5 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 7 - April 2005

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
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The · ments. The third

The · ments. The third ,remaining operatic event in the Metamorphosis Festival was to have been the premiere of "The Shadow" by Omar Daniel to celebrate Tapestry New Opera Works' 25th anniversary. That work has been postponed until next year. In its place Tapestry has chosen to remount Nie Gotham's "Nigredo Hotel" that in 1992 became both a major critical and popular success. Ann-Marie MacDonald's witty libretto, imbued with alchemical imagery, also fits in perfectly with the festival's theme of transformation. J'he remount, running May 5-14 in the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District, features baritone Alexander Dobson as the stressed-out neurosurgeon who checks into a seedy hotel run by a bizarre prophetess, sung by soprano Patricia O'Callaghan, who leads him on a spiritual journey. Banuta Rubess directs. Wayne Strongman conducts. FASCINATING AS IT IS, the Metamorphosis Festival includes only a small part of the veritable panoply of opera, from warhorses to rarities, on offer in April. Indeed, the Canadian Opera Company links a warhorse with a rarity when it TOKONTO OrEIIBITA · WiE · presents Verdi's "II Trovatore" in repertory with Rossini's "Tancredi" for its spri . ng season from March 31-April 17. Verdi's 1853 work of sublime music written in service of a ludicrous plot was last seen at the COC in 1999. Hungarian soprano Eszter Sumegi, last seen here as Tosca in 2003, is Leonora. Mikhail Agafonov is Manrico, Robert Hyman is the Conte di Luna and Irina Mishura is Azucena', the gypsy who mistakenly threw the wrong baby into the fire. (Oh well, mistakes do happen.) Director Stephen Lawless will try to make sense of the story. "Tancredi" (1813) will become the first of Rossini's serious operas the COC has ever staged. It is based on a 1760 play by Voltaire, which in turn is based on an episode from Torquato Tasso's crusader epic "Gerusalemme Liberata" of 15,79. It is set in the citystate of Syracuse in the 1 lth century, a place both riven by civil war and under attack from the Saracens. Rivals Argirio (Michael Colvin) and Orbazzano (Robert Pomakov) have made peace, but Argirio has promised his daughter Amenaide (Nicoleta Ardelean) to the Moorish general Solamir. Unfortunately Amenaide has fallen in love with ndol1ers · • the exiled knight Tancredi (the wonderful Ewa Podles in·one of her signature roles).' Confusion and spectacular bel canto singing ensue. Dancemakers Artistic Director Serge Bennathan will direct the production imported from the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, designed in 2002 by the famed Italian artist Mimmo Paladino. Those with a taste for more bel canto need look no further than the Opera in Concert production of Donizetti 's "Maria Scuarda" (1835) to be presented at the Jane Mallett Theatre on April 3. Based on Schiller's play, the opera concerns the rivalry of Elizabeth I of England and Mary Stuart of Scotland. It stars Stephanie Piercey •. Julie Nesrallah, Eric Shaw and Peter McGillivray. Raisa Nakhmanovich is the music director and pianist. For those who love standard repertory, three more warhorses will be on parade in April. Opera Ontario presents Bizt's ''.Carmen" April 16-23 in Hamilton and April 29 in Kitchener starring Americans Jesse Raven as Carmen and Patrick Marques as Don Jose. Opera York presents a fully-staged production of Puccini's "La Boheme" starring Mirela Tafaj and Andrew Tees on April 1 and 3 at the Markham Theatre. And Royal Opera Canada has Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" on its schedule for performances April 23-30 at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga and May 5-14 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. As for new music, the group Arcady (www.arcady.ea) will present a mini-tour of Ronald Beckett's biblical music drama "Ruth" (1996) with Natasha Campbell as Ruth, Trevor Bowes as Boaz·, Lesley Bouza as Naomi and tenor Christopher Fischer as the Narrator. Performances are on April 8 at St. Gabriel's Church in Burlington, April 10 at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover and April 17 at the Alexandra Presbyterian Church in Brantford. A more recent Canadian opera also has a biblical theme (or at least allusion):, Tim Brady's "The Salome Dancer" playing April 27-28 at the King Street Theatre during the NUMUS festival ( in Kitchener. It stars Tamara Hummel as The Dancer and Terrence Mierau as The Preacher. Brady conducts his own group Bradyworks. On the lighter side, Toronto Operetta Theatre presents the final show of its 20th anniversary season with The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan from April 22-30 at the-Jane Mallett Theatre. (Note: Inez is a parody 6f Azucena in II Trovatore.) Meanwhile, the Scarborough Gilbert and Sullivan Society celebrates its 40th year with The Pirates. of Penzance playing April 15-24. To tally up, there are at least twelve fully-staged professional producrions of operas in the six weeks from April 1 to May 14, not to mention concert performances and non-professional productions. Not so long ago we in Toronto used feel lucky if there were twelve opera productions on offer in the entire year. That there can now be twelve in a mere six weeks demonstrates how much operatic activity has grown in Southern Ontario. So enjoy April, the de facto opera festival of the year! Conductor Derek Bate ; · Co-stage Directors Vlrgl. · t?eh &, G. Sliva-Marin Maaret Maye . . 29·and 30 at 8 pm '" ·· 7 at2 pm >T·HEATRE ' 800-708-6754 www?stlc.cofn APRIL 1 - MAY 7 2005

