ON OPERA by Christopher Haile Canadians old & new This May is a good time to sample Canadian operas new and old. Premieres by Glenn Buhr, Dean Burry and James Rolfe are on offer as well as a revival of a rare piece by Harry Somers. One of the most eagerly awaited premieres is that of The Hobbit by Dean Burry to be performed by the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus. How the CCOC came to get the rights to one of the hottest properties in fantasy literature is detailed in the cover story of the Spring 2004 issue of Opera Canada. What won over the trustees of the Tolkien Foundation to the CCOC's request was that The Hobbit would not be a musical but a children's opera. In this prequel to The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins set out with a troop of dwarves to recapture treasure stolen from them and guarded by the dragon Smaug. The through-composed 75- minute work is accompanied by an ensemble of cello, violin, piano and percussion. CCOC Artistic Direc-· tor Ann Cooper Gay says that Burry has tried to establish what might be called an "elvish folk idiom" for the opera with hints of Celtic music. Burry has used actual song texts from Tolkien that become the basis for the work's big choral numbers. The production, the most expensive the ccoc has ever undertaken, will feature over 80 children as hobbits, dwarves, elves and goblins and one adult, wellknown baritone John Fanning, in the dual role of Gandalf and Smaug. Duncan Mcintosh directs and Ann Cooper Gay conducts. The Hobbit plays at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre May 15-16 at2:00 and 7:30. For tickets, phone 416-973- 4000. James Rolfe, composer of the highly acclaimed Beatrice Chancey, will have his second premiere of the year with Orpheus and Eurydice, presented by a brand new music· group, Toronto Masque Theatre. TMT Artistic Director Larry Beckwith says he has long been interested in the masque, "that fascinating multimedia art form that combines music, theatre and dance." The English masque reached ·its height in the early 17th century with the work of Shakespeare's contemporary Ben Jonson and designer Inigo Jones. It was preceded in Italy by the intermezzo and trionfo and followed by Purcell's so-called "semi-operas" like King Arthur and works labelled "dramatic masques" like Handel's Acis and Galatea. For its debut, TMT will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of Marc-Antoine Charpentier by presenting La Descente d'Orphee aux Enfers (c. 1687). To demonstrate its commitment to commissioning new masque-like works, the Charpentier will be paired with James Rolfe's new work written to a libretto by Andre Alexis that picks up the story at just the point where the Charpentier ends. Both works willfulfill Beckwith' s goal of creating an "intimate performing envlfonment" for the meeting of many art forms. Beckwith calls Rolfe's new work a "gorgeous musing on the nature of life, death and love". The double bill features Monica Whicher as Eurydice, Colin Ainsworth as Orphee, Paul Grindlay as Apollo and Pluto, two dancers including choreographer Edgar Tumak, accompanied by the early music ensemble Les Voix Humaines. Performances takes place at the Jane Mallett Theatre on May :U Toronto Masque Theatre: l to r. singers Teri Dunn, Peter Mahon. r: Brian McMillan and Colin Ainsworth react to Larry Beckwith 's · ; · description of the costumes & staging. 13 and 14 at 8pm. For tickets of the University of Guelph on May phone 416-366-7723 or order on- 1 at 8pm. For tickets phone 519- line at www.stlc.com. 763-3000 or 1-877-520-2408. To hear Glenn Buhr's comic op- SoundStreams, Dance Theatre era Flux, one has to travel to the David Earle and the Pierrot En Guelph Spring Festival, where the semble present the revival of two piece will be presented in concert works by Harry Somers that have conducted by Buhr and narrated by not been seen since their premieres librettist Margaret Sweatman. The more than 25 years ago. The douplot focusses on the hero Annath- ble bill consists of the opera The ema (characterized as "Lucille Ball Death of Enkidu (1977) and the meets Joan of Arc") who must save "mime" The Merman of Orford medieval Scotland from the Eng- (1978), the first based on the Bablish "gaggers", led by her cousin ylonian epic Gilgamesh, the sec King Edward the Blond. The so- ond on a medieval tale about a loists include Jennifer Villaverde, strange man caught in the nets of Robert Longo, Melanie Whyte, Reid local fishermen. Performances take Spencer and Brandon Leis, accom- place at the Jane Mallett Theatre parried by the Canadian Chamber May 26-29 at 7:30. Phone 416- Ensemble. The single performance 366-7723 or book online at takes place at the War Memorial Hall www.stlc.com. Scarborough Choral Society presents Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute 2450 Birchmount Rd., Scarborough Fri., May 14, 8 pm Sat. May 15, 2:30 and 8 pm Sun., May 16, 2 pm
Music THEATRE SpoTUGHT Bring on the chorus! I n this month's issue, with its focus on choirs, it's interesting to reflect that there's very little difference from the performing point of view between singing in a choir and playing a chorus part in a music theatre production. Yes, the chorus member may move around more, probably wears a fancier outfit, and certainly is expected to go on without sheet music, but the considerations of blend, dynamics and complementing the work of the soloist are identical. by Sarah B. Hood One company that's especially aware of this is the Alexander Singers and Players. Formed 16 years ago under the direction of Angela Hawaleshka, the choir soon began to present excerptS from the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, quickly graduating to full-scale productions. Now, besides performing an annual roster of concerts -often costumed performances of selections from musicals and operettas - the Alexandra Singers present one complete production each year. In a departure from the norm, this year's offering isn't a G&S piece; it's Frank Loesser's Most Happy Fella, running from May 15 to f3 at the Leah Posluns Theatre. (The company always donates a portion of ticket sales to charity; past pro~ ductions have benefited The Arthritis Society, The Cabbagetown Fair and the Marie Curie Scorbaska Association.) I Every once in a while, a music theatre production actually brings a whole choir onstage. A case in point: Jumblies Theatre's upcoming Once A Shoreline, inspired by the prehistoric lake whose shore once traced the line that is now Davenport Road. A community P.roduction by Ruth Howard, it boasts an original electro-acoustic score by esteemed composer Wende Bartley and features the combined voices of the Viva! Youth Singers and the Davenport Perth CONTINUES NEXT PAGE AUDITIONS ON FRIDAY, JUNE 4, 2004 F To· .. oRONTO PERA REPERTOIRE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR GIUSEPPE MACINA ~-l· The Canadian Childr~~' ~ Opera Chorus ~·· · Ann Cooper Gay, Artzstl.c Dtrec~qr .. MAY 1 - jUNE 7 2004
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