The Telephone and The Medium

UoT Opera’s fall production opened last night at the MacMillan theatre.  It’s a double bill of Menotti works; The Telephone and The Medium.  The former was cleverly updated by Michael Patrick Albano to reflect the age of the smartphone.  It actually seems more relevant than ever and, slight as it is – an extended joke about a girl who won’t get off the phone long enough for her fiancé to propose – it was wryly amusing. The Medium I’m not so sure about.  It’s a contrived piece written in the 1940’s but set a few years earlier about a fake medium and her deluded clients.  It seems dated, not so much in the sense that seance attendance is pretty unusual today, but in the extent to which the characters are clichéd, cardboard cut outs even.  The medium herself is bad enough but her sidekicks are her rather dippy, if kind, daughter and a boy who is mute (k’ching), Gypsy (k’ching) and “found wandering the streets” (k’ching, k’ching) “of Budapest” (k’ching, k’ching, k’ching).  The first act in which the fake seancery goes on isn’t bad but then the medium gets a shock; a real or imagined cold hand on her throat (probably imagined as she is a raging alcoholic) and decides to go straight.  The second act is pure bathos.  I can see why it was a Broadway hit in the 1940s but I think tastes have moved on.  And who the heck calls their daughter “Doodly”?

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Diva, diva, diva

Danika Loren

Danika Loren

Today’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured the assembled students of UoT Opera in a staged programme called The Art of the Prima Donna.  It was a sequence of mostly ensemble numbers drawn from the core 19th century rep.  Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Donizetti, Bellini, Bizet and Rossini all featured with works made famous by the great divas of the era’ Patti, Pasta, Malibran etc.  Linking narrative, which skipped over who slept with Rossini, was provided by Michael Albano who directed the staging with Anna Theodosakis.  Sandra Horst headed up the musical side and accompanied with help from Sue Black, Kate Carver and Ivan Jovanovic. Continue reading

The Fatal Gaze

The Fatal Gaze is, in a way, a follow up to last year’s UoT Opera show Last Days in that it consists of a staged performance of pieces of vocal music to a theme.  This time the theme is the dangers of seeing or being seen and there’s quite a lot to unpack.  The music all lies on an arc from Monteverdi to Gluck and the stories are all taken from classical mythology or thee Bible with some commentary from more modern figures.

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Our saucy ship’s a beauty

hms_pinaforeAnd so is Michael Albano’s new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore which opened last night at the MacMillan Theatre.  It’s been a long time since the UoT Opera Division did G&S but it was worth the wait.  Fred Perruzza’s straight forward unit set was really brought to life by a fast paced and lively production.  From the very beginning of the overture we had members of the crew cavorting and dancing (Choreographer Anna Theodosakis) in a  manner perhaps owing more to Broadway than D’Oyly Carte and the better for it!  The set, a quarter deck with a gallery, provided cabin doors and traps in the deck for characters to come and go (including conductor Sandra Horst appearing from “below” to take her bow).  And of coming and going and dancing there was plenty.  There were some more than decent dancers in the chorus too.

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Brush Up Your Shakespeare

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Charles Sy

Today’s free concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was given by the University of Toronto’s Opera Program.  It was a semi staged assortment of songs and excerpts from operas, operettas and musicals based on the works of Shakespeare with a distinct leaning to the operetta/musical theatre side of things.  That’s understandable enough with young singers but it does make the game we all play (at least I do) of trying to guess who the next Jonas Kaufmann or Anna Netrebko is that much harder.  Not that I’m very good at it.  I’m far more able to predict what a newly bottled Bordeaux will taste like in ten years time than whether the young soprano I’m listening to might go on to sing Siegfried or Turandot at the Met!

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