Recent Opera Reviews

Opera Review – Canadian Opera Company/Verdi’s Otello

It is starting to get embarrassing. At best I sound like the
president of the Johannes Debus fan club, at worst like a stalking groupie, but
once again I’m in the thrall of his conducting prowess. The maestro’s musical
direction of Verdi’s Otello is simply
magnificent.

Otello (1887)is Verdi’s penultimate opera, and
arguably his greatest. Verdi, and his brilliant librettist Arrigo Boito, have
crafted a masterful rendering of Shakespeare’s tragic tale, distilling the play’s
events down to their stark basics. As a result, the text is a taut –Read More

Opera Review – Canadian Opera Company/La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini

Photo by Michael Cooper

This COC production of La
Bohème
first saw the light of day in 2013. 
While original stage director John Caird’s vision has its problems,
musically, both the singing and conducting in this revival are glorious.
Puccini operas need the big voices that produce goosebumps, and there are
several of note in this production. Italian maestro Paolo Carignani, to whom
Puccini must be mother’s milk, pulled out every dramatic nuance in the score to
give us a most passionate of readings.

While it was announced that –Read More

Opera Review – The Glenn Gould School Opera/The Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart

Photo: Nicola Betts

There are student performances, and then there are student
performances. At the Glenn Gould School, the students are mostly in their
twenties and are on a career track. One expects both the singers and the
orchestra to be at near professional level, and musically, the performance of
Mozart’s The Magic Flute did not
disappoint. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

One of the main impacts of these professional training
program performances is to introduce the young artists to watch, and the most
accomplished singer of the –Read More

Opera Review: Canadian Opera Company, Eugene Onegin

Photo by Michael Cooper

Review – Canadian Opera Company, Eugene Onegin by P.I. Tchaikovsky, conducted by Johannes Debus, directed by Robert Carsen, designed by Michael Levine, Four Seasons Centre, Sept. 30 to Nov. 3, 2018.

I actually saw this production when it debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1997, and I thought it was brilliant – a magical blend of focused minimalism and exquisite visual details. If memory serves me right, and it was 21 years ago, I was –Read More

Opera Review – Canadian Opera Company/Rossini’s Maometto II

For bel canto fanatics, (among which number I count myself), the COC production of Rossini’s Maometto II (1820) will be nirvana. For others, the composer’s florid musical style, expressed through non-stop ornamentation, will seem like coloratura torture, and, not surprisingly, there were a significant number of early departures who did not come back after the intermission. Tant pis to them.

Rossini wrote far more opera seria than he did opera buffa, although it is the latter for which he is –Read More

Opera Review – Canadian Opera Company/Bizet’s Carmen

Brilliant conducting by Italian maestro Paolo Carignani, coupled with the sensational singing of French mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine as Carmen, and the passionate delivery of Canadian tenor David Pomeroy as Don José, make the COC’s production of Bizet’s warhorse worth the price of admission.

All, however, is not perfect.

Bizet’s Carmen can be a two-edged sword. Yes, the richly expressive music certainly tells you all you have to know about the story and the characters, but on the other hand, weak staging –Read More

Opera Review – Opera Atelier/Lully’s Armide

This season, the remarkable Opera Atelier is celebrating its 30th anniversary. During these three decades, the company has continued to educate the audience in the delicacies of baroque opera. In other words, for long-time fans of the company, the concept of 17th  and 18th  century performance practices seems completely natural, as opposed to the aesthetic being an exotic rarity.

But there is an inherent underlying challenge for director Marshall Pynkoski and choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg. How do they avoid –Read More

Operetta Review – Toronto Operetta Theatre/EARNEST, The Importance of Being

Toronto Operetta Theatre took a big leap of faith in 2008 by mounting the world premiere of the Canadian operetta, EARNEST, The Importance of Being. Here’s a quote from my 2008 review for Classical 96 FM.

“A new Canadian music work is a significant event, and the charming chamber operetta EARNEST, The Importance of Being, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s play, should have a shelf life. Composed by Victor Davies with a libretto by Eugene Benson, the operetta is filled with –Read More

Opera Review – Canadian Opera Company Winter Season – A Tale of Two Visions (Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Verdi’s A Masked Ball)

This is the age of the auteur opera director. With the endlessly repeating standard repertoire a fact of opera life, companies are now searching for productions that give a fresh take on the classics. New opera, of course, is always going to be fresh.

Thus, directors and their visions are what drive opera productions these days. The COC’s winter season provides a textbook case of what works and what doesn’t.

Canadian director Atom Egoyan has done a superb job in finding a fascinating –Read More

Concert Review – Great Songs of Italy with tenor Richard Margison and the Ontario Philharmonic

I had heard through friends that the Oshawa-based Ontario Philharmonic was not your average community orchestra, and that turned out to be correct. In fact, OP is a crackerjack professional orchestra. The guest concertmaster was none other than the excellent Marie Bérard who is concertmaster of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. It’s hard to imagine Bérard affiliating her brand with a no-name outfit. In reality, OP is festooned with musicians from the COC and National Ballet Orchestras. –Read More