February

nlightsHere are a few more February items of interest in addition to those mentioned here.  Tapestry’s new piece Hook Up opens on January 30th at Theatre Passe Muraille and runs for most of February.  Then on Sunday 3rd February at 2.30 pm VOICEBOX have a performance of Schubert’s rather rare opera Fierrebras.  Kevin Mallon conducts the Aradia Ensemble for this one.  Also there’s Opera Pub as usual on Thursday 7th February.

On February 16th at Gallery 345 at 8pm there will be an Against the Grain presentation of Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine.  The “twist” here is that Elle becomes Lui and will be sung by tenor Jacques Arsenault.  Topher Mokrzewski at the piano.  Aria Umezawa directs the first in what is planned as a series of “twisted” concerts.

In free concert news there’s the Quilico Prize competition on February 11th at 5.30pm in the RBA.  Once again the members of theEnsemble Studio compete for cash.  At the nnon hour there’s Susan Bullock and Liz Upchurch on the 19th with a programme of Wagner, Strauss and Duparc and on the 20th there’s Samuel Chan and Stéphane Mayer with an all Schubert programme.  Then on the 21st there’s Lauren Eberwein and Rachel Kerr with a Messiaen and Ravel show.  Given that it’s the Jessye Norman Gala on the 20th as well I think I’ll just schlep my sleeping bag over to the Four Seasons Centre.

Also at the COC of course Elektra continues until February 22nd with Così fan tutte opening on February 5th and running until the 23rd.

Adled

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Aria with Maika’i Nash and Rachel Krehm. Photo – Denise Grant

Last time I spoke to Opera 5’s Aria Umezawa she was about to head off to San Francisco to join SFO’s Merola program.  Now she’s been named as an Adler Fellow for 2017; the first stage director since 2002 to be named to the program.  She’ll be joined by pianist/coach Jennifer Szeto, also of this parish, and another Canadian; Vancouver soprano Sarah Cambridge.  I have greatly enjoyed Aria’s work with Opera 5 and hope that this is a step on the road to a major career as an opera director.  The full story on this year’s Adlers is here.

Three Bats on a Chest of Drawers

Opera 5’s interactive production of Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus opened last night in the Great Hall at 918 Bathurst.  It’s an intriguing but, above all, fun show.  I think it’s fair to say that presented straight Die Fledermaus has more than a few elements of meta-theatricality.  Here it’s central to the plot from MC Pearle Harbour’s initial apology for the lack of a fourth wall because “we can’t afford one” through a whole series of “interventions” by various characters.  Unpacking it all would probably make as much sense as Umberto Eco’s Three Owls on a Chest of Drawers and I’m not as clever as the late Professor Eco and, in best Fledermaus tradition, it’s the morning after and I’ve only had five hours sleep.  So, I’ll avoid the meta and try and describe the show.

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Batty Fledermaus

ONE_WEB-200x300I met with Aria Umezawa yesterday to talk about Opera 5’s latest project, a rather unusual take on Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus.  The project grew out of a desire to break Opera 5’s association with reviving rather obscure pieces and to do something “from the canon”.  But, of course, for this company there had to be an angle.  In this case it’s that Act 2 will be an immersive, audience participation exercise.  We are all invited to Orlofsky’s party.  There will be aerialists, burlesque dancers and a grand waltz for all which will probably reduce choreographer Jenn Nichols to tears.  There a few other change ups.  Frosh is gone and Ivan is replaced by drag queen Pearl Harbor, who will emcee the party.  It’s in English, as the set up would make surtitles pretty much impossible.  And the cast is pretty good.  Michael Barrett sings Eisenstein with Rachel Krehm as Rosalinde, Julie Ludwig as Adele and Erin Lawson as Orlofsky among others.

Opera 5’s Die Fledermaus opens at 918 Bathurst (just north of Bloor) on June 8th at 8pm with further performances on the 9th, 10th and 11th.  Tickets here.

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Running a little late here

Back in January I saw Opera 5’s show Modern (Family) Opera at the Arts and Letters Club. I didn’t review it here because I was covering it for Opera Canada.  It seems that there was some breakdown in communication, probably the dodgy email connection at our temporary digs last winter, and it never made it to the mag and so wasn’t printed.  It’s a pity as it was a good show and so, belatedly, I’m sticking the review here, for the record, instead.

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Opera 5 do Hahn and Offenbach

Opera 5’s latest show presents two rarely seen French one act operas.  First up was Reynaldo Hahn’s  1897 work L’île du rêve.  It’s one of those French officer falls in love with beautiful sixteen year old girl on tropical island and then “duty” calls and he dumps her and she dies of a broken heart pieces.  The only twist is that here he offers to take her back to France but the ruling princess advises her that, away from the island, she will lose her charms and he’ll come to despise her so she doesn’t.  A touch of French worldliness colouring this rather overdone plot device perhaps?  The staging, by Aria Umezawa, is fairly simple though clearly a lot of thought went into how to make the intimate scenes between the principals work.  There are also some rather beautiful projections involved.

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