The third of Saturday night’s webstreams was Toronto City Opera’s double bill of Menotti’s The Telephone and Poulenc’s La voix humaine. The choice of rep makes sense in that it meant that very few people had to be assembled in the Ernest Balmer Studio where the recordings took place though it also looks a bit odd for a company that in normal times is about participation.
The Menotti is essentially a rather weak joke stretched out for half an hour. A man is trying to propose to a girl but every time he gets close to popping the question she either receives or makes a phone call. I thought it was a bit feeble the first time I saw it and it doesn’t wear well. It doesn’t help that it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to marry this utterly boring girl except, perhaps, her utterly banal suitor. I guess the basic problem is that anything trying to be “realistic” from the US in the 50s and 60s is almost bound to be dull as just about any interesting aspect of human life was off limits due to various kinds of censorship. Anyway, I think TCO got as much out of the piece as there is to be got. The contemporary updating had its witty moments and both Nicole Dubinsky and Johnathan Kirby; backed up by Ivan Jovanovic gave strong performances in the singing and acting departments.
I’ve just received news of programming into the fall and beyond from Tapestry, Toronto City Opera and Loose Tea Music Theatre.
Tapestry have announced three livestream concerts to be shown on their Youtube channel.
October 24th 8pm: jazz pianist Robi Botos will be improvising on Tapestry’s amazing Bösendorfer Imperial Grand in live collaboration with an Art Battle Toronto artist, creating something new and unique.
November 7th: The first episode of S.O.S. Sketch Opera Singers. It’s a collection of short opera sketches like the LibLab with an amazing line up of composers, librettists and performers. Check out the details.
November 28th at 8pm there’s a collaboration between husband and wife duo soprano Xin Wang and saxophonist Wallace Halladay directed by Michael Mori and featuring the music of Ana Sokolovic.
Tapestry have also introduced a free “membership program” to create added value for their audience. Details here.
Toronto City Opera’s latest show, at the Al Green Theatre, is Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. It’s a pretty good choice for TCO since, even with cuts, there’s plenty of fun stuff for the chorus to do and Jessica Derventzis’ production keeps a good chunk of them on stage pretty much throughout. The production concept is straightforward. It gets a late 19th century setting and the three acts are framed as presenting Hoffmann’s story to the group of drunken students. It’s unfussy and works.
LooseTEA Theatre have announced their season. November 2nd to 4th, at Heliconian Hall, there’s a double bill of Anne Frank operas. Singing Only Softly music by Cecilia Livingston, libretto by Monica Pearce and Alaina Viau will be presented with The Diary of Anne Frank by Grigory Frid. The singers are Sara Schabas and Gillian Grossman and Cheryl Duvall will be at the piano. Alaina Viau directs. December 3rd to 5th , also at Heliconian, they will present the production version of Carmen #YesAllWomen. (My thoughts on a 2016 WIP version). This version will combine voices (Erica Iris and Keith Klassen), chamber orchestra and turntables (SlowPitchSound). The libretto is by Alaina VIau and Monica Pearce, the music by Samuel Bisson. Alaina Viau directs and Scott Christian conducts. Tickets for both shows are available at www.looseteamusictheatre.com.
Toronto City Opera opened a run of three performances of Verdi’s La Traviata at the Al Green Theatre last night. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. Certainly less even than their Le nozze di Figaro earlier in the season. Director Alaina Viau sets the piece in contemporary Toronto which creates both possibilities and problems. I’ll come back to that because I want to talk about the performances first.
Here are a couple more listings for March. VOICEBOX are doing Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny on March 30th at 8pm and March 31st at 2.30pm. The cast includes Beste Kalender, Michael Barrett and Elizabeth DeGrazia. It will be piano accompaniment with Narmina Afandiyeva at the keyboard.
Toronto City Opera are performing Verdi’s La Traviata at the Al Green Theatre on March 28th and 29th at 7.30pm and the 31st at 2,30pm. Alaina Viau directs with a musical team of Ivan Jovanovic and Jennifer Tung. The cast is headed up by Beth Hagerman, Kijong Wi and Handaya Rusli. Apparently it’s a “modern, Toronto setting”. I’m curious to see how the ideas of “a fallen woman”, “family honour” and “arranged marriage” play out.
Toronto City Opera has been around for a while but its previous performance location at the Bickford Centre was quite sufficient to keep me away. The Miles Nadal JCC is quite another matter. The basic idea of TCO is that the chorus is open to, essentially, anybody and that their subscriptions, plus fund raising, allow the company to do a couple of staged shows each year with young professional soloists, director, conductor and pianist. So, in theory it’s a chorus centric endeavour so the choice of Le Nozze di Figaro seems a bit odd since it has less than ten minutes of chorus and that is usually covered by a small group of eight or so ladies. That said, Nozze is their first of two productions this season and I saw the last show in the run this afternoon.
So one thing can be guaranteed in December; lots of Messiah. This year I have four on the radar. There’s the TSO of course. This year Johannes Debus conducts with soloists Claire de Sévigné, Allyson McHardy, Andrew Haji and Tyler Duncan. One might almost have expected the COC Chorus but actually it’s the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in the loft. That one runs December 18th, 19th, 21st and 22nd at 8pm and the 23rd at 3pm. Roy Thomson Hall of course. Over at Tafelmusik, it’s Ivars Taurins with Sherezade Panthaki, Krisztina Szabó, Charles Daniels and Drew Santini plus, of course, the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. That’s on December 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm. The Sing-a-Long version is at Roy Thomson Hall at 2pm on the 22nd. There’s also a workshop on the 8th at 2pm at Eglinton St. George’s United Church.
Toronto City Opera puts on fully staged productions with young professional soloists and an amateur, unauditioned chorus. It’s piano accompaniment. I’ve never been to one of their shows, not least because until recently they have performed at the Bickford Centre which I loathe. Now they are at the Miles Nadal JCC which is a huge improvement and both Jennifer Tung and Alaina Viau are on the creative team, which is promising. This year they are opening their season with Le nozze di Figaro running on December 6th, 7th and 9th. The cast includes Dylan Wright as Figaro, Brittany Rae as Susanna, and Lillian Brooks as Cherubino. There’s also a Traviata in March with Beth Hagerman as Violetta.