Massenet’s Cendrillon is less often performed than Rossini’s take on the same basic story. I’m really not sure why. Rossini’s take is a bit weird (in a good way), especially in the Ponelle production, but Massenet’s is much more interesting musically. Oddly enough there’s only one version on DVD; a 2011 recording from the Royal Opera House. Fortunately it’s very good. The production is by Laurent Pelly and it has quite a bit in common with his La Fille du Regiment. Here the set is made up of pages from the original syory by Perrault rather than military maps but the effect is similar. Costumes are quite cartoonish (shades of the recent Alice in Wonderland ballet) except for Cendrillon herself, the prince and her father. There’s a strong emphasis on the humorous side of the piece and the “ballets” are thoroughly subverted.
Today’s free lunchtime concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was a preview of Against the Grain’s upcoming Figaro’s Wedding. Its got a brand new English libretto by director Joel Ivany very much along the lines of the La Bohème they did at the Tranzac a few years back; setting the story in today’s Toronto but keeping the basic plot line roughly similar. Today’s show featured excerpts from the piece plus interviews with the characters by Joel. I don’t want to do spoilers but let’s just say it’s very clever and very funny. It’s got a great cast of young local singers and it’s been arranged for piano and string quartet by the amazing Topher Mokrzewski. This is going to be really, really good and I’ve never heard anything get such an enthusiastic reception in the RBA.
The full show is going to play at a real wedding hall, The Burroughes Building at 639 Queen Street West on May 29-31 and on June 2. There’s no show on June 1 because the venue is booked for a wedding! Tickets and more details are available at http://www.againstthegraintheatre.com. Be warned, opening night is already sold out and I expect the remaining nights will also sell ahead of time. This is going to be a hot ticket.
Sorry about the iPhone photo. Expect better ones in due course.
Last night, for the second time (the first was in 2011) the singers of the COC Ensemble Studio competed for the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards; a prize competition created by Christina in memory of her husband, baritone Louis. It was the usual competition format; the singers offer three arias, they sing one and then the judges choose which of the remaining two they will sing. It being the Ensemble Studio on show the standard was extremely high. Nine singers and eighteen arias is too much to report in detail so I’ll concentrate on the winners.
Last night Toronto Masque Theatre presented a double bill entitled The Lessons of Love. First up was John Blow’s 1683 masque Venus and Adonis and it was followed by the premier of The Lesson of Da Ji; a fusion of Western and traditional Chinese elements by composer Alice Ping Yee Ho and librettist Marjorie Chan.
45 minutes of Gianmarco Segato, Alia Rosenstock, Joseph So and myself discussing opera awards, crossover “artists”, the oft proclaimed death of the art song recital, the new opera house in St. Petersburg and consolidation in the recording industry.
You can listen here or download it from iTunes.
Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is a strange and compelling piece. Dramatically it is very “slow burn” with a narrative arc that builds over almost two hours to a final scene of searing intensity. Without that final scene the piece would have no reason but it justifies all and only one “fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils” could possibly leave the theatre unmoved. It’s not just moving, done well it’s emotionally devastating. And that’s the state I left the Four Seasons Centre in last night after a near perfect performance of Robert Carsen’s extraordinary production.
Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury will make her company debut as Violetta at De Nederlandse Opera tonight, replacing Marina Poplavskaya. It’s that Willy Decker production that’s been seen everywhere. Might be worth a look for anyone planning to be in Toronto in the fall as Joyce will sing both Mimi and Musetta in the upcoming La Bohème at COC (though not in the same performances, she’s leaving that to Placido Domingo).
You can get a preview of her performance here.
ETA: May 10 – Apparently Joyce will now sing the whole run at DNO.