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Volume 18 Issue 3 - November 2012

  • Text
  • November
  • Toronto
  • December
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Theatre
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  • Choir
  • Concerts

NICOLA BETTSthe naive

NICOLA BETTSthe naive peasant Nemorino, who attempts to woo a wealthy youngwoman with the help of a love potion (only alcohol) bought from avisiting charlatan. Sandra Horst, best known as the chorus master forthe COC, is the conductor; Michael Patrick Albano directs.Over at the Royal Conservatory, the Glenn Gould School (performance.rcmusic.ca)has quite an unusual double bill on offer. OnNovember 16 and 17 the students present Three Sisters Who Are NotSisters (1968) by American composer Ned Rorem (born 1923) andLe Lauréat (1906) by Québécois composer François-Joseph Vézina(1849-1924). For Three Sisters, a 1943 play by Gertrude Stein providesthe libretto. The work is a nonlinear murder mystery about three sisters(who are not sisters since they are orphans) and two brothers(who are brothers) who decide to play a game of murder. During theBeste Kalender, who appears in the upcoming Glenn Gould School productionof Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters, is shown, far right, in the Glenn GouldSchool 2011 production of The Magic Flute. Inset: Sandra Horst, conductor ofthe University of Toronto Faculty of Music Opera Division’s L’Elisir d’amore.course of the 35-minute work, four of the five characters are killed orfound dead, yet at the end the voices of all five are heard. They wonder,“Did we act it? Are we dead?” Coincidentally, or not, the only characterto remain alive tells the others that it is time to sleep, raising the questionof whether the action we’ve seen is real or imagined.Le Lauréat is one of three opéras comiques along with Le Rajah(1910) and Le Fétiche (1912) that Vézina completed before his death.Vézina is perhaps best known as the conductor of the first-ever performanceof “O Canada” in 1880. The libretto by Félix-GabrielMarchand (the 11th premier of Quebec) concerns the love of Paul andPauline, who are about to graduate from university. Pauline however,is penniless, and Paul’s uncle threatens to disinherit him shouldhe marry her. The situation is saved by a deus ex machina in theform of a letter containing new information about Pauline. For bothworks Peter Tiefenbach is music director and Ashlie Corcoran is thestage director.In Concert(1): For those who enjoy operas in concert with orchestra,there are two attractive choices. On November 1 and 3, the TorontoSymphony Orchestra (tso.ca) presents the hour-long, one-act operaLa vida breve (1913) by Manuel de Falla (1876–1946) in Spanish withEnglish surtitles. The all-Spanish cast includes mezzo-sopranos NancyFabiola Herrera, Cristina Faus and Aidan Ferguson, along with flamencomusicians and dancer Núria Pomares. The libretto writtenby Carlos Fernández-Shaw in Andalusian dialect concerns the gypsySalud (Herrera) who is in love with the wealthy man Paco. He has ledher on, not telling her he is already engaged to be married to a womanof his own class. Salud’s uncle and grandmother know Paco’s secretand try to dissuade Salud from interrupting Paco’s wedding. But allis in vain and tragedy results. The conductor is Rafael Frühbeck deBurgos. The program also includes Beethoven’s Symphony No.8.Those who seek out new music need look no further than theCanadian premiere of Airline Icarus by award-winning composerBrian Current on November 25. Co-presented by the RoyalConservatory, where Current has been a faculty member since 2006,Airline Icarus is an opera-oratorio about the intersecting thoughtsof passengers on a flight aboard a commercial airline. It is scored fornine musicians and nine singers. In 2005 it won Italy’s internationalPremio Fedora Award. Last year Current conducted the first fullystaged performance in Verbania, Italy. The Toronto performance willinclude such well-known singers as Carla Huhtanen, Krisztina Szabóand Alexander Dobson. Jennifer Parr is the stage director and Currentconducts. The Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council will helpfund a recording of the work.In Concert(2): Thismonth opera in concertwith piano accompanimentis especially wellrepresented.Thosewho seek out raritiesby well-known composersshould headto the performanceof Rossini’s Armida(1817) by VOICEBOX:Opera in Concert(operainconcert.com) onNovember 25. Toronto opera-goers areprobably most familiar with the story from thepresentations of Lully’s French baroque operaArmide (1686) staged by Opera Atelier earlierthis year and in 2005. The plot of Rossini’sArmida is inspired by the same sections ofTorquato Tasso’s epic poem GerusalemmeLiberata as Lully’s Armide. It should be fascinatingto see how Rossini approaches thematerial. The work fell into neglect until 1952when Maria Callas appeared in its first modernproduction. Since then June Andersonand Renée Fleming have sung the title role.For VOICEBOX, Raphaëlle Paquette takes on Armida, Edgar ErnestoRamirez sings Rinaldo, Christopher Mayell is Goffredo and MichaelCiufo is Genardo. Michael Rose is the music director and pianist.Robert Cooper directs the chorus.While Opera In Concert has been around since 1974, Toronto OperaCollective (torontooperacollaborative.com) will embark on its firstseason with a performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio on November 10at the Bloor Street United Church. Kristine Dandavino sings the titlerole, Jason Lamont is Florestan and Michael Robert-Broder is the villainousDon Pizarro. Nichole Bellamy is the pianist and conductor.For quite a different style of German opera, Essential Opera (essentialopera.com)begins its third season on November 7 with TheThreepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Jeremy Ludwigsings Macheath, Maureen Batt is Polly, Erin Bardua is Lucy, David Rothis Peachum, Heather Jewson is Mrs. Peachum and James Levesque isthe Narrator. Cathy Nosaty is the music director, pianist and accordionist.The performance in German and English takes place atHeliconian Hall in Yorkville.Finally, Opera by Request (operabyrequest.ca), where the singerschoose the repertory, has a wide range of operas in concerton offer. On November 3 it presents Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore,on November 9 Mozart’s Don Giovanni, on November 16 and 25Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and on November 17 Bizet’s LesPêcheurs des perles. All performances, except Onegin on the 16th,take place at the College Street United Church and are conducted bythe indefatigable William Shookhoff from the piano.Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera andtheatre. He can be contacted at opera@thewholenote.com.26 thewholenote.com November 1 – December 7, 2012

