Oddly enough, what Toronto Operetta Theatre does best is operetta and the production of Romberg’s The Student Prince that opened yesterday afternoon is a pretty good example of why. I suppose, technically, that it’s a Broadway musical but everything about it, down to the humour and sentimentality seems Teutonic enough. Anyway, there’s a solid trio in the lead roles, the key back ups are thoroughly professional and the minor roles and chorus are filled out by talented and enthusiastic young singers. The band is big enough to cover all the colours of the score and the staging is appropriate and not overly ambitious. The piece gets to do its tuneful, rather bittersweet thing.
The opening concert of Off Centre Music Salon’s season was a programme of Russian romantic and post romantic works, songs and piano pieces, entitled Russia Cast Adrift. The first half of the afternoon was devoted to the sort of songs that explain why “smert” is one of about six Russian words that I recognize. It kicked off with a Rachmaninoff prelude played with vigour by William Leathers before going into a series of songs by Sviridov, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Glière, Arensky and Mussorgsky. The singing was shared by soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Emilia Boteva, tenor Ernesto Ramirez and baritone Geoffrey Sirett with Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis at the piano.
Subscriptions are now on sale for Toronto Operetta Theatre. The line up has changed from the original spring announcement. There are still three shows but the run of Candide previously announced has been replaced with a single concert performance, with piano accompaniment of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. It’s at 3pm on November 1st. The main attraction (pun absolutely intended) is probably Greg Finney as Sir Joseph Porter KCB. There’s also Charlotte Knight as Josephine.
Giancarlo del Monaco’s production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann recorded in Bilbao in 2006 isn’t nearly as weird as the interviews on the first disk might lead one to expect. It has its moments but in many ways is more “by the book” than the Laurent Pelly production I looked at last week. The interviews talk of a “Sartrian” Hoffmann and a Freudian approach to Antonia. Ok so Hoffmann is portrayed as a hunchback and he’s fairly damaged but he’s basically your standard drunk poet fixated on a woman or women he can’t have. I can’t actually see this dude nailing his hand to a nightclub table with a knife or drowning his cat to prove a point.
This Sunday sees the first of the season for Recitals at Rosedale. Entitled A Walk on the Dark Side: Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales, it will feature soprano Leslie Ann Bradley, mezzo soprano Allyson McHardy and baritone Geoff Sirett with pianists Robert Kortgaard and Rachel Andrist. The programme features works by Mahler, Debussy, Symanowski, Weil, Gershwin and more. It’s on November 9th at 2.30 pm at Rosedale Presbyterian Church and tickets are available here.
The saga of “Where in the world is Roberto Devereux?” at the COC continues. Originally Giuseppe Filianoti was slated to sing the title role in the seven show run that began April 25th. At some point, some while ago, it was announced that Leonardo Capalbo would sing the first three performances; which he did to some acclaim. During the week the rumour mill started grinding with news that cover Edgar Ernesto Ramírez would sing tomorrow night’s show and, a bit later, that Filianoti was out completely. All this has now been confirmed. Mexican born Toronto resident Ramirez will sing tomorrow and then Spanish tenor José Bros will complete the run (or at least that’s the plan). It’s a great break for Ramírez and we wish him luck.
Stéphane Braunschweig’s production of Janáček’s Jenůfa, recorded at Madrid’s Teatro Real, is austere and effective. The sets are almost empty. Mill sails appear from a slot in the floor to suggest the family mill, there’s a cot for the baby in Act 2 and some church benches in Act 3. That’s it. The rest of the “setting” is carried by a very effective lighting plot. I don’t think there are any big ideas here but it’s an effective, straightforward way of telling the story. Braunschweig also makes effective use of the chorus, especially in Act 1.