I think I’ve got used to David McVicar productions or, at least, what he’s produced in the last ten years or so. The director’s notes will sound erudite and convey the impression that he’s gained some vital new insight into a well known work. The actual production on stage will be almost entirely conventional with maybe the odd visual flourish but nothing to start the synapses firing. This is very much the case with his 2015 production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail from Glyndebourne. The “big idea” is that Bassa Selim is caught between two worlds; the ‘west” and the “east”. Well duh! This is as revelatory as pointing out that Mimi has TB. This “revelation” is the reason/excuse for presenting the work with dialogues unaltered and uncut. This is very much a mixed blessing. Yes, it does allow some character development that’s otherwise missing but on the other hand it emphasises the fact that without some interesting new angle Entführing is basically dramatically a bit feeble. Is she faithful? How dare he doubt it? Please forgive me. Why should I? Lather, rinse, repeat. Enter Osmin. Hang them. Impale them. Daggers and poison. Over and over.
At this point pretty much the only opera activity I’m aware of in Toronto for July and August is the Toronto Summer Music Festival. I previewed it back in March and I think that information is still good. If more comes in I’ll pass it on.
Opera 5 opened a run of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at the Factory Theatre last night. It’s arguably the most conventional thing Opera 5 have done. It’s a (very) mainstream piece. There was no accompanying themed food or drink (a glass of Rotsina?). There was no audience participation. There weren’t even Aria Umezawa’s characteristically minimalist touches. What there was a carefully constructed Barber for reduced forces directed by new Artistic Director Jessica Derventzis and conducted by Evan Mitchell.
So you have sung the Queen of the Night exactly 2,327 times; high Fs and all, and you are sick to death of it and the Misogyny it rode in on. What do you do? Well, obvs you create a one woman show that teeters between mocking opera stereotypes of women and something much darker. At least that’s what Teiya Kasahara did as part of Tapestry Opera’s Tap This: A Quueerated Opera Series presented in conjunction with Pride.
So our favourite inked butch dyke coloratura comes on in a foofy dress complete with Dollarama coronet and wand and starts to sing the heck out of that aria – you know, the one they sing at weddings. But then it rapidly morphs into a diatribe; first in German, then in heavily accented English, about the role, how women are portrayed in opera, occasionally veering into how women; sopranos in particular, are seen/treated in the opera world(*) before switching up into dress pants and a wing collared shirt with studs (despite pianist David Eliakis’ increasingly frantic pleas of “no pants”). Along the way there are jokes, some killer singing and some very sharp reminders of what it’s like to be a strong, athletic, queer woman in a world that expects its sopranos to behave as if they are romantically dying of TB on-stage and off. It’s a very moving and rather disturbing 45 minutes that I really can’t do full justice to. It’s a very brave show and I hope Teiya puts it on again. More people need to see it.
(*)It’s odd that it should come just after I first encountered Kiri Te Kanawa live for surely few sopranos have been as sexually objectified. I don’t know how many people remember Bernard Levin’s Times column written after her ROH debut in 1971 but it’s probably the only time the Thunderer was printed using drool.
And so to the concluding drama; judgement. There were a ton of prizes ($270,000 in all) and the “lesser” ones got announced first. So here’s the list of everybody except the winners of the two main competitions:
And so the final act. First on stage was Emily D’Angelo; the only lady left in the competition. It was an accomplished and varied set. She started with a characterful and technically proficient Una voce poco fa followed by an appropriately lyrical Must the winter come so soon? Coeur sans amour from the Massenet Cendrillon showed off excellent French before a suitably dramatic rendering of the Komponist’s aria from Ariadne. Pretty much all the mezzo bases covered there and covered very well.
The Royal Conservatory has announced its concert programme for 2018/19. It’s not massively exciting from a classical vocal point of view although there are a few goodies and the odd surprise in the package. The most exciting is saved for the very end of the season when Thomas Hampson and son-in-law Luca Pisaroni have a recital at Koerner. That’s on 30th April 2019. The most surprising is the season opening gala, also at Koerner, on 2nd October 2018 which features Kathleen Battle. I’ll be honest, I thought she retired years ago.