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Volume 20 Issue 1 - September 2014

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  • September
  • October
  • Toronto
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music specialist Michael

music specialist Michael Hofstetter will conduct. The opera runsfrom January 24 to February 21.Goerke in Walküre: Running in repertory with the Mozartis a return of Atom Egoyan’s production of Wagner’s DieWalküre, first seen on its own in 2004 and last seen as part of thefull Der Ring des Nibelungen in 2006. The cast is full of singersmaking their COC debuts, most notably renowned sopranoChristine Goerke making her role debut as Brünnhilde. Alsoappearing with the COC for the first time are Heidi Melton asSieglinde, Johan Reuter as Wotan, Dmitry Ivaschenko as Hundingand Janina Baechle as Fricka. Clifton Forbis returns in the roleof Siegmund and Johannes Debus conducts. The opera runsfrom January 31 to February 22.Hopkins in Barber: The spring season opens with a newproduction of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, last seen here in2008. This is a co-production with Houston Grand Opera, OpéraNational de Bordeaux and Opera Australia. The stage director isthe Catalonian Joan Font and the production is credited to a groupcalled Els Comediants. If these names seem familiar it is because theywere responsible for the colourful rat-filled production of Rossini’s LaCenerentola seen here in 2011. Again there will be many performersnew to the COC, such as Joshua Hopkins as Figaro, Alek Shrader asAlmaviva and Serena Malfi and Cecelia Hall alternating as Rosina.Rory Macdonald conducts and the production runs April 17 to May 22.Relyea in Lepage revival: Running in repertory with the Rossini isthe third revival of Robert Lepage’s double bill of Bartók’s Bluebeard’sCastle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung. The surreal pairing was firstseen in 1993 and last in 2002. The production marked the first timethe COC was invited to the Edinburgh Festival and later to BAM inNew York. The production, like François Girard’s Oedipus Rex in1997, came from a time when theCOC created Canadian productionsthat the rest of the world demandedto see rather than from simplypartnering with well-knowncompanies and seeing the resultsafter the bigger companies hadstaged them.For this revival, John Relyeaand Ekaterina Gubanova will singBluebeard and Judith in the Bartókwhile Krisztina Szabó will take onthe role of the anonymous Womanin Erwartung. Johannes Debus willconduct and the double bill will runfrom May 6 to 23.Atelier Breaks New Ground:While last season both productionsby Opera Atelier wererevivals, this season both not onlyare new but break new groundfor the company. Running fromOctober 23 to November 1 is OA’sfirst-ever production of a full-lengthHandel opera, in this case his Alcina of 1735. The story, from TorquatoTasso’s baroque epic Gerusalemme Liberata (1581), concerns theCirce-like sorceress Alcina who lives in a magical world composedof the souls of her past lovers. The question is whether the Christianknight Ruggiero can resist her enchantments to set these souls free.The cast is made up of singers familiar from previous OA productions.Meghan Lindsay, who sang Agathe in OA’s Der Freischütz,returns to sing Alcina, Allyson McHardy sings the trousers role ofRuggiero, and Wallis Giunta is Ruggiero’s beloved Bradamante. Theyare joined by Mireille Asselin (Morgana), Krešimir Špicer (Oronte) andOlivier Laquerre (Melisso).OA’s spring production is Hector Berlioz’s 1859 version ofGluck’s Orpheus et Eurydice. Berlioz drew from both of Gluck’searlier French and Italian versions of the opera to recast it in his ownorchestration, scoring the role of Orpheus for a contralto. MireilleA scene from the historic New York ProMusica production of The Play of Daniel in1958 at the Cloisters in New York CityA scene from the 2008 Toronto Operetta Theatreproduction of Earnest, The Importance of BeingLebel will sing Orpheus, OA favourite Peggy Kriha Dye returns asEurydice and Meghan Lindsay will sing Amour. The production issignificant both for Opera Atelier and for Tafelmusik since it willmark their furthest incursion to date into the 19th century. The operaruns April 9 to 18. As usual MarshallPynkoski will be the director forboth productions and JeannetteLajeunnesse Zingg will choreographthe artists of the Atelier Ballet.TOT In Earnest: For additionalfully-staged productionsTorontonians have only toturn to Toronto OperettaTheatre. Its season beginswith the zarzuela La GranVía (1886) by FedericoChueca on November 2.The work is a celebration ofthe old neighbourhoods ofKevin Skeltonplays DanielMadrid that were about to be destroyed by the Haussmannlikecreation of a boulevard in the city. The TOT’s endof-yearshow is a return of Gilbert and Sullivan’s TheMikado running from December 27, 2014, to January 4,2015. The season concludes in April with a revival of theTOT-commissioned operetta Earnest, The Importance ofBeing (2008) by Victor Davies and Eugene Benson, basedon the famous comedy by Oscar Wilde. This will be a rareoccasion where a new Canadian work receives a revivalafter only seven years.Centuries apart: Enriching the season are two fullystagedproductions of music theatre from completelyopposite ends of the time spectrum. The TorontoConsort has performed many operas in concert butfrom May 22 to 24 it will mount a fully-staged production ofThe Play of Daniel, an English version of Ludus Danielis, asung medieval play from the 13th century that tells the biblical story ofDaniel in the lions’ den. Kevin Skelton will sing the role of Daniel withmusical direction by David Fallis and stage direction by Alex Fallis.In contrast to this, Soundstreams will offer the Toronto premiereof The Whisper Opera (2013) by American composer David Langfrom February 26 to March 1. The opera explores the tension betweenour private and online selves by using a libretto made up of searchengineresponses to questions of association. Soprano Tony Arnoldand New York’s International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) maketheir Canadian debuts in an opera so quiet that it can be experiencedby just 60 people at a time.Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera andtheatre. He can be contacted at opera@thewholenote.com.34 | September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

