UoT Opera’s Orpheus in the Underworld

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Brittany Cann

French operetta is notoriously difficult to get right.  The genre treacherously combines a kind of humour that doesn’t always translate well in time or language, difficult music to sing and a need to be as “naughty” as the original seemed without being crass.  It’s a huge credit to Michael Patrick Albano and his student cast that they pretty much pulled off all of that last night with their new production of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.  One could nit pick details (I shall) but overall it was a well paced show with some good singing and acting and it was genuinely funny.  Unsurprisingly the audience lapped it up.  Continue reading

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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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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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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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