Yesterday the Ensemble Studio put on a really nicely curated tribute to Pauline Viardot. Viardot was a singer, pianist, composer and muse who was enormously influential in music circles in paris in the middle years of the 19th century. She came from a famous musical family and was the younger sister of Maria Malibran. Her own work is little performed today although the Royal Conservatory did her Cendrillon in 2016.
They just keep coming in! There’s another new kid on the block in the admirable tradition of young Toronto artists creating performance opportunities. This one is called Muse 9 and it’s a collaboration between stage director Anna Theodosakis and collaborative pianist Hyejin Kwon. Both of them are very talented with a track record in the Toronto indie opera scene. Their first production, From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, is a theatrical art song performance featuring the music of Dominick Argento and Amy Beach paired with excerpts from Woolf’s novels, letters, and diaries. It is an artistic exploration into the life and mind of Virginia Woolf through the performances of mezzo soprano Victoria Marshall, actor Keshia Palm, and dancer Renee Killough. It’s playing at the Ernest Balmer Studio on April 13th at 8pm. That’s the opening night of the COC’s The Nightingale so I won’t be there but I would be if I could. Proceeds from the event will go to CAMH. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com under From the Diary of Virginia Woolf. https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3351476
French operetta is notoriously difficult to get right. The genre treacherously combines a kind of humour that doesn’t always translate well in time or language, difficult music to sing and a need to be as “naughty” as the original seemed without being crass. It’s a huge credit to Michael Patrick Albano and his student cast that they pretty much pulled off all of that last night with their new production of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. One could nit pick details (I shall) but overall it was a well paced show with some good singing and acting and it was genuinely funny. Unsurprisingly the audience lapped it up. Continue reading →
Anna Theodosakis’ production of Britten’s Rape of Lucretia for MYOpera updates the piece from proto-historical Rome to somewhere in the mid 20th century which is fine but doesn’t seem, of itself, to add any layers of meaning to the narrative. There are neat visual touches in a simple but effective set design and the nature of and relationships between the characters are deftly drawn. The rape scene manages to be disturbing without being gratuitously graphic. It’s skilful theatre. But is that enough?
This spring’s main opera production from UoT Opera is Britten’s Paul Bunyan. It is a really peculiar work. The libretto is by WH Auden and is, well, weird. It mixes up the (apparently) profound with the absurd and the downright silly. There’s a Swedish lumberjack fish slapping dance, talking cats and dogs, trees that aspire to be product and a philosophical accountant (*). There are also countless pronouncements from the off stage voice of Bunyan along the lines of the closing:
“Where the night becomes the day, Where the dream becomes the fact, I am the Eternal guest, I am Way, I am Act“
Walt Whitman meets Dr. Seuss meets a lot of drugs? One of those 1970s English public schoolboy prog rock bands?