The Leaderand other works is a new record of music by Karim Al-Zand. The most substantial piece is the one act chamber opera The Leader based on Ionesco’s 1955 play Le Maître. A reporter and two devoted fans follow the Leader wherever he goes mesmerised by his often absurd antics. A young couple is gradually drawn into the fascination.
The Leader does ridiculous things. he dances with a hedgehog. He has his trousers pressed in public. Finally it’s revealed that he no head. Instead he has “genius”. None of this shakes the loyalty of his followers. One imagines that Ionesco had the European dictators of the 1930s in mind but, of course, one can substitute whichever half absurd, half sinister populist neo-Fascist one chooses.
Last night saw the first performance of a run of eleven in Against the Grain Theatre’s revival of their 2013 hit Figaro’s Wedding. It’s essentially the same show. Director/librettist Joel Ivany has made a number of tweaks and updates but the main differences lie in what the singers bring to their characters.
This year’s Canadian Art Song Project commission is a setting of poems by EJ Pratt by Dean Burry entitled Sea Variations. It was given its first performance yesterday in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre by Michael Colvin and Stephen Philcox. The texts all deal with the moods of the sea and seem curiously archaic for the 1920s when they were written. They are much more reminiscent of, say, Matthew Arnold than Yeats, let alone Eliot. They have a certain power though and anybody who knows the North Atlantic will easily appreciate why they might appeal to fellow Newfoundlander Burry.
Opera 5’s double bill of Ethel Smyth one acters, Suffragette, opened last night at Theatre Passe Muraille in productions by Jessica Derventzis. The second piece, The Boatswain’s Mate, was in every way the more successful of the two. It’s a straightforward enough story. Mrs. Waters is a widow and landlord of The Outlaw (renamed in deference to the production’s beer sponsor). She is being very unsuccessfully courted by retired boatswain Harry Benn. Mrs. Waters doesn’t want or need a husband but Benn decides that by enlisting a casual acquaintance, the former soldier Ned Travers, as a fake burglar from whom he can “rescue” the hapless landlady, he can impress her sufficiently. Much mayhem ensues but the upshot is that Mrs. Waters takes a shine to the hunky soldier and they, at least, live happily ever after.
Details are now available for Opera 5’s double bill Suffragette featuring the works of Dame Ethel Smyth. The show will feature two works; Fête Galante, a rather grim “dance dream”, in a somewhat Stravinskian style,and the feminist opera The Boatswain’s Mate, which makes extensive use of folksong tunes.In her day Smythe tended to be written off by the critics for being too masculine so it will be interesting to see how the works have fared with time.
The cast features Sri Lankan tenor Asitha Tennekoon, mezzo-soprano Eugenia Dermentzis, soprano Alexandra Smither and tenor Kevin Myers. The show is being led by an all-women production team, headed by Opera 5 Production Manager and Stage Director, Jessica Derventzis (absolutely not to be confused with Dermentzis); Production Designer Erin Gerofsky; and Lighting Designer Jennifer Lennon. Evan Mitchell will conduct with a chamber orchestra performing composer-original reductions.
Suffragette will play at Theatre Passe Muraille, Mainspace – 16 Ryerson Ave, Toronto on June 22-24 at 7.30pm and June 25 at 6pm.