Beat by Beat | In the Clubs (I)“Hopera” RaisesThe Operatic Bar?BY MIRELLA AMATOWhen I first launched“Hopera: an evening oflocal craft beer and song,”people assumed that this was anattempt on my part to elevate beerand make it seem more upscaleby pairing it with an art form asgrand as opera. This was not thecase at all.As a beer specialist, I don’t feelthat this satiating, complex, effervescentbeverage needs any kindof elevation – just a little moreunderstanding. People who stillthink beer is just an easy-drinkingvehicle to loutishness need toexpand their horizons. If anything,opera could stand to be taken downa notch or two. Having made acareer switch from opera singer to Mirella Amatobeer educator, it never ceases toamaze me how many parallels can be drawn between these two seeminglyincongruous fields. Like beer, opera has developed a reputationthat isn’t doing it any favours; among the uninitiated, many think ofthis art form as opulent, humourless and snobbish.“Hopera” playfully defies these misconceptions by attempting tohighlight the sheer enjoyment that can be found in both opera andbeer. It consists of a series of operatic excerpts – arias, duets andensembles – performed live by professional opera singers with pianoaccompaniment. Each piece is enjoyed with a sample of beer chosenbecause its particular character – colour, aroma, flavour and mouthfeel– reflects the mood of the song. Insights are given on the music,beer sample and how the pairing was chosen, inviting a rethinking ofboth the excerpt and the beverage - all this in a casual pub setting.Make no mistake, seeing an elaborate operatic production in alarge house is a wonderful experience. Opera – from its earliest daysas royal entertainment – has always been a lavish art form. It stimulatesthe senses visually with its sets, costumes and light design, andaurally with the orchestra and singers who have trained for years inorder to produce a sound that can fill a hall. It also stimulates thebrain, which has to keep track of both the action and the text. Beyondthis, opera is so involved that its study will reveal endless additionalhistorical, musical and linguistic nuances to those who take the timeto learn about it.Along the way though, perhaps because those who enjoy it liketo study it and capture its subtleties, the appreciation of opera, andclassical music in general, has also come to include a layer of solemnity.I’ve often observed that while opera patrons in North Americawill certainly laugh at a joke that is part of the libretto, few, ifany, will allow themselves to giggle openly at absurd plot turns orirrational behaviour – both of which are rife in the operatic repertoire.Somehow audiences have become so engrossed in contemplation thatthe atmosphere is closer to that of a mass than it is to that of a show.Lately, though, a number of organizations have started to moveopera and classical music into a more casual setting. This is often anattempt to draw in a new audience and appeal to a younger crowd.It certainly is an effective tactic; the change in setting already makesthe performance seem less highbrow. Presenting classical music andopera in licensed establishments also loosens things up, frequentlyresulting in a more vocally appreciative crowd. Beyond this, being incloser quarters with musicians allows a dialogue to take place, givingthe show a warmer, more personal feel.I was aware of all this when I created “Hopera”; I was equallyexcited to introduce beer fans to the wonderful world of opera andshow them that it’s not all inscrutable serious song. What I hadn’tanticipated was the response of the seasoned opera fans in the group.I will never forget the crowd’s reaction to the very first song of thefirst edition of “Hopera.” It was a performance of “The Barcarolle”from The Tales of Hoffman – a light, lilting duet (complemented by aBelgian-style wheatbeer in which orangepeel and corianderseeds came togetherin their own delicateand fragrant duo.)Every person in theroom froze; never inmy seven-year careerin beer have I hadto remind people todrink what was intheir hand! In thatmoment, I realizedthat even the mostexperienced operagoersin the crowdhad not yet had theopportunity to hearopera sung in suchan intimate setting.When you stripopera down to voice and piano, with no sets or costumes, all that’s leftis words set to music. In this bare state, the raw emotion of the pieceshines. Opera, after all, was written for entertainment. Those whohave studied opera intently know how impactful the correct wordsettingcan be, conveying deep feeling that, when sung out loud, isprofoundly – often overwhelmingly – moving. Presenting opera inits simplest form, along with a brief contextualization and explanationof the text, allows beginners to focus on the music without overwhelmingtheir other senses.The initially stunned reaction to “Hopera” quickly turned toenthusiasm. There was a little grumbling off the top from some of themore serious operagoers who found the ambient noise to be inappropriate,but after a sip or two the whole crowd relaxed into the show.Even seasoned audience members reported being overwhelmed bythe proximity – they could literally feel the operatic voices vibratingin their chest in certain passages. It was an intimate and emotionalexperience but most importantly, it was fun! Written testimonialsfrom the crowd revealed that many had come in with some skepticismat the notion that “low brow” beer and “high class” operacould be paired successfully. At the end of the evening, no one feltthat either had been elevated or brought down. They simply enjoyed.With both tasty local beer and vibrant live opera involved, how couldthey not?!The third annual “Hopera” takes place September 17 and 18 at 7pmat Habits Gastropub, 928 College Street. See GTA Listings for details.Beat by Beat | In the ClubsBut WAIT!There’s Much Much More.Ori Dagan’s “In The Clubs (II)” is on page 52Jennifer Robertsthewholenote.com September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014 | 35

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