I’ve seen opera in a lot of venues in Toronto, including several pubs, but last night was my first time at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club; the occasion being the first pub night hosted by Against the Grain Theatre. There was a pretty decent crowd and, somewhat to my surprise, a couple of decent beers on tap. There was also singing with Topher Mokrzewski at the keyboard of a piano almost as grotty as the one he made his AtG debut on. Perhaps unsurprisingly the line up was pretty impressive; Clarence Frazer, Stephanie Tritchew, Aaron Durand, Cait Wood and John Brancy plus a bonus drop in by no less than Krisztina Szabó. Rossini, Puccini, Donizetti, Bernstein and others all got a look in. It was loud, it was fun and the audience, not all of whom I suspect knew what they were in for, stayed. Further sessions are planned for the first Thursdays in November and December at the same venue.
The Toronto production of Against the Grain’s A Little Too Cozy opened last night at Studio 42 at the CBC Centre. It’s the third and final instalment in the series of Ivany/Mokzrewski adaptations of the Mozart/da Ponte operas, following on from Figaro’s Wedding and #UncleJohn. Like the earlier pieces it’s updated, site specific and makes a lot of references to social media. The schtick here is that it’s a reality TV dating show. Dora and Felicity are yet to meet Elmo and Fernando in the flesh though they have become engaged via social media and through the prior episodes of the show. Tonight is the season finale and there is one big test left. Can they be tempted by two strange men? Show host Donald L. Fonzo and girl handler Despina will make sure they are maximally tempted. The rest you can work out.
So the cat’s out of the bag. The long awaited where, when and who of Against the Grain’s Toronto run of A Little Too Cozy have been revealed. A Little Too Cozyis the third and final instalment in a trilogy of Mozart “transladaptations” developed by AtG,which place the works in appropriate, non traditional opera, venues and which use English language librettos by Joel Ivany bringing the stories into a contemporary context. The first two instalments; Figaro’s Wedding and #UncleJohn, sold out their Toronto runs.
We are remarkably lucky in Toronto to get as much contemporary opera as we do. Courtesy of groups like Tapestry and Soundstreams , it seems that two or three new pieces get performed every year. They tend to be home grown, which is fine but does mean we don’t often get a glimpse into what’s happening with new work in Europe. In fact, in the last few years, I think the only European contemporary piece I’ve seen in Toronto was Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin. So, I was really pleased, courtesy of Soundstreams and CanStage to be able to see Philippe Boesmans’ Julie which opened last night at the Bluma Appel theatre.
The casting for Philip Boesmans’ chamber opera Julie, to be staged by Soundstrams and Canadian Stage in November has been announced. The title role will be sung by London, Ontario mezzo Lucia Cervoni. I’ve not seen her but judging by reviews she seems to be very much in the same space; physically and vocally, as Malena Ernman who premiered the role. Jean, her feckless lover, well be sung by Clarence Frazer. He’s been on terrific form lately and seems a good pick, though it’s a rather thankless role. The toughest sing in the piece is probably Christine, Jean’s fiancée and a servant in the household. This goes to Ottawa’s Sharleen Joynt. She really impressed me as Zerlina in Against the Grain’s #UncleJohn and I’m really intrigued to see what she does with a high coloratura role which is, I believe, her normal turf. Continue reading →
The Ensemble Studio got to do their thing last night with their annual main stage performance; this year, of course, Joan Font’s production of The Barber of Seville. This year only one role was split; Andrew Haji singing Almaviva in Act 1 with Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure coming off the bench for the second half. The other main roles went to Clarence Frazer as Figaro, Charlott Burrage as Rosina, Iain McNeil as Doctor Bartolo, Gordon Bintner as Don Basilio and Karine Boucher as Berta. Ringer Jan Vaculik sang both Fiorello and the Officer.
Last night saw the alternative cast for the COC’s Barber of Seville take the stage for the first time. Almaviva, Rosina, Bartolo, Basilio are all changed and, last night, owing to illness Joshua Hopkins was replaced as Figaro by Clarence Frazer which, in turn meant Jan Vakulik sang the Officer.