OPERA at Home En.fin, The Karajan/Domingo Trovatore THE MASTER TAPES of the definitive ll Trovatore video, a live television performance conducte,d by von Karajan at the Wi ener S1aa1soper, languished in the vaults of Austria's national broadcaster, ORF. for 26 years. This wasteful state of affairs ended in November 2004, when TDK/Naxos issued a lovingly remastered double­ DVD set of the Staalsoper Trovalore. To ensure that Trova/ore, one of the operas Karajan most cherished, was properly filmed for the small screen, he also directed the . staging. The result is a model of how to make an opera video. BY PHIL EHRENSAFT I'll take this statement further: it's a model of how to capture live performances tn general for the small screen. Karajan was 60 years old when he dire"cted the ORF Trova1ore. Four decades of his professional life in opera shine in every scene. This DVD belongs on the shelves of everyone who loves that strange and wonderful beast called opera. Most unexpectedly, this ORF Trovatore became a showcase for Placido Domingo. Karajan assembled a no-weak-link cast that could both meet Trovatore's stringent vocal demands and also have the looks that he considered appropriate for romantic opera. Granted, the good looks criterion is one risk of opera videos: distorting choices of who should appear on stage. (l 'll take Joan Sutherland over a pretty face any time.) But with Karajan, there's little risk of prettiness predominating over vocal talent. Raina Kabaivanska is an utterly touching Leonora, ditto for Fiorenza Cossotto's Azucena. Piero Cappuccilli is the Conte di Luna. Jose van Dam· embodies Ferrando. Back to Domingo: the chosen Manrico did not work out, and luck (ours) had it that Domingo was surprisingly available late in the game. He walked onstage for the two live S1aa1soper performances and unintentionally stole the show: Domingo counts among the opera singers who most successfully convey their art on film. His Manrico crowns an exceptional track record. Domingo's memorable Manrico underlines another risk inhereni in videos and recordings: the "winner take all" philosophy. Star basebill pitchers garnish mega-salaries that are high multiples of the average pitcher's compensation (though this lower compensation would hardly make common mortals weep). And CEOs who excite share values command daily compensation that matches your or my yearly take. So too in classical music, the argument can become "why buy a recording, or attend a performance, by the local orc.hestra or opera company when the same money buys a permanent product that receives triple stars and a rosette from the Penguin Guide?" The logical response is that the more live performances one attends. the more one can appreciate what makes a stellar recording stellar: the more our neural networks are entrained by live performances, the more..we can fill in the information missing from recordings. What's missing, above all, is the dramatic tension of watching performers test themselves in real ,time. There's no safety net for musical tightrope walkers. That can trump even the best recording. Well, how about the risk of the "One Best Recording" (as this Trovatore undoubtedly is) imprinting itself as The One Way of performing a work so that anything else can sound or.look "wrong." In the case of Trovatore, we may not see anything soon that equals the 1978 Staatsoper performance, not at the Met or any of the other great opera houses. So, the more Trovatore performances we attend, the more this video stays in the background as an ideal, helping us attend to the performan_ce at hand more attentively and critically. That's the game, and the prize. The prize in the TDK/Naxos video is rediscovering why Karajan correctly recognized Trovatore, often mistakenly demoted to oompah-pah status in our time as a ranking masterpiece within the entire operatic repertoire. True, the illogical turns of plot do invite a Victor Borge skit. The dramatic movement is located in the music itself: four aqs of successive arias and c.horuses of supreme 'intensity. Bruce Burroughs observes that Trovatore only works when singers are totally secure and at ease with Verdi's demanding longbreathed, high tessitura phrasing. Too many contemporary singers · are not. Von Karajan's chosen singers most definitely evidenced the necessary ease and security. . FooT OTE: The Inadvertently Audiophile Sony Walkman D-EJlOO Way back in the 20th century, a Stereophile review revealed the audiophile qualities of RadioShack's inexpensive Optimus CD3400 portable disk player. Production stopped shortly thereafter. Foolishly deciding not to buy the Dallas airport shop's last CD3400, by the time I landed in Montreal, avid Stereophile readers had picked the market dry. Now there's a 2lst century equivalent, Sony's D-EJlOO, a player produced in multiple colors for teenagers, into which some Chinese engineer inserted an audiophile transport mechanism and sound chip. After Slereophile 's December 2004 review, I decided not to hesitate, and landed the last EJ 100 at the third Walman. It was absolutely worth the trip! Now Sony, following RadioShack's puzzling precedent, has phased out the EJ 100 just as it acquired audiophile fame. Units are still in stock at, etc. Grab one fast. Viva l'Opera! Montreal and Quebec City, May 18 to 23, 2005· The Tales of Hoffman at the Opera de Quebec Carmen at the Opera de Montreal First-class train service Montreal/Quebec City Music Extravaganza in Montreal Montreal, May 24 to 29, 2005 Beethoven's Ninth Symphony by the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal Carmen at the Opera de Montreal Works by Mozart and Haydn by the Arion Ensemble With fine dining, visits to museum and arts gallery, accommodations at The Chateau Frontenac (Quebec City) and The Queen Elizabeth (Montreal), and much more. · Inclusive tours are also available for the Montreal International jazz Festival and the Festival international de Lanaudiere. For more details, please consull our website at: S, Nf· ,, T ounsme culture! or call us toll·free at: 1 888 569-4040 APRIL 1 - MAY 7 2005 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM 35

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