Of Thee I Sing

There are some pretty silly opera plots.  Donizetti’s Emilia di Liverpool comes to mind but the Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing probably tops even the thundering torrents of the Mersey as it descends from the Cheshire Alps for silliness.  Basically one John P. Wintergreen is a candidate for POTUS.  His campaign gimmick is that he will marry whoever wins a beauty contest, held naturally enough, in Noo Joysy.  Unfortunately(?) he falls in love with the homelier corn muffin maven Mary Turner and marries her instead.  He duly gets elected but diplomatic complications with the French follow when it is revealed that the pageant winner; Diana Devereaux of Louisiana is the “illegitimate daughter of the illegitimate son of the illegitimate nephew of Napoleon”.  Impeachment proceedings follow but, of course, there’s a happy ending.  Along the way almost every US institution and region gets gently pilloried and the jokes are even funnier because what might have seemed risque in 1930 seems “business as usual” now, as when three White House interns sing about how the Presidential Mansion is the safest place in America for a young girl…

Cairns cast Chorus Act 1

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Don Giovanni at UoT Opera

The Opera Division’s fall production this year is Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Marilyn Gronsdal.  Let’s start with the production.  The sets are all paper and boxes with a few props and the costuming is 1940s.  The aesthetic is film noir.  There are trilbies and Don Ottavio is packing a piece in a shoulder holster.  It set, for me and my companion at least, an expectation that this would be a “film noir production” but although there were nods in that direction; Leporello as the comic sidekick, statuette of the Commendatore as the murder weapon for example, the idea wasn’t really developed at all.  Instead we got a very straightforward narrative with the a few twists.  Gronsdal included a chorus of silent women who comment on the action (didn’t she do this in Saskatoon as well?) and Don Giovanni isn’t dragged down to Hell.

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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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