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 →
Yesterday afternoon’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured local tenor Andrew Haji and Welsh baritone Jason Howard in a program somewhat loosely linked to England. Neither singer was, I think, 100% well (Haji’s cold was announced, Howrad’s merely obvious!) but both battled through manfully and gave us some fine singing. There were some interesting contrasts especially in the first half of the program. Andrew kicked off with Francesco Santoliquido’s I canti della sera. I’m no expert on Italian art song but these did sound like songs rather than opera arias, at least in the hands of Andrew and Rachel Andrist. In contrast, Jason’s set (Tosti’s L’ultima canzone, Respighi’s Nebbie, Tosti’s L’ideale and Verdi’s In solitaria stanza), with Robert Kortgaard sounded distinctly operatic and suited Jason’s darkish voice rather well.
Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance at the Jane Mallett Theatre last night. Bill Siva-Marin’s production is competent and very traditional with some strong performers in the key roles. It won’t leave you with any new insights into the piece but it’s a well executed production which is lots of fun and very funny in places. When I say traditional I mean pirates in pantomime pirate dress, maidens in some stereotypically Victorian maiden garb and a Major General in a cod colonial uniform. Tnere are the traditional mild updatings to the libretto including a couple of rather well crafted verses in the MG’s patter song that reference the Glorious Leader of our neighbour to the south. There are also a few nice touches. In the second act the MG spends much of the time clutching a bust of one of his purchased ancestors and the “catlike tread” scene is noisily anything but. That said, the choreography and blocking are pretty formulaic though there are some deft touches in the Personenregie. Mabel’s body language in Oh! Is there not one maiden breast? is worth a look.
By an odd coincidence two season announcement pressers hit my in box today; Toronto Operetta Theatre and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Toronto Operetta Theatre have four shows:
The Waltz Rivals (November 6th at 3pm) is a Léhar and Kálmán greatest hits show featuring Lucia Cesaroni, Adrian Kramer, Holly Chaplin, Stefan Fehr and Greg Finney with Michael Rose at the piano.
Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance runs from December 27th to January 8th, 2017. Colin Ainsworth sings Frederic, Vania Chan is Mabel and Curtis Sullivan is the Major General. Derek Bate conducts and Guillermo Silva-Marin directs.
Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Soldier, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, runs on April 26th, 28th, 29th and 30th, 2017. Peter Tiefenbach leads the orchestra and the cast includes Jennifer Taverner, Anna Macdonald, Michael Nyby and Stefan Fehr.
Finally there’s an Offenbach tribute concert on June 4th 2017.
All performances are at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
Oddly enough, what Toronto Operetta Theatre does best is operetta and the production of Romberg’s The Student Prince that opened yesterday afternoon is a pretty good example of why. I suppose, technically, that it’s a Broadway musical but everything about it, down to the humour and sentimentality seems Teutonic enough. Anyway, there’s a solid trio in the lead roles, the key back ups are thoroughly professional and the minor roles and chorus are filled out by talented and enthusiastic young singers. The band is big enough to cover all the colours of the score and the staging is appropriate and not overly ambitious. The piece gets to do its tuneful, rather bittersweet thing.
Subscriptions are now on sale for Toronto Operetta Theatre. The line up has changed from the original spring announcement. There are still three shows but the run of Candide previously announced has been replaced with a single concert performance, with piano accompaniment of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. It’s at 3pm on November 1st. The main attraction (pun absolutely intended) is probably Greg Finney as Sir Joseph Porter KCB. There’s also Charlotte Knight as Josephine.
Lehár’s Das Land des Lächelns must have seemed old fashioned even when it opened in 1929 in a Berlin that had already seen Wozzeck and Die Dreigroschenoper. With its waltzes and gentle chinoiserie it looks back rather than forward musically and makes few demands on its listeners. Similarly, the plot; a bittersweet romance between an Austrian aristocrat and a Chinese prince had nothing in it to disturb contemporaries though modern audiences might find the cultural appropriation a bit hard to take. However, if Turandot doesn’t bother you this likely won’t either.
Toronto based Opera Atelier have announced their 2013/14 season. The Fall production is a revival of the company’s 2008 Abduction from the Seraglio sung in German with English dialogue (groan). Casting is Lawrence Wiliford as Belmonte, Ambur Braid as Konstanze, Carla Huhtanen as Blondie, and Adam Fischer as Pedrillo and Gustav Andreassen as Osmin. A no doubt bare chested Curtis Sullivan will play the non-singing role of Pasha Selim. It’s an interesting cast especially considering the impact Ambur has been making recently and I’ll more than likely take a look. Continue reading →
There’s a lot to like in Opera Atelier’s current production of Weber’s Der Freischütz but also some things that are just plain puzzling. I enjoyed it but certain aesthetic choices made no sense at all to me.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The OA template was relaxed quite a bit, particularly in the dance department. Allowing the women to dance in point shoes allowed for a degree of choreographic flexibility that was most welcome to me. This, from a dance point of view, was the best OA production I have seen. The singing, though stylistically inconsistent, was also uniformly excellent. Meghan Lindsay’s Agathe was superb. She had much the most dramatic voice on display and, to me, was the truest to the real sensibility of the piece. Carla Huhtanen, as Aanchen, was also excellent though in such a different way that wondered whether they were in the same production. Solid singing from the men too especially Krešimir Špicer as Max who was very stylish, if not especially heroic. The design and lighting elements were also not too constrained by baroque considerations and worked pretty well.
Meghan Lindsay and Krešimir Špicer in Opera Atelier’s production of Der Freischütz (Bruce Zinger photo).