Toronto has the Sound of Music
Just imagine life without music. What would this city with its millions of people be like? We need music like we need the air to breathe to withstand and keep up with the fast pace life demands of us these days.
In April I saw 2 operas (Rigoletto and Die Walkuere, read
the review by Amanda Tower and for more and upcoming events go
www.coc.ca ); one lighter Opera, Die
Fledermaus from the Toronto Operetta Theatre,
www.torontooperetta.com , and
I heard three concerts, one in Roy Thomson Hall, one in the Glen Gould
Studio and one as part of the Austrian Diplomatic Lounge. Without these
musical adventures spring just would not be complete. Each different venue
offers perspectives on life other then we experience on a daily basis, yet
there are strong recognizable similarities. Looking at life through the arts
has a therapeutic value not to be discounted, and music is especially
valuable that way.
The TOT has delighted audiences, especially those of European heritage, for many years with the lighter form of opera. Johann Strauss, Jr. is certainly immortal, if not only, but also for Die Fledermaus. This perennial crowd pleaser has traditionally been one of the New Years Eve specials to be expected, other than the Merry Widow. The TOT produced the opera now for the 3rd time, and I still recall the previous version from 1998 well. In the newest production I thought I recognized some of the costumes of the 50ies area, which featured the overdone look of French designers: pencil skirt with poof overlay for instance, which added to the slightly over the top sentiments of the production then and now. But in an operetta or opera we do not expect realism, not in costumes, not in story line, not in behavior. What we do expect is great acting with good timing and great singing. And that we certainly got for the most part in this years production of Die Fledermaus. In fact, I do not recall having seen a livelier version ever before.
The substantially beefed up part of Alfred was sung by multitalented tenor Mark DuBois. We have not seen him as lively and energetic for some time. Here it was clear where he belongs: onto a stage, any stage where he can sing and act and show off his versatile voice, and in this instance his comedic timing. He had very recently come back from a 3 city European tour of singing "God" in a Canadian composed Oratorio. Vienna, Bratislava and Prague gave him and his colleagues 15 minute long standing ovations. It must have been gratifying to hear such accolades. This translated perhaps into an extra amount of free energy to be used in this part of a love-crazed tenor. He sang parts of every conceivable tenor role with much bravura, and when he lays on the Italian accent no one can stop from laughing.
The object of his adoration was of course Laura Whalen as Rosalinda, a young Canadian soprano with a lovely voice and fine acting ability. Easy on the eyes and with a good sense of humor she handled her part and arias with good technical skills and managed to communicate well with the audience.
Despite vocal difficulties Ross Neill delivered an imposing Eisenstein.
Elizabeth Beeler as the chambermaid also did well with her part, especially in the acting department, and while her soprano did manage the heights, it was a bit harsh in the upper register, a symptom of many a singer from the popular musical stages, where an edge is desirable.
Alexander Dobson was pleasing as Dr. Falke, the bat. His baritone is well rounded and he knows his way around a stage.
Guillerma Silva-Marin not only staged this new production, he also sang the part of Frosch, the jailer, who wants to learn to sing. Let it be known that he can sing even without the lessons from Alfred, and quite well too! His comedic timing is also great and his willingness to make a fool of himself added greatly to the merriment.
Keith Savage who created a most unusual character with mincing, yet military steps, a bored attitude, and a mobile face played Prince Orlovsky. One was reminded of the dime between the cheeks a tenor needs to sing the high notes, according to Mark DuBois’ Alfred.
Calvin Powell as the warden, Brett Chapman and Geoffrey Arseneau sharing the role of the Lawyer Blind rounded out a well-chosen cast with an ensemble group of singers who were most lovely to look at and listen to.
The satirical libretto was also dramaturgically enhanced
with very now comments on the state of affairs in our fair land, sponsor
ship scandal and all, just as we are accustomed to hear in an operetta, and
the small but well-rounded orchestra under Maestro Derek Bate made the
evening entirely wonderful. The only pity is still that not enough younger
people have discovered the pleasures of good old-fashioned operetta/light
I took a Canadian musician and singer to the Toronto Symphony, who had never been or heard classical music in that setting. The combination of a full symphony orchestra playing by itself and as backup for a quartet, especially this quartet and this program was just the right gradient for a novice to this genre.
Giandrea Noseda is an Italian conductor with international credentials and was especially suited for this "co-production". Humor was a predominant feature throughout the concert, something he had in abundance, as did Quartetto Gelato, and the entirely casually dressed musicians also found it in themselves to conjure up a few smiles. The audience responded with obvious delight.
Cynthia Steljes displayed exquisite skill as an oboe player, Kristina Reiko Cooper played her cello positively flirtatious, Alexander Sevastian gave the underappreciated accordion a new lease on classical life, and Peter DeSotto, with his juicy and rich tenor voice played the violin brilliantly and entertained with wit and personality.
To say that this quartet is as delicious as its name is an understatement. Together with the symphony it is unbeatable for entertaining value.
The TSO has its next season all planned out, but there are still a few concerts to go before the summer break Go to www.tso.ca and check out what’s coming.
For May I recommend Gunther Herbig conducting the symphony
with scores from Wagner and Bruckner; and at the end of the month conductor
Hugh Wolff will work with the young and very dynamic Jon Kimura Parker as a
solo pianist. I hope to see some of you there!
Already during the performance at the Austrian Diplomatic Lounge the night before the sparks were flying between the four players, one of which is founder Mayumi Seiler, the fabulous violin player and artistic director of Via Salzburg.. One of the quartets, the viola player Hariolf Schlichter from Munich was Mayumis teacher in days gone by. They obviously were very happy about this reunion of the musical minds.
At the piano Belgrade born Aleksandar Madzar effortlessly mastered the often difficult scores that evening.
Yegor Dyachkov, who teaches at McGill, while Mayumi teaches at the UofT, is a virtuoso on the violoncello.
Together they made what we commonly call beautiful music.
Mayumi Seiler displayed much stamina in performing in all four offerings. But the most challenging piece was probably Leos Janacek’s Sonata for Violin and piano, a highly divers and expressive score, full of emotional passages and impressionist tempi.
A piano trio by Josef Suk and an intimate duo for violin and viola by Mozart had prepared the audience for something more demanding.
The evening culminated in Antonin Dvorak’s Piano Quartet no 2 in E-flat major, op 87, a demanding tour de force in opulent sounds. The audience was elated and applauded most generously.
We are looking forward to the next season, which will start in October. But before the summer break we will be able to enjoy Mayumi and her three sisters as a quartet on June 3 and 4 with Beethovens String Quartet, op. 131, as well as a selection from Schubert and chorography for Sandor Veress’ Four Season Transylvanian Dances.
This should be a most entertaining and enriching evening.
Please call the box office at he Glenn Gould Studio, which is home to Via Salzburg. (416-205-5555)
You also can check out the website for more details: www.viasalzburg.com.
Also consult our website www.echoworld.com for pre-announcements of upcoming cultural events in our area.
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