This year’s fall production by UoT Opera is Kurt Weill’s Street Scene. It’s a tricky piece in many ways. It’s part opera, part Broadway musical. The moods range from light comedy to something very much darker and lurking treacherously at its core is a sentimental streak that can easily overwhelm its merits. Michael Patrick Albano’s production, coupled with Anna Theodosakis’ energetic and varied choreography, managed to keep the focus on the strengths of the piece and deliver a very satisfying evening at the theatre.
So here we go with things to look out for in the second half of the month or so. On the 13th Stacie Dunlop and flautist Kelly Zimba are putting on a program of pieces by living American and Canadian composers, including premieres by Toronto composer David Jaeger and the duo HaRebraIN (Anh Phung/Alan Mackie) along with works by Leslie Uyeda, Braxton Blake, Kate Soper and James O’Callaghan. That’s at 8pm at Gallery 345.
From November 15th to December 2nd Red Snow Collective are presenting the world premiere of The Monkey Queen, written by Diana Tso, directed by William Yong, and performed by Diana Tso and Nick Eddie. The production weaves text, movement, visual art and music, and reimagines the ancient tale through the playwright’s own personal journey as a Chinese-Canadian female artist; a sort of Journey to the East if you will. It’s at the Theatre Centre Incubator at 7.30pm.
My first chance to take a look at this year’s UoT Opera Program came up on Sunday night in a concert staged jointly with the UoT Symphony and the MacMillan Singers. It was a series of opera orchestral pieces and ensembles kicking off with the overture from Die Zauberflöte, where the orchestra was Klemperer sized but the tempo distinctly quicker. The evening proceeded via more Zauberflöte, Don Pasquale, Cavelleria Rusticana, Die Meistersinger and Carmen to the party scene in La Traviata.
On October 14th at 7.30pm in the MacMillan Theatre, the UoT Symphony, UoT Opera and the MacMillan singers are joining forces for a programme of opera ensemble numbers.
October 20th at 8pm in the Ernest Balmer Studio sees the first show in the new Confluence series; Sovereignty Voiced. Actor Cole Alvis, mezzo soprano Marion Newman, composer/pianist Ian Cusson, poet/filmmaker Armand Garnet Ruffo and singer/songwiter Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone and others share poems, songs and stories in an intimate cabaret.
It’s 100 years since the beginnings of the Faculty of Music at UoT. There’s a pretty fair line up of concerts to celebrate it. The Opera Division, as ever has two main stage productions in the MacMillan Theatre, November 22nd to 25th 2018 sees Weill’s Street Scene with Sandra Horst conducting and Michael Patrick Albano directing. March 14th to 17th 2019 sees performances of Mozart’s rather too often seen La finta giardiniera conducted by Russell Braun and, again, directed by Albano. Given that on October 17th Albano is giving a public lecture titled The Concept Ceiling: Has avant-garde operatic production reached it’s zenith? I’d expect both of these to be on the decidedly conventional end of the scale. Albano and Horst are in tandem again for the Opera Student Composer Collective’s Who Killed Adriana?; a riff off Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur on January 20th 2019. The OSSC’s piece is almost always one of the highlights of the Opera Division year. There are also some other “excerpts” shows in the calendar.
There are some pretty silly opera plots. Donizetti’s Emilia di Liverpool comes to mind but the Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing probably tops even the thundering torrents of the Mersey as it descends from the Cheshire Alps for silliness. Basically one John P. Wintergreen is a candidate for POTUS. His campaign gimmick is that he will marry whoever wins a beauty contest, held naturally enough, in Noo Joysy. Unfortunately(?) he falls in love with the homelier corn muffin maven Mary Turner and marries her instead. He duly gets elected but diplomatic complications with the French follow when it is revealed that the pageant winner; Diana Devereaux of Louisiana is the “illegitimate daughter of the illegitimate son of the illegitimate nephew of Napoleon”. Impeachment proceedings follow but, of course, there’s a happy ending. Along the way almost every US institution and region gets gently pilloried and the jokes are even funnier because what might have seemed risque in 1930 seems “business as usual” now, as when three White House interns sing about how the Presidential Mansion is the safest place in America for a young girl…
Here’s what’s coming up in the first part of March. Thursday 1st is Opera Pub Night at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club at 9pm. On Friday March 9th Soundstreams are presenting Tan Dun’s Water Passion at Trinity St. Paul’s at 8pm. On Wednesday 14th and Friday 16th the Glenn Gould School is presenting Die Fledermaus in a production by Joel Ivany. That’s at 7.30pm in Koerner Hall. It’s a good looking cast and recommended. Thursday 15th through Sunday 18th the UoT Opera is presenting Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing in the MacMillan Theatre. The production is by Michael Patrick Albano and start times are 7.30pm except for Sunday at 2.30pm.