This summer Against the Grain Theatre and UoT Opera have been collaborating on an Intensive focussed on modern opera. Last night saw the culminating show; This is Prophetic, featuring staged scenes from twelve post 1950 operas. Since there were one tenor, one baritone and nineteen assorted sopranos and mezzos selecting the scenes must have been quite a challenge. Unsurprisingly perhaps there was nothing from Billy Budd.
I don’t think I’m ever going to love Mozart’s La finta giardiniera. It has some pleasing music, though oddly the two principal characters don’t get much of it, but the plot is ridiculous and it really outstays its welcome. That said, Michael Patrick Albano’s production for UoT Opera in the MacMillan Theatre at least makes the complexity clear. We never lose sight of who is who; even if the other characters do, and what logic there is in the plot comes through clearly enough. Albano sets it entirely realistically in 18th century dress with set elements efficiently dropped in from the fly loft or carried around by a small band of liveried servants. There’s a fair bit of “park and bark” but then there’s a lot of prosy explaining going on.
Usually things slow down a bit at the end of February but not, it seems, this year. First a notice for this month. Sara Schabas and Daniel Norman present a recital of music by Bernstein, Mozart, Schubert, Alma & Gustav Mahler & more. It’s at the Church of the Redeemer on Bloor at 7.30 pm on February 27th. Tickets here. The first weekend of the month is busy with a “semi-staged” Le comte Ory at Trinity St. Paul’s on Saturday March 2nd at 7.30pm. The production is by François racine and the cast includes Asitha Tennekoon, Marjorie Maltais and Caitlin Wood. On Sunday at 3pm Toronto Operetta Thaetre are presenting Ivor Novello’s Perchance to Dream. That’s at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Also on Friday night and Sunday afternoon Opera York are doing Don Giovanni. The Donnas are Natalya Gennadi and Beste Kalender. That’s at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Arts.
The annual Student Composer Collective opera at UoT is, as far as I know, unique. A libretto is written. The work is divided up and student composers write music for their assigned section(s). The finished work is presented fully staged with orchestra. In recent years the libretto and direction has come from Michael Patrick Albano, as was the case with this year’s effort presented in the MacMillan Theatre yesterday afternoon. Who Killed Adriana riffs off Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. Adriana Amaro, a very divaish diva, is making her Covent Garden debut as Adriana. In the first half of the show, set backstage between Acts 2 and 3, we see her waspishly putting down all the other characters before making her grand entrance. This time though the poisoned violets of the final scene are just that and the second part is a whodunnit search for the murderer. Along the way no stock opera joke is left unused. Tenors are neurotic, understudies insecure, managers harassed, fans obsessive, there are fake Italians and so on. But in typical Albano style it works and provides a coherent, and at times very funny, plot line for the composers to work with. And some of the jokes were new. Adriana’s chauffeur, Umlaut, is revealed as the answer to every Austrian’s prayer; the inventor of musical strudel.
Here’s what’s coming up of note in the next few weeks.
There are some interesting things coming up at the UoT Faculty of Music. On January 17th at 7.30pm there’s an opera double bill in Walter Hall featuring Toshio Hosokawa’s The Raven and The Maiden from the Sea (Futari Shizuka). Kristina Szabó features in the first piece with Xin Wang in the second.
The composer conducts. See Wallace’s comment below for more information. Then at 2.30pm on January 20th in the MacMillan there’s the Student Opera Collective show. The libretto, as ever, is by Michael Patrick Albano. This time it’s a black comedy whodunnit about the death of Adriana Lacouvreur.
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.