Rompin’ with Rossini

Even by the standards of Rossini comedies The Italian Girl in Algiers is a bit daft.  Mustafà, bey of Algiers, is tired of his wife and plans to get rid of her by marrying her off to his Italian servant Lindoro.  He wants an Italian girl because well squire, nudge nudge.  He instructs his sidekick and commander of the galleys Haly to procure one or be impaled (a somewhat pointed joke that runs through the piece).  He shows up with Isabella and her sidekick Taddeo.  Isabella just happens to be Lindoro’s squeeze.  She immediately starts to plot their escape and persuades Mustafà that to succeed with Italian girls he must become a Pappatacci which involves eating enormous amounts of food and not getting upset when his beloved gets off with other men.  With Mustafà in a pasta induced near coma the lovers escape and Mustafà reconciles with his wife.  Got that?

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UoT 2016/17

UoT Faculty of Music have just announced their 2016/17 season.  It’s the usual broad range of performances so I’ll highlight the opera and vocal music contributions.

UoT Opera is offering four shows.  The fall main production is Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld with new English dialogue and stage direction by Michael Patrick Albano.  Choreography i by Anna Theodosakis and Russell Braun makes his podium debut.  There are four performances November 24th to 27th.  Spring sees a Handel rarity; Imeneo.  Tim Albery directs and Daniel Taylor is in charge of the music.  This one runs March 16th to 19th.  Both shows are in the MacMillan Theatre.

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Last year’s student composed opera; The Machine Stops

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Another take on The Rape of Lucretia

The Toronto Summer Music Festival continued last night with a one off performance of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at The Winter Gardens, the upstairs part of the Elgin Theatre that I had never before been in.  The production originated in a Banff Centre/Against the Grain/COC joint project directed by Paul Curran but was recreated here in semi-staged form by Anna Theodosakis.  It was on the “quite close to staged” end of the spectrum so, although the band was on stage behind the action and there was no scenery or curtain it came off as much more than a concert in costume.

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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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Diva, diva, diva

Danika Loren

Danika Loren

Today’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured the assembled students of UoT Opera in a staged programme called The Art of the Prima Donna.  It was a sequence of mostly ensemble numbers drawn from the core 19th century rep.  Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Donizetti, Bellini, Bizet and Rossini all featured with works made famous by the great divas of the era’ Patti, Pasta, Malibran etc.  Linking narrative, which skipped over who slept with Rossini, was provided by Michael Albano who directed the staging with Anna Theodosakis.  Sandra Horst headed up the musical side and accompanied with help from Sue Black, Kate Carver and Ivan Jovanovic. Continue reading

Our saucy ship’s a beauty

hms_pinaforeAnd so is Michael Albano’s new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore which opened last night at the MacMillan Theatre.  It’s been a long time since the UoT Opera Division did G&S but it was worth the wait.  Fred Perruzza’s straight forward unit set was really brought to life by a fast paced and lively production.  From the very beginning of the overture we had members of the crew cavorting and dancing (Choreographer Anna Theodosakis) in a  manner perhaps owing more to Broadway than D’Oyly Carte and the better for it!  The set, a quarter deck with a gallery, provided cabin doors and traps in the deck for characters to come and go (including conductor Sandra Horst appearing from “below” to take her bow).  And of coming and going and dancing there was plenty.  There were some more than decent dancers in the chorus too.

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