7 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 7 - April 2006

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the audience to view

the audience to view technical facets of making an opera, including lighting, and costumes. Two other programs aimed at elementary age students are OperaLa.nd Express Trunk and Opera Out Classed. The Trunk travels to classrooms as a mini-dress rehearsal , In Opera Out Classsed opera singers, technicians, makeup artists and other production staff travel to the classroom and demystify their craft Opera York provides a bilingual program for elementary and secondary schools located north of Steeles in York Region, including a visit to one of three theatres in Vaughan, Markham or Newmarket for a live, operatic concert. Teachers receive a curriculum based learning guide with companion CD of "Great Canadian Opera Performances" for use as a pre and post concert classroom component. The Canadian Children's Opera Chorus/ Youth Opera Chorus (ages 5-20) offers training and performance opportunities, both in their own productions of commissioned operas for young voices through to opportunities in collaboration with with the COC, Opera Atelier, U of T Faculty of Music Opera Division, and the COC Ensemble Studio. TrypTych offers educational opportunities for young professional and non-professional singer/actors. Workshops include master classes by some of Canada's finest stage directors, conductors, acting coaches, and dance instructors. The winter opera workshop features a fully staged opera .. Tryptych produces contemporary operatic works which are relevant and inspire interest in a younger audience. Toronto Operetta Theatre promotes "the advancement of musical education in Canada including, but not limited to the production, presentation and promotion of operetta and light opera; the encouragement and promotion of Canadian musical artists ... " and has a 21 year history in the community. Opera in Concert has promoted the careers of numerous Canadian singers. The Opera in Concert Chorus is a major choral ensemble in Ontario. OIC has been enriching the opera season since 1974, covering a stylistic gamut of rarely performed operatic repertoire ranging from Rameau's to Samuel Barber. They present four operas per season. Before each opera performance, background information about the opera and composer is presented by Iain Scott. Toronto Opera Repertoire is a communitybased organization that gives trained singers opportunities to perform major roles in the standard repertoire, and encourages bathroom divas" to join the chorus in fully staged, professionally costumed performances of some of the world's greatest operas. This venerable organization, will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year. So what makes opera "accessible"? Is it affordable opera? Opera in English? Opera with surtitles and pre-show chats? Is it melodic, familiar music in Italian, German or French? How much does content matter? To what extent will future audiences demand contemporary work? How do aspiring composers, librettists, directors and conductors fit into the picture? What works with children and young people? The answers to these fundamental questions should have far-reaching effects on how funding is allocated and budgets are made, and how we secure the future of opera I lyric theatre. Some kind of collaborative advocacy - sharing information and resources - is a challenge to which the opera community should be prepared to rise, as a new day dawns. • MISTER' S MASTERING HOUSE DIGITAL EDITING • CD MASTERING Michael J. Ierullo Concert Tuner I Technician - OPEN REEL 8: CASSETTE TRANSFERS· CONTACT: 96/24 CAPABILITY KARL MACHAT 416 503 3060 OR 647 227 KARL MISTERS.MASTERS@SYMPATICO.CA Cheeses from around the world, meats, groceries, dry goods gift baskets ... Everything you need for reception planning. 416-364-7397 ~--~~~"-'!11!!!11!111!1 16 Goodrich Rd., Etobicoke (south of Bloor, west off Islington) WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM Sales - Service - Tuning - Restoration Serving Toronto's Major Concert & Jazz Venues Tel: 416-889-8667 I Fax: 866-711-3165 I E-mail: HOLD YOUR NEXT RECITAL 11111111 bcliconian ball A beautiful restored Carpenter's Gothic board and batten church building in the heart of Yorkville can be rented at reasonable rates for musical events. Steinway Grand piano included. A high, vaulted ceiling provides excellent concert-hall acoustics. Capacity up to 120. Tel: 416-922-3618 Fax: 416-922-2431

