Opera Atelier 2019/20

Opera Atelier has announced its 2019/20 season.  As usual there are two main stage shows.  The first is a revival of their 2011 production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  It runs from October 31st to November 9th, 2019, in the Ed Mirvish Theatre.  It’s a production that plays up the comedy and the elements of the commedia dell’arte in the piece while pretty much eschewing anything deeper or darker.  The cast includes Douglas Williams as the Don with Stephen Hegedus as Leporello, Colin Ainsworth, as Don Ottavio, Meghan Lindsay as Donna Anna, Carla Huhtanen as Donna Elvira, Mireille Asselin as Zerlina, Olivier Laquerre as Masetto, and Gustav Andreassen as Commendatore. beautiful Ed Mirvish Theatre.  David Fallis conducts.

Opera-Atelier__Don-Giovanni-Meghan-Lindsay-and-company_Photo-by-Bruce-Zinger-2019_11

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He prayeth best that loveth best

ancientmarinerI’m not sure how I’ve not come across the music of Howard Skempton before but it took a flyer for a disk with a setting of The Ancient Mariner to get my attention.  I’m fascinated by what contemporary composers do with the broadly defined field of art song and Skempton’s piece is really interesting.  He sets a mildly abridged version of the Coleridge but there’s enough to last past the half hour mark.  The vocal writing is tonal, rhythmic and declamatory; hardly song at all in a way, but it supports the text rather well.  It’s sung here by baritone Roderick Williams, for whom the piece was written.  He has a clear, bright voice and the setting tends towards the upper end of the baritone range.  He also has superb diction in the manner of the best of the “English school”.  The result is complete comprehensibility for the text and full value for every word.

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Opera Atelier 2018/19 season

20080424Opera Atelier_Idomeneo_Dress Rehearsal

Measha Brueggergosman.
Photo by Bruce Zinger.

Opera Atelier have announced their 2018/19 season.  As usual, there are two shows.  In the Fall there is a double bill of Charpentier’s Actéon paired with Rameau’s Pygmalion (Oct. 25 – Nov. 3, 2018).  Colin Ainsworth, who has also been named as OA’s first “artist in residence”, features in both title roles with Mireille Asselin as Diana and Amour and Allyson McHardy as Juno and Céphise.  The supporting cast includes Jesse Blumberg, Christopher Enns, Meghan Lindsay, Cynthia Smithers and Anna Sharpe. Pygmalion will be prefaced by Opera Atelier’s first Canadian commission for solo baroque violin and contemporary dancing, entitled Inception.  It will be performed by composer/violinist Edwin Huizinga and choreographer/Artist of Atelier Ballet, Tyler Gledhill. Following its Toronto dates, the show will tour to the Royal Opera House in Versailles.

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Four marriages and a Figaro

Opera Atelier’s remount of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro opened last night at the Elgin.  It’s a curious production made up of parts that don’t really fit together, hence the review title.  At the core is a rather elegant traditional production.  It’s wigs and crinolines and might have been seen almost anywhere almost any time in the last fifty years or so.  Most of the excessive baroque gesturing is gone and the acting is stagey but no more so than in many opera productions.

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Howard and Haji

Yesterday afternoon’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured local tenor Andrew Haji and Welsh baritone Jason Howard in a program somewhat loosely linked to England.  Neither singer was, I think, 100% well (Haji’s cold was announced, Howrad’s merely obvious!) but both battled through manfully and gave us some fine singing.  There were some interesting contrasts especially in the first half of the program.  Andrew kicked off with Francesco Santoliquido’s I canti della sera.  I’m no expert on Italian art song but these did sound like songs rather than opera arias, at least in the hands of Andrew and Rachel Andrist.  In contrast, Jason’s set (Tosti’s L’ultima canzone, Respighi’s Nebbie, Tosti’s L’ideale and Verdi’s In solitaria stanza), with Robert Kortgaard sounded distinctly operatic and suited Jason’s darkish voice rather well.

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Like the 504 streetcar

Season announcements, it seems, are like the King Street streetcar(1).  You wait for ages then three come along at once.  This time it’s Opera Atelier announcing the 2017/18 season.  As ever there are two productions.  A remount of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro runs October 26th to November 4th. The cast icludes Douglas Williams, making his Opera Atelier debut, in the title role, with Mireille Asselin (Susanna), Stephen Hegedus (Count Almaviva), Peggy Kriha Dye (Countess Almaviva), Mireille Lebel (Cherubino), Laura Pudwell (Marcellina), Gustav Andreassen (Bartolo), Christopher Enns (Basilio/Don Curzio), Olivier Laquerre (Antonio), and Grace Lee (Barbarina).  This one will be sung in English.

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Patrick Jang, Carla Huhtanen and Phillip Addis in “The Marriage of Figaro” (2010).  Photo by Bruce Zinger.

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Mahler; arr. Schoenberg

mahlerschoenbergsongsThis review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.

Schoenberg’s reductions of Mahler’s two great orchestral song cycles; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Das Lied von der Erde, were made for his “Society for Private Musical Performance” which flourished briefly in post WW1 Vienna. Essentially the orchestral score is reduced to one instrument per part with a few other minor changes. The results are intriguing. Unquestionably some of the grandeur of Mahler’s massive orchestration is lost. This is especially noticeable in Das Lied von der Erde. On the other hand the instrumental textures are greatly clarified and there is much less sense of the singers straining to make themselves heard against a large orchestra. There are still fifteen instrumentalists so the singers are pushed well beyond lieder singing but it does allow for a somewhat more nuanced approach to the text.

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