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.
Last night, at the Ernest Balmer Studio, we got to see somewhat more developed versions of the works presented earlier in the week in the RBA but this time in staged format. I’m not sure my opinions changed much as a result though I think I’m even more convinced that here we have five pieces of substance that deserve to be seen in fully realised form. So, some brief thoughts on each. Note that, except for Book of Faces we only saw extracts from pieces that are still WIP. Continue reading →
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.
Most music lovers have probably heard the music from Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat in either orchestral or chamber arrangement but it’s rare for the work to be given in its full staged form but that’s how it was presented (more or less) last night at Koerner Hall by the Toronto Summer Music Festival in association with LooseTEA Music Theatre. That form includes a narrator, an actor (originally three actors, nowadays usually just a single actor/narrator) and dancer. Plus, of course, the band; violin and bass, clarinet and bassoon, cornet and trombone, piano.
This year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival runs from July 12th to August 4th and, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 is war themed, though to be honest it wears it pretty lightly. As always there is one big vocal star. This year it’s German tenor Christoph Prégardien. He has a recital at Walter Hall with Julius Drake at 7.30pm on July 17th. He also pops up on the 20th at the same time and place to sing Schubert’s Die Forelle with Stephen Philcox in a program that features chamber music by Schubert, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff. There’s no word on public masterclasses but he’s around for a few days so I suspect that something will emerge.
Last night’s Whose Opera is it Anyway? from LooseTEA Theatre featured Alana Viau MCing, Natasha Fransblow on keyboards, Rachel Krehm, Michael York, Gillian Grossman and Amanda Kogan improvving and a thirteen year old kid called Alex (or possibly Alice) stealing the show. The format was the usual. Games where the audience supplies some key element e.g. a place – a launderette and designated cast members turn it into a sketch. Best of the night I think was the “breakfast food” sketch with Michael and Amanda which went from a surprisingly filthy “left over pizza” to “left over pizza backwards” to “left over pizza in the Dark Ages”, mostly in Pig Latin. There was also a very creepy “execution” sketch where Rachel gleefully cut body parts off a recumbent Michael. Do not upset this chick!
There was lots more and of course it’s very silly. That’s the point! But it’s good fun and worth a look. The next edition is at Bad Dog Theatre at 8pm on December 20th.
Whose opera is it anyways?! is a comedy-improv-opera show from LooseTEA Theatre’s Alaina Viau. Last night saw the second in what is being projected as a monthly series at the Comedy Bar on Bloor West. So how does it work? The “games” and associated players are decided in advance but each usually requires some kind of audience input such as a place or a mood or even the messages on someone’s phone. The team then act out and sing a sketch on the prescribed lines. Natasha Fransblow provided accompaniment on keyboards, though how much of that was planned and how much improvised I couldn’t tell. In between numbers Jonathan McArthur MC’d accompanied by really obnoxiously loud pop music (not helped by the speaker basically being in my left ear).