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Volume 17 Issue 10 - July/August 2012

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KATIE CROSSBeat by Beat

KATIE CROSSBeat by Beat | On OperaRare and FineCHRISTOPHER HOILEFor toronto opera-goers, summer is usually a time to leavetown to sample the myriad musical festivals outside Canada. Yetthere are a number of intriguing productions to see in Torontoover the next two months and at festivals nearby.For staged operas with piano accompaniment, Summer OperaLyric Theatre has been an oasis for opera since 1986. This year SOLT(www.solt.ca) offers an especially interesting program by presentingoperas based on all three Figaro plays by Pierre-Augustin Caronde Beaumarchais (1732–99). Everyone knows the first two of theFigaro trilogy. Beaumarchais wrote The Barber ofSeville 1773 and it served as the basis of Rossini’sopera in 1816. Beaumarchais wrote the sequel toBarber, The Marriage of Figaro, in 1778, whichbecame the basis of Mozart’s opera in 1786. Othercomposers used the plays as plotsfor their own operas such as theBarber by Giovanni Paisiello in1782 or the Marriage of Figaroby Gaetano Rossi in 1799, buttime has crowned Rossini’s andMozart’s versions as the most successfuloperatic treatments of theirrespective sources.Less known both in the theatreand on the opera stage is the thirdpart of Beaumarchais’s Figarotrilogy, La Mère coupable (TheGuilty Mother) written in 1792. Ifyou thought that The Marriage ofFigaro revealed the relationshipof Count Almaviva and his Rosinaas rather less than happy, La Mèrecoupable goes even further. Set 20years after the previous play, it appearsthat the Countess did have a relationship with Cherubino andthat the product was a son, Léon. Meanwhile, the Count, although hehas had an illegitimate child of his own named Florestine, is intenton punishing the Countess for her betrayal and prevent Léon frominheriting a sou. Figaro and Susanna are still happily married butmust solve this problem, especially when they discover that Léon andFlorestine have fallen in love with each other.There are two main contenders for operatic treatments of the thirdFigaro play. The first is La Mère coupable by Darius Milhaud from1966. The second is The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano of1980 which includes a performance of the third play as a part of a largerplot set in the afterlife. SOLT has chosen the Milhaud which hasa Canadian connection. It was Louis Quilico who created the role ofMilhaud’s Count Almaviva at the world premiere in Geneva.SOLT is thus offering what is likely the first chance ever in Canada tosee operas based on the entire Figaro trilogy in repertory. The Barberof Seville will be performed in English on July 28, 31, August 2 and 4with Maika’i Nash as music director. The Marriage of Figaro will beperformed in English July 27, 29, August 1 and 4 with Jennifer Tungas music director. And La Mère coupable will be performed in FrenchJuly 28, August 1, 3 and 5 with Nicole Bellamy as music director. Allperformances take place at the intimate Robert Gill Theatre on theUniversity of Toronto campus.For another French rarity in concert, Opera by Request (www.operabyrequest.ca) will present Léo Delibes’ Lakmé (1883), famedfor its “Flower Duet” and the “Bell Song”, on August 10 at the CollegeStreet United Church. Soprano Allison Arends sings the title role,tenor Christopher Mayell is her British lover Gerald, and baritoneMichael York is Nilakantha the High Priest who disapproves of theirlove. William Shookhoff is the pianist and music director.For fully-staged opera, Torontonians will have to wait untilAugust 20 to 31 when the renowned Volcano Theatre (www. volcano.ca)teams up with music director Ashiq Aziz and his Classical MusicConsort (a period instrument band) to present A Synonym for Love atthe Gladstone Hotel. Synonym is in reality the 1707 cantata Clori, Tirsie Fileno by George Frederic Handel given a modernized English librettoby Deborah Pearson. Rather than a love triangle of two shepherdsand a shepherdess, Pearson has turned it into a triangle among threeguests at the hotel and the audience will follow the singers as theirdrama moves through hallways and bedrooms of the hotel.The score of the cantata was thought to be lost until 250 years latera single copy was discovered in Germany. This will be the first fullystagedproduction of the work in Canada. Soprano Emily Atkinson,countertenor Scott Belluz and soprano Tracy Smith Bessette will bethe singers, Ross Manson will direct and Ashiq Aziz will conduct.Left, Allison Arends.Elodie Gillett and Mark Uhrein Trouble in Tahiti.The Shaw Festival (www.shawfest.com) has presented both musicalsand operettas in the past, but this year it is presenting its firstopera, the one-acter Trouble in Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein from1952. The 45-minute opera with a libretto by Bernstein depicts a dayin the life of a typical suburban couple who suspect that their perfectlife is missing something. Meanwhile, a Greek-style chorus commentson the action. Mark Uhre plays the husband Sam and Elodie Gilletthis wife Dinah. Jay Turvey directs and Paul Sportelli conducts. Theopera runs as a lunchtime show at the Court House Theatre July 7 toOctober 7.Further afield, the Westben Arts Festival (www.westben.ca) inCampbellford opens its season with the world premiere of TheAuction with music by John Burge to a libretto by Eugene Benson.Based on the children’s story of the same name, the opera tells of howa grandfather explains to his grandson (and himself) why he has tosell the family farm and why things must change. The seven-membercast includes Bruce Kelly, Kimberly Barber and Keith Klassen. PhilipHeadlam conducts the Westben Chamber Orchestra and Allison Grantdirects. The premiere is June 30 followed by only one more performanceon July 1. Let’s hope for a revival in the future.Just as a reminder, fans of Opera Atelier may wish to head down toCooperstown, New York, to cheer on the company. OA has been invitedto stage its highly acclaimed production of Lully’s Armide as oneof the four offerings of music theatre at Glimmerglass Opera (glimmerglass.org)this summer. Armide, with the same cast that played inToronto last April, runs in repertory with Verdi’s Aida, Weill’s Lost inthe Stars and Willson’s The Music Man July 21 to August 23.Have a great summer!Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre.He can be contacted at opera@thewholenote.com.DAVID COOPER24 thewholenote.com July 1 – September 7, 2012