Beat by Beat | Music TheatreSmall PleasuresWith just three seasons under its belt, Toronto’s AngelwalkTheatre has built a record of success that makes it a companyto watch. Dedicated to producing “off-Broadway”musical theatre that integrates established Canadian professionalswith emerging artists, the resident company of the StudioTheatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts has accumulated 11 DoraMavor Moore nominations andgarnered accolades from audiencesand critics alike — mostrecently, two Dora nominationsfor I Love You Because, amusical I discussed in this columnlast April. Producing justtwo shows per season, thenot-for-profit enterprise commitsits modest resourcesto small scale, characterdrivenshows whose minimalinstrumentation and sparestaging work to maximumeffect. The company’s productionof Ordinary Daysthat opens on November 29for a two-week run providesa perfect example,with one important caveat:the show is co-producedwith the Winnipeg StudioTheatre (WST), a signal thatAngelwalk is branching out.ROBERT WALLACEKayla Gordon, WST artistic director.Ordinary Days, a one-act musical by American writer and composerAdam Gwon, premiered to mixed reviews in a production byNew York’s Roundabout Theatre in 2009 where it caught the attentionof Brian Goldenberg, artistic producer of Angelwalk, and KaylaGordon, artistic director of WST, a company whose mandate resemblesAngelwalk’s except that it includes plays as well as musicals. Thetwo first connected via Altar Boyz, a musical comedy by Gary Adlerand Michael Patrick Walker about a fictitious Christian boy band, thattheir companies produced separately. By the time they discoveredOrdinary Days, “We had come to a decision that we wanted to producesomething together,” Goldenberg tells me. “It was just a questionof what.” Gordon adds, “We’ve been trying to find just the right projectfor a while.”With a cast of four, a contemporary urban setting, an innovativescore, and an emphasis on character, Ordinary Days fits the aestheticof both companies to a T. For Gordon, the show “takes us somewherenew mainly because so much of the story is told through songs ... . Ithas a very contemporary feel to it, much like the work of Jason RobertBrown ... .” Goldenberg agrees with her comparison and he shouldknow: he produced Brown’s The Last Five Years in Angelwalk’s inauguralseason and staged the American composer’s Songs for a NewWorld in March 2011. (Toronto audiences also may remember Brown’sParade that Acting Up Stage Company co-produced with Studio 180Theatre in January 2011). “The music is stunning,” Goldenberg says ofOrdinary Days, before admitting that it was Gwon’s lyrics that reallysold him on the show. “Gwon creates characters through songs withsome of his lyrics working like dialogue. He’s not afraid to push theboundaries of musical theatre — but gently, without flash.” The samemight be said of Angelwalk itself.Ordinary Days tells two stories simultaneously, using a pair of trajectoriesthat have two separate couples affecting each other withoutcrossing paths. For Charles Isherwood, a critic at the New York Times,the result is “a sad-sweet comment on the anonymity of life in the city,where it is possible to change other people’s fates without actuallygetting to meet them.” The older couple, Claire (Clara Scott) and Jason(Jay Davis), struggle to maintain their relationship after moving intogether and discovering that each has more baggage than they realized.More interesting is the odd couple bonding of Warren (JustinBott), a gay would-be artist, and Deb (Connie Manfreddi), a graduatestudent writing a dissertation on the novels of Virginia Woolf. AfterWarren finds (and reads) Deb’s lost notebook, he arranges to returnit to her at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Repeatedly, Gwon placeshis quartet of lost souls inside the Met where, in “song after song,[they] struggle to pull their way into rapturous melody, parallelingtheir struggles to cement a place in the cement jungle,” as Bob Veriniwrites in Variety. Viewing painting after painting, the charactersreveal the particularities of their ordinary lives like so many pointillistdots on an impressionist canvas. “What am I doing here?” one ofthem asks. The question haunts the show.For Kayla Gordon, who directs as well as co-produces thepiece, the charm of Ordinary Days lies in the characters’ searchfor space within intimacy, calm within disorder. “It’s a universalsubject in our busy lives,” she says, “taking the time to look at thelittle joyous things in life, and to appreciate them more.” Her challengeas director is “to create the stillness of those special momentsof discovery — the feeling of a person standing and admiring apiece of art while the whole world is erupting around them ... tofind that special moment of introspection.” This requires that thecast “keep all the stories as honest as possible,” and that she connect“all the many facets of the characters’ lives in a fluid way, so as not tostop the momentum ... .”Ordinary Days is a genuine co-production. Rather than merelycombine their budgets and place one company in charge, the twosmall theatres have amalgamated creative resources to achievean equitable split of time and talent. The production premieres inWinnipeg on November 21 in the Tom Hendry Warehouse Space of theNovember 1 – December 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 27

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