Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

Louis Riel: An Impressive Revival

Reviewed by on    Opera   ,

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. (Continue reading » )

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

Reviewed by on    Opera   , ,

1078 – Russell Braun as Louis Riel (centre) in a scene from the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Louis Riel, 2017. Conductor Johannes Debus, 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 head of theatre at 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. (Continue reading » )

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

Reviewed by on    Opera   ,

 


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. (Continue reading » )

Vigilante cast keeps powerful Donnellys saga all in the familly

Reviewed by on    Opera   ,

Photo David Cooper Vigilante

They may sing tunefully and love their ma like crazy, but you wouldn’t want to mess with the Donnelly boys. They’re a potentially dangerous crew with a vigorous sense of survival, and in southern Ontario’s Biddulph Township circa the mid-19th century, that means one for all and all for one.

That spirit of family – especially a family under siege through no real fault of its own – is one of many themes raging like a river of blood through Vigilante, the extraordinarily powerful rock-opera by Edmonton’s Catalyst Theatre now playing the NAC. Catalyst Theatre’s Jonathan Christenson wrote, composed and directed Vigilante, a dark, swaggering and occasionally vulnerable show that spirits the Black Donnellys and their fight for survival to the level of the epic without once losing sight of the fact that these are real people in a real world.

(Continue reading » )

Power, Passion and Rocking Vigilante Justice

Reviewed by on    Opera   ,

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. (Continue reading » )

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

Reviewed by on    Opera, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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. (Continue reading » )

Under the patronage of the Embassy of Italy, Pellegrini Opera presents Verdi’s Rigoletto

Reviewed by on    Arts News, Opera  

The Capital’s only full-production opera company, Pellegrini Opera, brings its version of “Game of Thrones” to Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Saturday, April 16 at 7:30 pm with its one-time performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

The production, under the stellar creative direction of Vincent Thomas, stars internationally acclaimed baritone Jeffrey Carl as Rigoletto, local soprano Susan Elizabeth Brown as Gilda and Gatineau’s Andrzej Stec as the Duke of Mantua.  Kyle McDonald as Sparafucile, the cut throat, and Cassandra Warner as Maddalena, his sister, complete the main cast. Maestro Vito Lo Re, who is based in Milan, Italy, has returned to Ottawa to conduct the Pellegrini Opera Orchestra for the occasion.

This live and fully-costumed production with super titles in both English and French, features all the characteristics of a well-spun story of passion, revenge, espionage and murder where the innocent love of a court jester’s daughter is taken advantage of by the ruthless duke. The jester (Rigoletto) seeks payback but tragedy results in a setting where curses have the ultimate power. Such is the dark world that is Verdi’s masterpiece set further in mystery by Thomas with his intriguing tarot theme.

Advance tickets are available at both Compact Music locations, The Leading Note, Books on Beechwood, and through pellegriniopera.net. and range in price from $20 to $40.  Children 12 years of age and under are free. Tickets are also available at the door. Website: http://www.pellegriniopera.net/

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

Reviewed by on    Arts News, Opera  

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. (Continue reading » )

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

Reviewed by on    Opera, Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  

barbier5DSC_0006

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!!

(Continue reading » )

Crossing:Wunderkind Matthew Aucoin’s Civil War Opera

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage, Opera  

crossing150527ARTCrossingPER-469

Photo: Gretien Helene. The actors are Rod Gilfry and Alexander Lewis.

Crossing, twenty-five year old Matthew Aucoin’s third opera, was commissioned by Cambridge’s American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the US Civil War. Aucoin’s opera is part of the Civil War Project, a multiple year partnership between professional theatres and universities whose purpose is to produce art works and support historical research. Crossing marks the A.R.T.’s fourth undertaking related to the project. Included were a sci-fi musical about a Union soldier, a devised piece dealing with a fugitive slave created by and for the A.R.T. Institute, and a new play by Suzan-Lorie Parks featuring a slave who fought for the Confederacy.

The multi-talented Aucoin, who has already made a reputation for himself as a composer, lyricist, and conductor, based his opera on Walt Whitman’s poetry and experience ministering to wounded Union soldiers. However, the work is more imaginative than factual, the story both sequential and disjointed.

(Continue reading » )

More posts