WAYNE EARDLEYBeat by Beat | Music TheatreCanadian OriginalsROBERT WALLACEShelley Simester and Alison J. Palmerin Queen Marie.Summertime, and the living is … hot. If you’re looking for anight’s entertainment beneath cooler skies, head east toMillbrook, Ontario, where 4th Line Theatre is presenting a newmusical on its Barnyard Stage at Winslow’s Farm. Opening on July 3for a month’s run, Queen Marie, by Toronto playwright, Shirley Barrie,is a sure bet for engaging entertainment that is, well, cool — in bothsenses of the word. Chronicling the true story of a Canadian original— Marie Dressler, a beloved star of the silver screen who rose fromhumble beginnings in Cobourg (where she was born in 1868) to theheights of Hollywood fame— the play is the stuff of legend, certain todelight all ages.“Many people know Marie Dressler’s name,” says Kim Blackwell,director of the show, “but few know the real story and the obstaclesshe overcame.” This is exactly the reason that Barrie was attractedto the project. “When Robert Winslow (artistic director of 4th LineTheatre) asked me if I’d be interested in working on a play about [thecomic actress], I knew very little about her except for a famous scenewith Jean Harlow in [the film] Dinner At Eight.” Barrie soon discoveredthat Dressler “upended expectations” all through her career.“She was large, and not conventionally attractive, but she used these“drawbacks” to create a new kind of physical, masculine comedy withheart that won over anddelighted audiences. I’vealways been intriguedby women from the pastwho refused to play bythe rules and Marie, whotook great chances andrarely backed down froma fight, certainly is oneof these.Queen Marie is scoredby 4th Line’s long-timemusical director, JustinWilcox, who integratessongs Dressler performedduring her lifetimewith music hecomposed for the production,including solo numbers and chorale works for the ensembleof 20 performers Blackwell has cast. To augment instrumentation fora trio of piano, strings and percussion, Wilcox has members of thechorus play instruments ranging from clarinet to ukulele. After scoringdozens of shows for 4th Line on his own, the Peterborough residentenjoys collaborating with lyricists, and especially appreciates theopportunity to write “stand-alone,” character-driven songs like A Lifeat Last, a ballad he wrote for Shelley Simester, the Stratford Festivalveteran who plays Marie Dressler.When she was nearly 50, Dressler’s support of the 1919 Actors Equitystrike ended her career as a Broadway actress. By the late 1920s, shewas largely forgotten and living in near-poverty. In 1927, after meetingscreenwriter Frances Marion (played by Robert Winslow in this production),Dressler began to work in the “talkies,” quickly becomingHollywood’s number one box-office attraction, and winning the Oscarin 1930 for her performance in Min and Bill. Since her death fromcancer in 1934, her fame has not been forgotten … especially in Cobourgwhere the home of her birth now houses a museum and visitor informationcentre. Each year, the Marie Dressler Foundation Vintage FilmFestival offers screenings of her films in Cobourg and Port Hope.Robert Service, another Canadian original, is the subject ofSUMMEROPERALYRICTHEATREA N DR E S E A R C HC E N T R EGuillermo Silva-MarinGeneral DirectorToronto's ownMiniSummerOperaFestivalSince 1986SubscribeNow!The Beaumarchais TrilogyThree very different works,each telling a part of one story.The Barber of Sevilleby Gioachino Rossini (in English)Maika’i Nash, Music DirectorTue July 31 & Thur Aug 2 at 8 PMSat July 28 & Sat Aug 4 at 2 PMThe Marriage of Figaroby W. A. Mozart (in English)Jennifer Tung, Music DirectorFri July 27 & Sat Aug 4 at 8 PMSun July 29 & Wed Aug 1 at 2 PMLa Mère Coupableby Darius Milhaud (in French)Nicole Bellamy, Music DirectorSat July 28, Wed Aug 1, Fri Aug 3 at 8 PMSun Aug 5 at 2 PMROBERT GILL THEATREUniversity of Toronto214 College Street (at St.George)Box Office: 416-978-79863 operas for the price of 2!! - Offer ends Monday, July 9Call the SOLT office: 416-922-2912www.solt.caHOME TO THE BEST“ Opera doesn’t get any better than this.” TORONTO STAR, 2010coc.ca 416−363−82312012·2013SUBSCRIBE NOW AND SAVE UP TO 50%July 1 – September 7, 2012thewholenote.com 25Video still by Bill Viola. Creative: Endeavour

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