The Widow

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Lynn Isnar – wearing one of the dresses she wore yesterday

Calixa Lavallée’s main, perhaps only, claim to fame is that he wrote the music for O Canada!  He also wrote an operetta, The Widow.  Yesterday I saw it at Toronto Operetta Theatre in a production by Guillermo Silva-Marin.  It’s pretty silly.  The plot turns on a scheming widow who pretends to drown herself while most of the rest of the characters pretend either to be someone else, or to be married to someone else, or both.  Still, it’s fast paced and quite funny and the various sillinesses work out more or less logically.  The music is pleasant and well crafted but not strikingly original.  I don’t think I actually recall a single tune.  So, a worthwhile enough piece but hardly an undiscovered masterpiece.

The production, in variations on concert wear for the most part, was quite kinetic with lots of rushing about and some dance elements.  There are probably more entrances and exits than a Brian Rix farce (and for much the same reasons) so that helps.  Performances were pretty good.  Julie Nesrallah struck the right note as the somewhat overripe Spanish widow Donna Paquita de something-something-something.  She sang well and her knowing, almost wink-at-the-audience, approach was just shy of over the top.  It made a good anchor.  The vocal star was Lynn Isnar as Nanine.  It’s classic operetta soubrette territory and her bright tone, easy top and controlled coloratura were just right.  She has a nice sense of timing too.  Her aria which opened the second act was the vocal highlight of the afternoon.  The rest of the cast was made up of TOT regulars and young singers.  Everyone sang well and the acting was also good.  The young lovers, of both flavours, were appropriately decorative and there was a bumbling ineffectual aristo for Greg Finney to play.  Michael Rose accompanied perfectly competently at the piano.  So, basically, all operetta boxes ticked.

All in all, a pleasant enough way to spend a really gloomy November Sunday afternoon.

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On the radar

hoover_scruff_fight copyComing up this next week.  Tomorrow Toronto Operetta Theatre are performing Calixa Lavallée’s The Widow.  He’s the dude who wrote the music for O Canada! so no idea what to expect.  It’s at the Jane Mallett Theatre at 3pm.  Monday at 7pm at the Zoomerplex is the IRCPA Singing Stars of Tomorrow concert.  My interview with Brett Polegato about it is here.  And this is the link for ticket purchase.

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Recent announcements

There have been a few announcements over the last week or two.  First up is a fund raiser for the music and social outreach programmes at St. Andrew by the Lake.  St. Andrew by the Lake is the Anglican church that serves Toronto Islands and as everyone in Toronto knows this has been a tough summer for island dwellers and, among other things it’s messed up the usual summer music program at St. Andrew.  The fundraiser is at Christ Church Deer Park on Thursday 24th August at 7.30pm.  The concert features the Canzona Chamber Players with Evan Mitchell conducting and Rachel Krehm as soprano soloist in performances of Mozart, Gounod, Charpentier and Brahms.  More details and tickets at http://www.standrewbythelake.com 

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The Chocolate Soldier

Toronto Operetta Theatre’s current production is Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Soldier in the English version.  It’s based on Shaw’s Arms and the Man but, as is usually the case with musical adaptations of Shaw, it’s rather less acerbic than the original.  In fact, it comes over as a somewhat farcical love story with a few gentle pot shots at the military and militarism.  There are some good comic lines and the music is tuneful and well crafted.

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The rest of April

tapestrybcMarch was a curiously quiet month.  April starts to look busier, at least once we get past Easter.  Tonight, Against the Grain have their monthly pub night at The Amsterdam Bicycle Club.  Snow is forecast so you should all stay away and then maybe I’ll be able to get in.  On Saturday at 4pm there’s a free (or PWYC) recital in Ernest Baumer Studio featuring soprano Stephanie Nakagawa and pianist Peemanat Kittimontreechai.  They will be performing arias from contemporary Canadian operas.  On Thursday 13th Philippe Jaroussky and Les Violins du Roy will be appearing at Koerner Hall.  It’s at 8pm and features mainly fairly obscure Handel material.

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Traditional Pirates

Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance at the Jane Mallett Theatre last night.  Bill Siva-Marin’s production is competent and very traditional with some strong performers in the key roles.  It won’t leave you with any new insights into the piece but it’s a well executed production which is lots of fun and very funny in places.  When I say traditional I mean pirates in pantomime pirate dress, maidens in some stereotypically Victorian maiden garb and a Major General in a cod colonial uniform.  Tnere are the traditional mild updatings to the libretto including a couple of rather well crafted verses in the MG’s patter song that reference the Glorious Leader of our neighbour to the south.  There are also a few nice touches.  In the second act the MG spends much of the time clutching a bust of one of his purchased ancestors and the “catlike tread” scene is noisily anything but.  That said, the choreography and blocking are pretty formulaic though there are some deft touches in the Personenregie.  Mabel’s body language in Oh! Is there not one maiden breast? is worth a look.

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Over the holidays

raccoon-on-snowAs things will soon slow down for the holidays I am going to do one listings post from now through to the New Year.  There are of course still the TSO and Tafelmusik Messiahs.  There are also holiday concerts at Roy Thomson Hall.  New Year’s Eve sees an opera pops concert conducted by Marco Guidarini while on New Year’s Day there’s a Vienna themed extravaganza with Matthias Fletzberger conducting.

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