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Volume 10 Issue 6 - March 2005

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Toc9. MLQ{cijLDituy by

Toc9. MLQ{cijLDituy by Colin Eatock The COC at the Crossroads For its winter season, the COC staged two productions that were so different that they didn't seem to emanate from the same opera company. I experienced the vast gulf between La Boheme and Sieg.fi·1ed on two consecutive evenings. Annie Crestwood Preparatory College March 1, 7PM Tafelmusik Bach Brandenburg Concertos March 15, 8PM January 26, 2005: Back in 1989 the Canadian Opera Company rn111- missioned a production of La Bohe111e from set designer Wolfram Skalicki and costume designer Amrei Skalicki. a husband-and-wife team from Austria. In the Mansouri years. the Skalicki wc::re often engaged by the company, and they created many clunky and unimaginative low-budget productions. Most of their work has. fortunately. been dropped by the COC--but not La Bohe111e. Since it was first unveiled, 16 years ago, the kalickis· swan- ·ong has returned every few seasons like some kind of Ghost of De. igners Pa t. Those charged with breathing life into the old . how no doubt did their best. Both conductor David Heusel and director Robc::rt McQueen brought detailed interpretations to their work. There:: was some good singing, too - especially from Gabriele Silviani as Marcello and Kristina Szabo as Musetta. But in the end these effort. weren't enough to rescue this production from its own ordinariness. When the final curtain fell I doubt there wa a moi t eye in the theatre. Yet the packed house demonstrated once again that Bohe111e sells - and if people are beating down the doors to hear it, why bother to update a stale, old production? January 27: Last year's Die Walkiire set a high bar for the Ring Cycle the COC is gradually assembling. While the company has.. unusually, chosen four different directors for these opera , they have just one designer: Toronto's Michael Levine. And it's starting to look like Levine's fecund imagination will be the dominant force behind this cycle: his set designs - whether a crazy array of bric-a-brac, or a starkly barren stage - are always visually arresting. Director Fran9ois Girard also provided strong artistic leadership and some fascinating tableaux: a human pyramid taking the form of the dragon Fafner, and a circle of red waving hands to portray the magic fire surrounding Brtinnhilde. (I'm assuming these were Girard's touches - but this production was o integrated that it's hard to know where the director's ideas began and designer_"s ended.) The COC ha found a gem of a Siegfried in Christian Franz. Although not very heroic looking - who could look heroic dressed in white pajamas? - he has the lungs of a true Heldentenor. In fact, all the singers were impressive, in one way or another, although I could have used a little less vocal "swoop" from France Ginzer's Brtinnhilde. And with Richard Bradshaw's motivating tempi holding the evening down to a mere four-and-three-quarters hours, what was there not to love? February 3: Passing through the city's downtown core, I pause by the new opera house under construction there. Behind its orange hoarding the building is rapidly assuming its final exterior form: the Coming in April: Joe Avati Live April l & 2, 8PM massive stage tower is up, and structural supports mark the place · where the brightly lit glass lobby will illuminate the corner of Queen and University. Like its half-built theatre, the COC is also at a crossroads - the intersection of the old and the new. At present, the re ult of this convergence appears to be a company that stage two kinds of productions: those it puts its best efforts into. anq tho e it doesn't much care about as long as plenty of tickets are sold. SieR.fi·ied i a masterpiece, but so in its own way i La Boheme - no les deserving of commitment. And the COC is clearly capable of doing better if it wants to. When the Canadian Opera Company move. into its new home in 2006, let's hope it "'means" every production it stages. Colin Eatock is a composer and writer in Toronto who contribllles to the Globe and Mail and other publicarions. His T.O. Musical Diary is a regular monthly feature

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Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

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