Like the 504 streetcar

Season announcements, it seems, are like the King Street streetcar(1).  You wait for ages then three come along at once.  This time it’s Opera Atelier announcing the 2017/18 season.  As ever there are two productions.  A remount of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro runs October 26th to November 4th. The cast icludes Douglas Williams, making his Opera Atelier debut, in the title role, with Mireille Asselin (Susanna), Stephen Hegedus (Count Almaviva), Peggy Kriha Dye (Countess Almaviva), Mireille Lebel (Cherubino), Laura Pudwell (Marcellina), Gustav Andreassen (Bartolo), Christopher Enns (Basilio/Don Curzio), Olivier Laquerre (Antonio), and Grace Lee (Barbarina).  This one will be sung in English.

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Patrick Jang, Carla Huhtanen and Phillip Addis in “The Marriage of Figaro” (2010).  Photo by Bruce Zinger.

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Best of 2016

anthraxIt’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.

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The next couple of weeks

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Yes, I know that’s not Marjorie…

I’m out of town for the first week of November or so so this week’s preview will actually cover two weeks.  Lots of endings coming up with the last OA Dido and Aeneas this afternoon and the COC’s fall season closing with Ariodante on Thursday and Norma on Friday.  There’s also Centre Stage on Wednesday.  I shall be curious to see what people think.

On to next weekend and there are a couple of items of interest.  Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 3pm at Grace Church on the Hill Bicycle Opera Project are collaborating with Pax Christi Chorale in performances of Mendelssohn’s Elijah.  Here’s the blurb:

In this unique presentation of a classic oratorio, Bicycle Opera’s singers will shed formal concert format in favour of a dramatic exploration of Elijah, while staying true to our intimate and accessible style.

Soloists are Geoff Sirett, Chris Enns, Marjorie Maltais and Larissa Koniuk.

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Next week

nathaliepaulin_365sq.jpgThe Mazzoleni Songmasters series opens this afternoon at 2pm in, surprise, Mazzoleni Hall at the conservatory.  Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher present Welcome and Adieu; a program of English and French songs and duets.  Collaborative pianists are Robert Kortgaard and Peter Tiefenbach.

Tuesday at noon in the RBA sees the students of UoT Opera present an all Mozart program. It’s semi staged and the program is duets and ensemble numbers so not your usual fare.  Free of course but probably one one will need to arrive early for.

Norma and Ariodante continue at the COC as does Dido and Aeneas at Opera Atelier.

 

A funny thing happened on the way to Carthage

Opera Atelier’s  production of (mostly) Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas opened last night at the Elgin.  I say “(mostly) Purcell” because director Marshall Pynkowski had decided to add a Prologue.  As he explained in his introductory remarks nobody reads Virgil’s Aeneid anymore so it was necessary to play out the back story in a prologue.  I find this pretty patronising.  It’s not a particularly convoluted story and I would have thought that the gist of the story is well enough known to most opera goers and, you know, some of us have read the Aeneid.  Besides, even without detailed knowledge of the back story there’s nothing remotely hard to understand.  FWIW the dumbing down carried over into the surtitles with, for example, “Anchises” rendered as “his father”.  Anyway we got a prologue spoken by Irene Poole while the orchestra played other Purcell airs followed by a bit of extraneous ballet and poor Chris Enns (Aeneas) and Wallis Giunta (Dido) running around making the stock baroque “woe is me” gesture.  I guess it made the piece (plus Marshall’s speech) long enough to justify an intermission, which was taken after what is usually Act 2 Scene 1, but the prologue was neither necessary nor welcome and I think the ensuing intermission was an unnecessary break in the flow of the action.

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The week in prospect and other news

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There’s a lot on today.  Handel’s Ariodante opens at the COC at 2.30pm.  There’s also a concert featuring Russell Braun with the Amici Ensemble at 3pm in the Mazzoleni Concert Hall at the Conservatory.  The Elmer Iseler Singers and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir also have concerts.  Thursday sees the opening of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Opera Atelier with Wallis Giunta and Chris Enns as the lovers which promises both eye and ear candy.  That’s at the Elgin at 7.30pm.  Then on Saturday there’s Singing Stars of Tomorrow, the result of a Sondra Radvanovsky intensive, at the Alliance Française at 7.30 pm.  The line up is Valerie Belanger,soprano; Stephanie De Ciantis, soprano; Natalya Gennadi, soprano; Beth Hagerman, soprano; Jessica Scarlato, soprano; Sara Schabas, soprano; Caitlin Wood, soprano; Danielle MacMillan, mezzo-soprano; Marjorie Maltais, mezzo-soprano; Asitha Tennekoon, tenor.  Quite a mix, from people I’ve never heard of to one who has already made her COC debut.

In other news, the COC and Show One Productions have announced a gala concert to take place at the Four Seasons Centre on April 25th next year.  It’s billed (modestly) as Trio Magnifico: The Ultimate Opera Gala and the big draw is the Canadian debut of Anna Netrebko.  She will appear with  her husband tenor Yusif Eyazov and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.  They will be accompanied by the COC Orchestra conducted by Jader Bignamini.  Given that Dima alone turned Koerner Hall into a frenzy of screaming Russian grannies, this could get interesting.

Opera Atelier on form

Opera Atelier’s production of Mozart’s Lucio Silla opened last night at the Elgin.  This is, more or less, the production that played at the Salzburg Festival and, later, at La Scala to considerable critical acclaim.  It’s not hard to see why.  It’s much the best thing Opera Atelier has done in a while.  It’s more restrained than recent shows and trimmed of excess the familiar approach looks quite fresh again.

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