It’s that time of year when one reflects on the good and the not so good. What one would like to see more of and not. What seemed significant about the year. As I look back over my writings for the last twelve months one clear theme stands out, Reconciliation. There was the COC’s very thoughtful and thought provoking remount of Somers’ Louis Riel in April and all the fascinating events that went on around that. There were attempts by the TSO to incorporate Indigenous themes; the Tanya Tagaq concert in March and Adizokan with Red Sky in October. Neither of these quite came off but the intent was good. Then there was a really fine recital of works by Indigenous composers by Marion Newman at the beginning of the year. Then, of course, the Clemence/Current piece Missing, about murdered and missing Indigenous women, which premiered in British Columbia and which I haven’t seen yet but really, really want to. 2017 was also the year when Land Acknowledgements went mainstream in the Toronto arts world. I guess there’s some tokenism here but there does seem to be far more engagement with Reconciliation in the arts world than in, say, the political mainstream which is unfortunate because opera isn’t going to produce clean drinking water. We have to start somewhere I guess.
Opera 5’s double bill of Ethel Smyth one acters, Suffragette, opened last night at Theatre Passe Muraille in productions by Jessica Derventzis. The second piece, The Boatswain’s Mate, was in every way the more successful of the two. It’s a straightforward enough story. Mrs. Waters is a widow and landlord of The Outlaw (renamed in deference to the production’s beer sponsor). She is being very unsuccessfully courted by retired boatswain Harry Benn. Mrs. Waters doesn’t want or need a husband but Benn decides that by enlisting a casual acquaintance, the former soldier Ned Travers, as a fake burglar from whom he can “rescue” the hapless landlady. Much mayhem ensues but the upshot is that Mrs. Waters takes a shine to the hunky soldier and they, at least, live happily ever after.
Usually this is when things start to quieten down. Not so much this year. On the opera front it does go a bit flat though Opera 5 have their Ethel Smythe double bill opening at Theatre Passe Muraille on the 22nd. There’s also an evening of opera improv; Whose opera is it anyways?! at the Bad Dog Theatre on the 16th organised by Loose TEA theatre. And there’s quite a bit more of interest. Continue reading →
Details are now available for Opera 5’s double bill Suffragette featuring the works of Dame Ethel Smythe. The show will feature two works; Fête Galante, a rather grim “dance dream”, in a somewhat Stravinskian style,and the feminist opera The Boatswain’s Mate, which makes extensive use of folksong tunes.In her day Smythe tended to be written off by the critics for being too masculine so it will be interesting to see how the works have fared with time.
The cast features Sri Lankan tenor Asitha Tennekoon, mezzo-soprano Eugenia Dermentzis, soprano Alexandra Smither and tenor Kevin Myers. The show is being led by an all-women production team, headed by Opera 5 Production Manager and Stage Director, Jessica Derventzis (absolutely not to be confused with Dermentzis); Production Designer Erin Gerofsky; and Lighting Designer Jennifer Lennon. Evan Mitchell will conduct with a chamber orchestra performing composer-original reductions.
Suffragette will play at Theatre Passe Muraille, Mainspace – 16 Ryerson Ave, Toronto on June 22-24 at 7.30pm and June 25 at 6pm.
It’s that time of year when it’s traditional to do best of the year lists. Fortunately this is all about music because in most other respects 2016 was a bit of a horror show. So here goes. As far as opera proper was concerned it was a pretty good year. There were no real howlers in the COC’s season. It was solid and, at its best, better than that, For me, Ariodante was the standout; an intelligent, thought provoking production backed up by extremely good acting and singing. I was really expecting to like the Claus Guth Marriage of Figaro more than I did. I enjoyed it but I was a bit perplexed by the lightening up that had taken place since Salzburg in 2006. Opera Atelier had their best show in quite a while with Lucio Silla but even Wallis Giunta couldn’t save a misconceived Dido and Aeneas.
Opera 5’s interactive production of Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus opened last night in the Great Hall at 918 Bathurst. It’s an intriguing but, above all, fun show. I think it’s fair to say that presented straight Die Fledermaus has more than a few elements of meta-theatricality. Here it’s central to the plot from MC Pearle Harbour’s initial apology for the lack of a fourth wall because “we can’t afford one” through a whole series of “interventions” by various characters. Unpacking it all would probably make as much sense as Umberto Eco’s Three Owls on a Chest of Drawers and I’m not as clever as the late Professor Eco and, in best Fledermaus tradition, it’s the morning after and I’ve only had five hours sleep. So, I’ll avoid the meta and try and describe the show.