Opera

Louis Riel: An Impressive Revival

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Photo: Sophie l’anson

Louis Riel, Canada’s leading opera composed by Harry Somers with the libretto written by Mavor Moore and Jacques Languirand, first produced in 1967 to commemorate the centennial has been revived for the country’s 150th anniversary of confederation. The 2017 production is a collaboration between the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. (more…)

Recent 50th Anniversary production of louis Riel is a gift to Canadian opera. .

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

1078 – Russell Braun as Louis Riel (centre) in a scene from the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Louis Riel, 2017. Director Peter Hinton, set designer Michael Gianfrancesco, costume designer Gillian Gallow, lighting designer Bonnie Beecher, and choreographer Santee Smith. Photo: Michael Cooper

Louis Riel based on the work of composer of Harry Somers  and  the libretto by Mavor Moore, is directed by Peter Hinton, former director of the National Arts Centre.  It  opened at the NAC Thursday with the NAC Orchestra conducted by Alexander Shelley.   The audience was treated to an exciting reworking of this “music drama”, as Somers called it when it was first created at the O’Keefe Centre  in 1967. We now can witness a new 50th-anniversary production which   brings Canada into the global realm of contemporary performance, revising   19th Century preconceived notions of Opera. (more…)

Vigilante at the NAC. Mythology trumps history in this outstanding production

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

 


Jan Alexandra Smith and the Donnelly brothers
GP Photography

It’s not just that the figures come out of the darkness. It’s rather
that they are marching in deadly and ritualized rhythm from some
hellish void, with a few musicians, mistily visible in the murky
backwaters of the NAC Theatre stage, eerily urging them along.
You’re gripped immediately by the beginning of Vigilante. And this
enthralling production from Edmonton’s Catalyst Theatre continues to
hold you like a vice through to its powerful climax. But you soon
realize that there will be no real light at the end of this tunnel.
The 19th Century saga of Southern Ontario’s turbulent Donnelly family
can hold no promise of cathartic release. Indeed, well over a century
later, this bloody tragedy continues to cast a shadow over Biddulph
township and its people, many of whom reportedly refuse to discuss it
even now. (more…)

Vigilante cast keeps powerful Donnellys saga all in the familly

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

 

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Power, Passion and Rocking Vigilante Justice

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: DBP Photographics
Vigilante

Written, composed and directed by Jonathan Christenson. A Production of  Catalyst Theatre (Edmonton) in collaboration with NAC English Theatre

On February 4, 1880, an armed mob murdered five members of the Donnelly family and burned their farm to the ground. No one has ever been convicted for the massacre of the notorious Irish immigrants, despite two inconclusive trials. The vigilante justice imposed upon them was the culmination of an ongoing feud and conflict over land between the Black Donnellys and their neighbours in the township of Biddulph, southern Ontario. (more…)

Vigilante: High Energy, Raging Fury, An Opera of Epic proportions.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo by David Cooper

Written composed and directed by Jonathan Christenson, produced by Catalyst Theatre (Edmonton) in collaboration with the NAC English Theatre

Massacre of the Donnelly family in Lucan, Ontario (1860) was one of the bloodiest crimes ever to take place in Canada.  The fact that it was never solved has kept historians, writers and researchers interested for many years. As rumours grew, imaginations were fueled and the family of seven boys and their parents, who had emigrated from Ireland, were transformed into a local legend of monstrous killers   who terrorized the community. Probably the best known  work  of fiction based on the murder,  was the Donnelly Trilogy, a verse drama  by James Reaney, first performed  in 1973 -1974 and finally published in 2000. It came to the National Arts Centre many years ago but, as I remember,  the impact of that event was minimal. The horror and the tragedy  did not click with a production that mainly foregrounded the literary qualities of the text that explained the story. (more…)

The Barber of Seville: Modern take on the classic opera loses on atmosphere

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo: Nance Price

Photo: Nance Price

The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini, long proclaimed to be the opera buffa of all “opere buffe,” is one of the, if not the greatest masterpieces in its genre. It has been an audience favourite for almost 200 years (it was first premiered on February 20, 1816 in Rome) for a reason. Six years after its debut (in 1822), Ludwig van Beethoven said to Rossini (they were communicating in writing): “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa; any other style would do violence to your nature.”