y Phil Ehrensaft THE Audio and THE Video Norma Sherlock Holmes so admired one of the only protagonists that outsmarted him, the actress Irene Adler, that he thenceforth toasted her as THE woman. Two landmark performances of Norma, one of the most demanding soprano roles in the history of opera, deserve appellations as THE audio and video Normas respectively: Maria Callas in a 1954 La Scala studio recording, conducted by Tullio Serafin; and Montserrat Caballe, playing opposite John Vickers in full prime, filmed live in 1974 at le Theatre antique d'Orange. The Theatre antique Norma not only sets the gold standard for this particular opera, it is one of the best opera videos ever filmed, period. And that's despite just adequate mono sound and images that are rather soft. It was originally filmed for French television, and then issued by V AI first in VHS and then DVD. For a first experience of Norma at home, this V AI video is the place to start. The next step is the 1954 Callas Norma on disc. Norma had much to do with Callas' rise to international divahood. Symbiotically, Callas had much to do with Norma becoming one of the most performed Bel Canto works in today's international opera repertoire, and with the Bel Canto revival as well . A young Callas' tour de force Norma at the Colon theatre in Buenos Aires in 1949 was a key step in her becoming "La Divina. " By 1952, she was THE Norma at La Scala and Covent Garden. By 1956, she was Norma at the Met. Within Italy, Norma achieved permanent status as a core work in great opera houses after a peculiarly tepid initial reception at its premier on December 26, 1831. In the rest of continental Europe, Norma mostly fell off the map. The way that Norma was performed in Italy, however, changed dramatically. Quite literally. The even, limpid dynamics and masterfully controlled breathing of Bel Canto style was replaced by the strong punctuated dynamics of first, mid-19th Romanticism in full bloom, and then opera verissimo. The persistent, timeless attraction of Norma is evident from the first scene of the first act. An unremarkable early romantic play by Alexandre Soumet is transformed into a remarkable musical drama. A synopsis of the plot, with its conflict between indigenous Celtic Druids and Roman occupiers in ancient Gaul, would provide ample material for a Victor Borge satire. But the young Vincenzo Bellini and his exceptionally talented librettist, Felice Romani give us eternal emotional truths of characters that like all people, are made of both clay and ' gold: truths delivered with an exceptionally intimate coordination of words and splendid, vocally demanding music. As long as fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, there will be forbidden love across chasms like these. Machiavellian elements? Nope. Characters fall in love in spite of themselves, with no harm intended to others, but end up causing great suffering. In the two countries whose tastes leaned most heavily towards Italian opera, the U.K. and the U.S., Nomza also entered the core repertoire. Rosa Ponselle and Lotte Lenya pioneered a return to the Bel Canto Norma at Covent Garden and the Met, but these were exceptions that proved the verissimo rule. The post-1949 Callas explosion entirely transformed the predominant manner of performing Norma as well as other Bel Canto period operas. Callas took her Norma right into the high temple of Italian opera, and took La Scala by storm. Continental Europe followed suit. Until very recently, the gold standard recording of Callas' Nomza was EMI's 1997 digital remastering of the 1954 Columbia/ Angel mono LP - unless you are lucky enough to have a vinyl version that's in good shape. Callas is in full prime. The same cannot be said of her 1960 stereo recording of Norma. Besides Callas and Serafin, the 1954 featured Mario Filippeschi as Pallone, Eber Stignani as Adalgisa, and the Coro del Teatro all Scala in a work where the chorus is an essential character. At a later point, EMI also issued a 1952 live recording of Callas' Norma at Covent Garden. There's a trade-off here between prime singing and iffy sound quality. Given Europe's 50 year limit on sound recording copyrights, there's now a Callas restoration competition between EMI and Naxos. It's a win-win situation for the public. EMI has possession of the original 1954 master tapes and used new technology to improve upon the already fine 1997 restoration. New restorations are available in both EMI's Great Recordings of the Century and also the EMI Historical Classics series. In contrast, Naxos must work from LPs in prime condition. But they also have a secret weapon in the form of Mark Obert-Thom, an eminent restoration engineer. Obert-Thom usually works with 78s or cylinders, so LPs are rather a walk in the park. His restoration of the 1954 Nornza is also supplemented by 37 minutes of selected Norma arias dating from 1927-37 recordings, remastered by the grand wizard of opera restoration, Wade Marston. Both the new EMI and the Naxos remastered 1954 Norma can be found at eminently reasonable prices. Take your pick and win either way. Moving up to the DVD era, the Theatre antique d'Orange itself is a star in the Caballe/ Vickers Norma . The theatre, located 100 km north of Marseilles, was constructed two millennia ago and is one of the great surviving architectural and acoustic marvels of the Roman Empire. It fell into disuse with the final decline of the Empire at the end of the fourth century C.E., and was then restored and revived as an active theatre during the latter nineteenth century. It is a semi-circular amphitheatre whose stage is backed by a 4- storey, 103 metre wide stone wall. Surrounding hills resonate sound back into the amphitheatre. At the time of the Empire, 10,000 people filled the radiating stone benches. Filming Norma during the theatre's 1974 summer festival resulted in costumes flowing in the wind of Provence's mistral, just the ticket for adding character to an opera about Druids. It also added a persistent hiss in the microphones. This performance was so successful and precedent-setting, however, that other opera houses set up wind machines to reproduce the hissing! Caballe emerged, by the early 1970's, as the very worthy successor to Callas as the dominant performer of Norma. The Spanish soprano was, and still is, famous for her systematic daily breathing workouts that have much to do with her mastery of the devilishly demanding Norma role. And also her vocal longevity: in contrast to Callas' decade of glory before marked vocal decline set in, she's still onstage at the age of 73. Live filming as opposed to a studio production was the optimal way to catch Caballe, who is markedly inspired by her audiences. The people on the stone benches at Orange's ancient Roman theatre knew that opera history was being made that evening. Caballe and Vickers knew that they were making opera history. The crowd goes visibly wild after each scene. IfI had access to H.G. Wells' time machine, the evening of July 20, 1974, at le Theatre antique d'Orange would most definitely be a first stop. APRIL 1 - M AY 7 2006 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE. COM 65

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