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December, 2004 - Nr. 13


High-Tech Tree
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Alle Jahre wieder...
Toronto Connection
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Ottawa Valley Christmas
K-W & Beyond
Opera York Expands...
K-W Christkindl Market
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Santa House Calls
Bach's Manuscripts Disappear
Hospital in Germany

Opera York Expands the Boundaries

  Sybille Forster-Rentmeister

Once again Opera York took another step to fulfill its mandate as a vibrant, true Canadian art organization with an educational vision. On November 25 Bizet’s Carmen was presented as a concert version in French. Despite all sorts of unforeseen changes in the casting of important singing roles Penelope Cookson as Artistic Director and Sabatino Vacca as Musival Director rose to the challenge and produced a temperamental yet sound version of this all time favourite.

With a production of this size so many personal changes and only 2 weeks to get this - for many performers – brand-new work under their belt, there are always a few "nerves" to deal with. In this case they subsided so quickly that hardly anyone noticed. The confidence and joy of singing took over fast, especially among the female performers, soloists and choir alike.

This is by no means an easy work to perform, even for seasoned artists. Taking a bunch of musicians and familiarizing them with a brand-new score is quite a feat in itself, especially if there is a new orchestra still in the making. Adding in all sorts of other performers and choirs, some of them still in a student situation, makes the work all the more challenging. The important thing is: It worked! There was chemistry on stage, the music was becoming alive, the characters had color!

Especially Marion Newman as Carmen dazzled with her defiant nature and wonderfully rich voice. Her temperament pulled the other performers along, creating very soon an ambiance conducive to the plot of the opera. This Native Canadian is multi talented and we should watch closely her development. She can only get better and better when she gains from emotional development as time goes on. There is another Giselle Fredette in the making!

Andrew Tees as the bullfighting charmer was very at home as Escamillo. He sauntered in as though he owned the place. His rich baritone had become even a bit warmer since we heard him last in the Barber of Seville and the gala for Opera York.

Keith Klassen is familiar to operetta fans from the TOT’s Chocolate Soldier. He made a good-looking and jealous Don Jose.

Michael Meraw, has a versatile baritone voice and doubled as Zuniga and Morales without trouble.

Two gypsies were performed by equally interesting young woman. Denise Williams, soprano, as Frasquita has fine credentials and we are looking forward to seeing her in something else, like in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s performance of African Sanctus.

Laura Pilarski as Mercedes had great gestures and attitude to accompany her lyric soprano. She is a spirited performer.

Matthew Zadow and Benoit Boutet as the calculating smugglers rounded out the solo cast.

A special feature were the young people from the St. Elizabeth Catholic High School. Their fresh voices added richness to Bizet’s musical tapestry.


With yet another interesting project behind them we wonder what is coming up next for Opera York. The program announced a full production of Puccini’s La Boheme April 1&3, 2005, again in the Markham Theatre for the performing Arts.


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