Golden Age of Opera

Such was the title of yesterday’s performance by the UoT Opera ‘s performance in the RBA.  Now personally I don’t subscribe to the notion of the 19th century (ugh!) as a “golden age” of anything but yesterday suggested that the UoT program, if not quite in golden age territory is going through a bit of a purple patch.  This was, I think, the best student performance overall that I have heard in the last two or three years.

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Kickin’ Puss

Xavier Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas, given last night by the Glenn Gould School at Mazzoleni Hall, may not be the most profound thing in the opera canon but it is fun.  The 1948 score is jazzy and accessible and the libretto has fun with the fairy tale of the scheming cat and her gormless monkey servant.  The lighter, even absurdist, elements of the plot were rather played up, and to good effect, in Liza Balkan’s production.  Mazzoleni Hall is not the easiest place to present opera.  There’s no pit and no way to do surtitles.  Not much in the way of wing space or scenery handling either.  Balkan got round this by placing the band on stage and using very simple sets and props that often spilled over into the auditorium even getting Charles Sy, sitting in the front row, to take a selfie of the wedding party at the end.  Given that the Spanish numbers were not surtitled, it was smart to add extra English dialogue, much of it improvised.  I certainly didn’t have any difficulty following the story.  Credit too to lighting designer David Degrow too for making the most of the limited resources of Mazzoleni.

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