hours and organised into two acts. Tis left the principals with maybe three arias each plus a few ensemble numbers. It was presented off book but with a very minimalist production; piano at the centre of an otherwise empty stage, some atmospheric projections, basic blocking and some sort of hybrid of costume and concert wear. It actually worked rather well. This is very much a “tell” rather than “show” opera and fancy scenic effects weren’t really required.
Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld at the St. Lawrence Centre last night. Guillermo Silva-Marin gives it a pretty conventional treatment with minimal scenery, “Greek” costumes and no big surprises. It’s sung in English which has pros and cons for while the dialogue is intelligible enough the comprehensibility of the sung part is a bit variable.
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.
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.
Florence: 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 →
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.
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.
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.
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.