Reviewed by Jamie Portman
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…)
April 6, 2017 Thursday at 4:44 pm
Reviewed by Patrick Langston
April 3, 2017 Monday at 8:53 pm
Reviewed by Iris Winston
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…)
April 2, 2017 Sunday at 1:39 pm
Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska
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…)
September 29, 2015 Tuesday at 9:46 am
Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht
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!!
September 27, 2015 Sunday at 11:10 am
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.”
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.
July 13, 2015 Monday at 12:11 pm
News from Capital Critics Circle
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
June 29, 2015 Monday at 1:57 pm
Reviewed by Jane Baldwin
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.
June 10, 2015 Wednesday at 8:28 am
Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht
Wallis Giunta as Cherubino, John Brancy as Figaro. Photo Andrew Alexander.
Wagner’s vision of Opera was essentially the Gesamtkunstwerk, a dialogue of all the arts. There is no doubt that the public often perceives Opera as essentially a musical performance (instrumental and vocal) but I have always felt that a performance of “théâtre chanté” which is where Mozart found the purist expression of his dramatic genius, must include all elements of a staged production to do justice to the meanings imbedded in that wonderful music.
Take the overture to the Marriage of Figaro . Last night, it t burst upon us at a most furious clip, under the impeccable playing of the musicians and the magical direction of Kevin Mallon. It left me out of breath and perfectly in the mood to receive what was coming: a light hearted, deliciously playful outpouring of “théâtre comique”. I was not disappointed….for the most part. The voices were excellent expressions of that dramatic genius as they transformed their recitatives and their arias into truly theatrical moments of comic acting, Opera buffa met Opéra comique in one of the most enjoyable evenings I have spent at Opera Lyra in a long while.
March 24, 2015 Tuesday at 2:03 pm
Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska
When The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart’s comic opera in four acts, premiered in Vienna at the Burgtheater on May 1, 1786, it was an instant success. Its lively overture and its brilliantly crafted arias, coupled with comical and lovable characters, thrilled the audience. The demand for encores became so numerous that even the emperor had to interfere in order to keep the performance at a reasonable length (he ruled that only parts written for a single voice could be repeated in any opera, although this edict may not have been enforced). The first reviewer wrote that the opera “contains so many beauties, and such a richness of thought as can proceed only from the born genius.”
Opera Lyra’s production of The Marriage of Figaro is not set in 18th-century Spain (as the original), but in turn of the 20th century England. This change in historical period is noticeable mostly in costumes, but as the libretto is suited to any era (with a few small tweaks), it does not hurt the production.
For the last three years, Opera Lyra has been finding its way with more or less success and we waited for 30 months to witness a performance as good and as exciting as La Bohème (September 2012). This time, the task was even harder because of the very characteristic plot in comedic opera (opera buffa) which centers on two groups of characters: a comic group of male and female personages and a pair (or more) of lovers, without much complexity in characters. (more…)
March 24, 2015 Tuesday at 2:00 pm