Toronto City Opera’s latest show, at the Al Green Theatre, is Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. It’s a pretty good choice for TCO since, even with cuts, there’s plenty of fun stuff for the chorus to do and Jessica Derventzis’ production keeps a good chunk of them on stage pretty much throughout. The production concept is straightforward. It gets a late 19th century setting and the three acts are framed as presenting Hoffmann’s story to the group of drunken students. It’s unfussy and works.
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.
Toronto City Opera puts on fully staged productions with young professional soloists and an amateur, unauditioned chorus. It’s piano accompaniment. I’ve never been to one of their shows, not least because until recently they have performed at the Bickford Centre which I loathe. Now they are at the Miles Nadal JCC which is a huge improvement and both Jennifer Tung and Alaina Viau are on the creative team, which is promising. This year they are opening their season with Le nozze di Figaro running on December 6th, 7th and 9th. The cast includes Dylan Wright as Figaro, Brittany Rae as Susanna, and Lillian Brooks as Cherubino. There’s also a Traviata in March with Beth Hagerman as Violetta.
It was quite a party at the MacMillan Theatre this afternoon. The MacMillan opened fifty years ago with a production of Britten’s Albert Herring and this afternoon marked the final performance of a new production to celebrate the occasion. Directed by Joel Ivany, it was a straightforward but lively and very well characterised interpretation that brought out many of the very specific and quirky elements of the local culture while taking it mysteriously up market in some ways. (*). Coupled with very good singing by any standard, and this was a student production, it made for a most enjoyable afternoon.
Opera Five’s schtick is that they satisfy all five senses. In their current show that means matching a food offering with each of the three short operas on display. It’s a neat idea. In the current show a palindromic skewer of sausage, pickle and cheese is matched with the palindromic Hindemith work Hin und Zurück, assorted Russian pasty like objects are paired with Rachmaninov’s Aleko and some sort of chocolate on a stick thing with Milton Granger’s 1999 piece Talk Opera.