Newbury’s Norma on DVD

Kevin Newbury’s production of Bellini’s Norma made it to Toronto via San Francisco, Barcelona and Chicago with Sondra Radvanovsky singing the title role (at least some of the time) in all four cities.  It was recorded for DVD and Blu-ray at the Liceu in Barcelona in 2015.  Watching the DVD didn’t change my opinion of the production.  Here’s what I said about it on opening night in Toronto:

Kevin Newbury’s production is perhaps best described as serviceable.  I have seen various rather desperate efforts made to draw deep meaning from it but I really don’t think there is any.  That said, it looks pretty decent and is efficient.  The single set allows seamless transitions between scenes which is a huge plus.  So, what does it look like?  It’s basically a sort of cross between a barn and a temple with a back wall that can raised or moved out of the way to expose the druids’ sacred forest.  There’s also a sort of two level cart thing which characters ascend when they have something especially important to sing.  Costumes were said to have been inspired by Game of Thrones; animal skins, leather, tattoos (which actually don’t really read except up very close), flowing robes.  Norma herself appears to be styled, somewhat oddly, on a Klingon drag queen. The lighting is effective and there are some effective pyrotechnics at the end.  All in all a pretty good frame for the story and the singing.

There did seem to be far fewer pyrotechnics in the Barcelona staging though (either that or the video direction pretty much ignores them).

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The Ensemble Studio do Mozart, Bellini and Handel

Last night saw the Ensemble Studio’s big main stage performance.  Rather than perform one of the COC’s current productions (hard to imagine how they could cast one from the current line up) we got scenes from three operas; two of them from the COC’s current season.  They were performed with the orchestra on stage in front of the backdrop to the opening scene from the current Die Zauberflöte and in concert dress rather than costume (more or less, there were some nods to the roles in question) and with some blocking as far as limiting movement to the front of the stage permitted.

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This week

5720421dc9-jpgToday at 2.30pm Voicebox:Opera in Concert are performing Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi.  It’s Bellini’s take on Bandello rather than Shakespeare, not a lot happens and the orchestral music is ho hum so a semistaged version with piano isn’t a bad bet if the singing is good.  Juliet is the up and coming Caitlin Wood.  Romeo, on whom much depends, is Anita Krause.  It’s at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

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Norma encore

Back to the Four Seasons Centre last night for a second look at Norma.  This time with Elza van den Heever singing the title role.  Van den Heever has a more conventional voice than Sondra Radvanovsky.  It’s perhaps not as dramatic and distinct but it’s an accurate, flexible instrument with plenty of colours and big enough for the role.  She’s also every bit as good as an actress so I don’t think the production suffers from losing its “headliner”.  Russell Thomas impressed again.  He’s so much better as Pollione than he was as Don José.  The acting is convincing and he really gets the chance to let rip here with what is a truly glorious tenor voice.  All the obvious comparisons suggest and are not ridiculous.  Isabel Leonard was also very fine last night and the duets with van den Heever were perhaps the highlight of the show.  Hat tip too to Charles Sy who never sounded out of place even when Thomas was singing all guns blazing,  It’s only two years since he was singing in a student production of HMS Pinafore.

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Norma at the COC

Kevin Newbury’s production of Bellini’s Norma at the COC (co-pro with San Francisco, Chicago and the Liceu) is perhaps best described as serviceable.  I have seen various rather desperate efforts made to draw deep meaning from it but I really don’t think there is any.  That said, it looks pretty decent and is efficient.  The single set allows seamless transitions between scenes which is a huge plus.  So, what does it look like?  It’s basically a sort of cross between a barn and a temple with a back wall that can raised or moved out of the way to expose the druids’ sacred forest.  There’s also a sort of two level cart thing which characters ascend when they have something especially important to sing.  Costumes were said to have been inspired by Game of Thrones; animal skins, leather, tattoos (which actually don’t really read except up very close), flowing robes.  Norma herself appears to be styled, somewhat oddly, on a Klingon drag queen. The lighting is effective and there are some effective pyrotechnics at the end.  All in all a pretty good frame for the story and the singing.

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Voicebox: Opera in Concert 2016/17

engraving_for_the_opera_l_isola_disabitata_by_goldoni_and_scarlatti_1753VOICEBOX:Opera in Concert has announced details of their upcoming season.  There are four shows:

  • October 30th sees Shakespeare 400, featuring music using and inspired by Shakespeare’s texts.  Solists are Michael Nyby, Holly Chaplin, Gena van Oosten, Diego Catalá, Stephanie Kallay, Anthony Rodrigues and Mikhail Shemet witrh pianist Narmina Afandiyeva and chorus.
  • On November 20th it’s more bard (sort of) with Bellini’s I Capulet e i Montecchi.  Anita Krause sings Romeo, Caitlin Wood is Juliet and Tonatiuh Abrego plays Tybalt with Raisa Nakhmanovich at the piano.
  • Onto the new year and it’s Haydn’s L’isola disabitata on February 5th.  This, for me, is the one to go for.  Haydn’s operas are greatly underrated and this is the piece that gets Kevin Mallon and the Aradias in the pit rather than just piano.  The cast includes Valérie Bélanger, Marjorie Maltais and Alexander Dobson.
  • The season finishes up with Mussorgsky’s epic Khovanshchina, presumably in much reduced form.  Voicebox:OIC Sunday afternoons rarely run much over two hours and Khovanshchina is well over three.  The soloists include Emilia Boteva, Andrey Andreychik and Dion Mazerolle with Narmina Afandiyeva at the piano.

All performances are at 2.30pm in the St. Lawrence Centre’s Jane Mallett Theatre.

Some announcements

pearleharbourFor those of you who were wondering “whatever happened to Opera 5?” they are back, and with some pizzazz (and possibly some pizza).  Their upcoming show is an “immersive” version of the Johann Strauss classic Die Fledermaus.  In act 2 patrons will be encouraged to interact; to dance with the cast, gamble at the tables, snort coke with Prince Orlofsky (ok I made that up) etc.  The cast includes Michael Barrett, Rachel Krehm, Julie Ludwig and Erin Lawson with drag queen Pearle Harbour as Ivan and emceeing.  Aria Umezawa and Jessica Derventzis direct with Patrick Hansen conducting.  It plays at 8pm on June 8th to 11th at 918 Bathurst Street.  Tickets at www.opera5.ca.

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