So, what is so great about this opera? Of course, it is the music (in operatic art it always comes first). Rossini gives the opera his own signature with his bubbling, melodic style, very often compared to champagne. The expression “Rossini crescendo” is coined after his famous musical crescendo, which culminates in a solo vocal cadenza. (more…)

The Barber of Seville : Extraordinary stage business challenges the singers.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Barb Gray.  Joshua Hopkiins (Figaro) and Marion Newman(Rosina).

Just as Brian MacDonald transformed Gilbert and Sullivan into light opera, just as Steven Sondheim’s musicals could often be considered light opera, why not do the reverse and transform Rossini’s Opera Buffa into musical theatre where all the spoken parts are sung in any case, and comedy dominates the whole event? This production, which originates in Vancouver is a treat for the eye and is clearly aimed at a general even non-opera going audience that just wants an evening of entertainment in the lush setting of the National Arts Centre. Why not? Opera is not the sole possession of specialists. If Opera Lyra has to seduce the audience by setting Count Almaviva’s attempts to declare his love to Rosina on the set of a 1940’s film of Carmen, (Bizet’s version I imagine) – a sort of mise en abyme musical, why not? It was all supported by conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia’s fine direction that emphasized the heightened comic drama of the artists and produced excellent moments of music. The chorus of extras who changed costumes, who ran around trying to get their  hair cut by Figaro, the cheeky foppish barber and stylist of the film crew, sung by Baritone Joshua Hopkins, created an amusing performance. Also film-like with gangster undertones were the two sinister body guards who kept close to Rosina so that her impatient lover Almaviva (Lindoro), could not get near her as Bartolo snorted with anger in the background. Director Dennis Garnhum created numerous stage dramas operating simultaneously and eventually he transformed the whole cast into excellent actors whose timing was impeccable, whose sense of fun worked beautifully. A comedy of near epic proportions!!

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THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE LOWERS THE FLAG IN HONOUR OF OPERA SINGER JON VICKERS

News from Capital Critics Circle

NEWS RELEASE  from the NAC.  OTTAWA (Canada) – The National Arts Centre, Canada’s home of the performing arts, lowered its flag in honour of Canadian opera great Jon Vickers today. Vickers was the winner of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts, and performed at the NAC on numerous occasions over the years. His portrait is in the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards hallway of the NAC in Ottawa.

“He was one of Canada’s greatest gifts to the world of opera,” said Peter Herrndorf the President and CEO of the NAC. “We were honoured to have Jon perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra on many occasions over the years, his performances were always memorable.”jvmc

Photo from the collection of Sandy Steiglitz.Vickers with Maria Callas.

Vickers was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and made his Royal Opera debut in London in 1957. From 1960 onwards he performed regularly with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Over his lengthy career critics described Vickers’ voice as “towering” and “achingly beautiful.”

The National Arts Centre extends its condolences to Vickers’ family and friend

Remembering renowned Canadian tenor Jon Vickers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Ottawa, ON – July 13, 2015

Opera Lyra joins the operatic world in mourning the passing of renowned Canadian heldentenor Jon Vickers.  Mr. Vickers was leading artist of his generation, singing major roles in the great opera houses of Europe and North America.  He blazed an artistic path for subsequent generations of Canadian artists to follow. 

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Timothy Vernon: New Artistic Director of Opera Lyra

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Renowned conductor begins immediately


"Timothy Vernon will bring a lifetime of opera success to audiences in the National Capital. His outstanding productions and innovations have won ovations across Canada and the world. What a musical coup for all of us!" – Victor Rabinovitch

Victor Rabinovitch, Chair of the Board of Opera Lyra, and John Peter Jeffries, General Director of Opera Lyra, announced today that Timothy Vernon has been appointed new Artistic Director of Opera Lyra, starting immediately with the 2015-2016 season. Maestro Vernon is one of the leading figures of the Canadian operatic scene and brings to Opera Lyra an exciting new artistic vision for the future of the art form in Ottawa.

"I am fully committed to Opera Lyra. As a conductor, I am very excited to work with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, that glorious orchestra.  As Artistic Director, I can’t wait to present opera with guts and imagination to Canada’s Capital." – Timothy Vernon

(more…)

Past Reviews