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Volume 17 Issue 4 - December 2011

  • Text
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • December
  • February
  • Theatre
  • January
  • Symphony
  • Choir
  • Musical
  • Arts

The Newly Visionedand

The Newly Visionedand the Seldom SeenC H R I S T O P H E R H O I L EIn toronto’s opera scene, the last month of the old year and theis the Toronto premiere of a work that is standard repertoire inmany central European countries, an unconventional production of awarhorse and an unconventional production of a seldom seen work.Back by popular demand: Against the Grain Theatre remountsits acclaimed production of Puccini’s La Bohème not in a theatrebut in a pub, the Tranzac Club at 292 Brunswick Ave. to be precise,December 1 to 3. The opera is directed, adapted and translated intoEnglish by AtG co-founder Joel Ivany, a frequent assistant directorof productions for the Canadian Opera Company.Inspired by the success of the musical Rent, in which the lateJonathan Larson updated the story of Puccini’s opera to the artisticcommunity of 1990s New York, Ivany and company thought, “Whynot set the opera itself in the bohemian atmosphere of contemporaryToronto?” The Tranzac Club, a favourite of indie musicians,home to several arts groups and central meeting place during theToronto Fringe Festival, seemed like the perfect location. There’sno proscenium to separate the audience from the performers; in fact,the soloists are scattered among the patrons during the performance.AtG follows in the success of pub opera performances in the UK. In2011, OperaUpClose won the Olivier Award for Best New OperaProduction over productions from the Royal Opera House and theEnglish National Opera.On his blog, Ivany heaps praise on the cast he has assembled:“We’ve got a fabulous cast lined up. Miriam Khalil, as Mimi, isa young soprano who recently made her debut at GlyndebourneFestival Opera in the UK. Our Rodolfo, Ryan Harper, is a formermember of the Atelier Lyrique program at Opéra de Montréal andour Marcello, Justin Welsh, is a former member of the EnsembleStudio at the Canadian Opera Company. Our cast is rounded out bycabaret singer Lindsay Sutherland Boal as Musetta, current COCEnsemble member Neil Craighead as Colline, baritone Keith Lam asSchaunard and Gregory Finney as Benoît/Alcindoro.”Christopher Mokrzewski, the pianist and music director, has beenon the music staff for both the COC and Opera Atelier, for the latteras coach and répétiteur for La Clemenza di Tito. This season he willbe giving a solo recital of Liszt and Messiaen as well as serving asaccompanist for both classical and jazz vocal recitals.For tickets and more information about Against the Grain, visitwww.againstthegraintheatre.com.Seldom seen: The programming slot after Christmas to justby productions from Toronto Operetta Theatre. This year fromproduction of The Gypsy Princess (Die Csárdásfürstin) by ImreKálmán (1882–1953). While theTOT has presentedKálmán’sCountess Maritza(1924) twiceand even therarity GypsyViolins (1912)once, it hasnever staged theCsárdásfürstin(1915), whichbrought Kálmánhis greatest success.AccordingAgainst the Grain’s bohemians (June 2011):From left, Justin Welsh, Adam Luther, GregoryFinney, Keith Lam, Stephen Hegedus.to the data gathered by Operabase, in the last three years therewere 39 productions of Csárdásfürstin, 12 of them new, in 29 cites,in 11 countries including not just Germany, Austria, Switzerlandand Hungary — that one might expect — but also Bulgaria, Estonia,France, Macedonia, Norway, Poland and Slovakia.The plot about an aristocratic family’s distress that their youngheir is in love with a cabaret singer plays out much like a story byP.G. Wodehouse. The TOT production will feature Lara Ciekiewiczas the glamorous Sylvia Varescu, Elizabeth Beeler as Countess Stasi,Keith Klassen as Prince Edwin in love with Sylvia and Ian Simpson26 thewholenote.comDecember 1 – February 7, 2012

“Herculesand theHydra” byAntonioPollaiuiolo.Inset, hisnemesis,Dejanira,played byAllysonMcHardy.The plot concerns the circumstances of Hercules’ death. WhenHercules returns to his wife Dejanira after his 12 labours, he bringsthe captive Iole in tow. This arouses Dejanira’s jealousy and sheseeks to retain Hercules’ love through a tunic imbued with the bloodof Hercules’ enemy, the centaur Nessus, which supposedly can renderthe wearer faithful to the giver. In fact, the garment is Nessus’revenge on his opponent since it causes unendurable pain that leadsHercules to ask his son to set him upon a funeral pyre.For Tafelmusik, Sumner Thompson will sing the role of Hercules,Allyson McHardy will be Dejanira, with Nathalie Paulin as Iole,Colin Blazer as Hercules’ son Hyllus and Mireille Lebel as theherald Lichas. Jeanne Lamon will conduct. For tickets and moreinformation, visit www.tafelmusik.org.Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre.He can be contacted at opera@thewholenote.com.NIKOLA NOVAKas Count Boni in love with Stasi. DerekBate will conduct the TOT Orchestra andGuillermo Silva-Marin will direct. Theproduction premieres under the honourarypatronage of Hungarian ambassador HisExcellency László Pordány. For tickets visitwww.stlc.com.Handel’s Hercules: From January 19 to22, 2012, Tafelmusik will celebrate the30th anniversary of the Tafelmusik BaroqueChoir with a “staged concert” version ofGeorg Frideric Handel’s Hercules. The piecewill be staged by none other than Marshall Pynkoski, stage directorfor Opera Atelier. When I asked Pynkoski back in September whata “staged concert” would be, he answered that a lot would dependon what was and was not possible in Koerner Hall. What we couldbe sure of is that the soloists would be off book and interact ascharacters and that the Opera Atelier corps de ballet would beinvolved in the dances.The question of Hercules’ genre has existed since the workpremiered in 1745. Handel called it a “Musical Drama” and indeedits English-language libretto by Thomas Broughton is based onSophocles’ tragedy The Women of Trachisperformed in a theatre, not a church, but as an oratorio without anystage action. Modern critics have since suggested that this confusionof genre led to its later neglect. Handel had the same experiencewith Semelesince oratorios were supposed to take biblical stories as their subjectmatter, it was also rejected by the public and suffered similar obscurityuntil the 20th century. Now Semele has been fully embracedas an opera and will conclude the COC’s 2011–12 season.TOSCAPUCCINIJan. 21 – Feb. 25, 2012Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESGIVE THEGIFT OFOPERA!coc.ca 416-363-8231Presenting Sponsorof SURTITLESOfficial AutomotiveSponsorOfficial MediaSponsorsTosca RadioSponsorBroadcastSponsorEszter Sümegi and Alan Opie. Photo: Gary Beechey. Creative: EndeavourDecember 1 – February 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 27

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