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.
Messiah season gets underway with Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah on Monday. On Wednesday night, Opera 5 have a seasonal fundraiser at the Extension Room including an ugly sweater comp (Greg Finney at very short odds). Then on Saturday owing to bizarre scheduling you can take your pick from the ROH’s Così at Bloor Hot Docs or the Met’s L’Amour de Loin at just about any Cineplex Odeon. Both essentially at lunchtime, for some value of lunchtime.
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.
Things are really starting to slow down so this will be the last “upcoming” post before the summer lull when this feature will go on hiatus. Next week there’s the final vocal concert of the season in the RBA. It’s on Tuesday at noon when Karine Boucher will perform Ravel’s Shéhérazade with Charles Sy joining in with Britten’s Les Illuminations. On Sunday 21st at 5pm in Mazzoleni Hall, Christina Campsall has a recital of 20th century works including the challenging Messiaen piece, Poèmes pour Mi. It’s free.
I met with Aria Umezawa yesterday to talk about Opera 5’s latest project, a rather unusual take on Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. The project grew out of a desire to break Opera 5’s association with reviving rather obscure pieces and to do something “from the canon”. But, of course, for this company there had to be an angle. In this case it’s that Act 2 will be an immersive, audience participation exercise. We are all invited to Orlofsky’s party. There will be aerialists, burlesque dancers and a grand waltz for all which will probably reduce choreographer Jenn Nichols to tears. There a few other change ups. Frosh is gone and Ivan is replaced by drag queen Pearl Harbor, who will emcee the party. It’s in English, as the set up would make surtitles pretty much impossible. And the cast is pretty good. Michael Barrett sings Eisenstein with Rachel Krehm as Rosalinde, Julie Ludwig as Adele and Erin Lawson as Orlofsky among others.
Opera 5’s Die Fledermaus opens at 918 Bathurst (just north of Bloor) on June 8th at 8pm with further performances on the 9th, 10th and 11th. Tickets here.
For those of you who were wondering “whatever happened to Opera 5?” they are back, and with some pizzazz (and possibly some pizza). Their upcoming show is an “immersive” version of the Johann Strauss classic Die Fledermaus. In act 2 patrons will be encouraged to interact; to dance with the cast, gamble at the tables, snort coke with Prince Orlofsky (ok I made that up) etc. The cast includes Michael Barrett, Rachel Krehm, Julie Ludwig and Erin Lawson with drag queen Pearle Harbour as Ivan and emceeing. Aria Umezawa and Jessica Derventzis direct with Patrick Hansen conducting. It plays at 8pm on June 8th to 11th at 918 Bathurst Street. Tickets at www.opera5.ca.
Super Tuesday is a ridiculously busy day. At noon in the RBA Array Music is presenting Love Shards, a program of music by contemporary women composers. The full programme is here. In the evening Adrianne Pieczonka and Kristina Szabó are singing works by Crumb and Berio at Koerner Hall. There’s also a fundraiser for Opera 5 at The Extension Room. I’m sorry to be missing that one as the last couple have been a blast. Definitely worth going to if you are not going to Koerner.
Thursday there is a PWYC show by UoT Opera at The Black Box Theatre at 7.30pm. Tim Albery and David Fallis, creators of last season’s evocative Last Days, have created The Fatal Gaze, an exploration of the dangers of looking too long or too closely, inspired by the Baroque repertoire. Last days was really good so I have high expectations for this one. It’s also on on Friday.