Daring Barber Wins in Markham
by Sybille Forster-Rentmeister
Sometimes the old can be new again! This happens when a group of dedicated artists and volunteers get together under very gifted artistic and administrative leadership and create a company that wants to do more than entertain.
Opera York, a locally based grass roots company has successfully brought musical theatre to the large communities on top of Toronto, called York region.
Opera York’s school programs have introduced thousands of students of grade and high school levels to the wonders of musical theatre, ensuring continued interest in one of the most delightful performance arts. And an affordable "Opera for Seniors" program keeps audiences actively supporting the arts for much longer than is otherwise possible and making those golden years truly golden with memories.
Both these programs have grown, especially the student program expanded into Toronto.
With so many students finding out about opera we can look forward to future audiences with a taste for this art form.
The current season is almost over for Opera York and again can look forward to reporting an interesting growth. As a natural extension of its mandate the entertaining performances have grown from dinner theatre venue to real theatre and from concert version to full production.
We reported on the impressive performance of La Traviata in the Markham Theatre and are pleased to be able to add to this our congratulations of a truly enjoyable full production of Rossini’s comic opera "The Barber of Seville".
The night before the actual performance I attended the technical rehearsal, admired the simple yet very clever set by Frank Pasian, became part of the concerns and problems looking to be solved and generally wondered if all that effort was worth it for just one night.
The artists certainly seemed to think so. With gusto they threw themselves into their work, trying to overcome technical difficulties while running through the opera. Time was too short for everything, it seemed. Two weeks to bring together a few veteran performers with newer talent, a big score and big expectations.
Mark DuBois, Opera York’s multitalented Artistic Director, appeared to be a master of calmness and confidence, which rubbed off on all the performers, who looked reasonably relaxed when they said their good nights, being given quick last minute notes by Mark Dubois, who was mainly concerned about the orchestras location in a covered-up pit, due to the fact that the theatre does not have a big enough safety net for the pit to be open.. The singers knew that they had worked very hard and the rest was in the hands of the gods, the conductor and the stage manager, and of course, the audience. The big question was: will the people like an English version of a traditionally Italian opera?
Lecturing & Scheming
Planning & Plotting
Well?! They did, tremendously so. In fact, I myself have never liked the opera better than in this extremely funny version, just slightly over the top, yet based in realism. The plot moved forward nice and fast with dramaturgical incisions made that did not sell the story short.
This time the theater was filled to near capacity, another growth factor, and the first lover’s "Ständchen" filled the room, accompanied and produced by the simulated sounds so admiringly well in their acoustic authenticity by Mila Filatova on the keyboard, who also works as the patient rehearsal pianist for Opera York.
The performers stepped gingerly around the small orchestra opening and the sound rose out of the pit just slightly tinnier than it would have without technological help. For sure it must be difficult for the musicians to play in a closed in pit of limited proportions, and it must have been hard for Mark Dubois as the conductor to oversee and control all happenings above and below deck.
But none of that was apparent to the audience, which simply followed the invitation to enjoy an immensely entertaining evening with some very fine talent. Andrew Tees as the Barber cut a fine figure with his tall frame and expressive hands. With his warm baritone he warmed all the ladies’ hearts.
Corinne Lynch, soprano, as Rosina, found just he right amount of frivolous rebellion in herself to escape the unwanted advances of her guardian Dr. Bartolo, sung by Ross Darlington. His dark baritone fitted the intentions of the character very well. Miss Lynch, known for her Gilbert and Sullivan expertise, mastered the demanding coloratura soprano passages with well-exercised control of her voice.
Eric Shaw, tenor, as the love struck Count Almaviva has just the right energy to change into the many costumes to find ways to get close to Rosina, the object of his attention. Young and agile he roams the stage in search of her, misdirecting attention as not to be discovered. The barber as his helper is just as mobile and inventive in the plotting.
John Dodington, bass, as the thieving Don Basilio is absolutely priceless. A booming voice and lively acting contribute much to the humour of the situations.
Carole Borsu, mezzo-soprano, as the disgruntled maid, as well as Jay Stephenson, bass-baritone, as Ambrogio and Fiorello, fill the stage with the necessary support characters, without which life is not possible. Bernie Lynch, tenor, has the dexterity to handle the two roles of Notario and police sergeant.
When the stage lights finally faded, signalling the end of the opera, the audience was generous and enthusiastic with applause. Mark Dubois ascended from the pit and also applauded his cast and orchestra.
All is well that ended well, in the opera on stage and in life, when it became apparent once again that despite low budgets and difficulties it was all worth the effort, even for a night. Seasoned performers worked well together with well-experienced artists, helping to bring musical theatre to the people of York Region and beyond in a way that is pleasing, entertaining and worthwhile.
We are looking forward to more adventures with Opera York.
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