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

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

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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 » )

Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, An Operatic Double Bill by Opera Lyra

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There is no longer any doubt that Ottawa has an opera company that it can be proud of.  The traditional double bill of those two one act operas, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, opened in Southam Hall Saturday night with two almost flawless performances.  Pagliacci is often presented as an opera in two acts but here two acts become two scenes of one act which did not change the nature of the performance.  We saw an almost perfect rendering by the orchestra (conducted by Richard Buckley), the insightful use of the sets, exciting staging, magnificent choral work under Laurence Ewashko’s superb guidance, and singers who carried us off to other realms of reality. A truly wonderful evening.

Cavalleria Rusticana.

There is no doubt that the libretto of Cavalleria Rusticana, based on the play by 19th Century novelist and playwright Giovanni Verga who is steeped in Zola-like naturalism, becomes nonetheless the greatest of all tearjerkers, showing the wide range of  esthetic contradictions that make opera such an appealing art form.   Turiddu abandons his pregnant companion whom he has not yet decided to marry, and returns to his now married former wife Lola who has become his mistress once again. In the opening moments of the prologue/overture, we hear his voice off stage as he sings a passionate serenade in the middle of the night to Lola, the real love of his life and its Turiddu’s lust for Lola that gives all the energy to this work.

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Lucia di Lammermoor: A Staging of Great Emotional Power.

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  Southam Hall at the NAC (Ottawa) vibrated with the arias of Donizetti last night as the firey Egardo (Marc Hervieux)  and the silver toned Lucia (Lyubov Petrova)  vowed eternal love and then melted into passionate embraces and  heart wrenching  despair. Blood, vengeance, madness and suicide  all the stuff of shameless melodrama because absolutely enthralling in the story of these  ill fated lovers, victim of a family feud in 17th Century Scotland.

The set of act II, “The Mariage contract”  with its magnificent upper gallery, its  long winding stairway, its dark passageways and long shadowy hallways, was the perfect place for the appearance of ghosts, troubled spirits and the madwoman of the chateau who slaughters her husband with a bloody knife and then comes slowly downstairs looking for her absent lover. This is the stuff that must have intrigued Sir Walter Scott, author of the novel that inspired the libretto. He  certainly  had a perfectly  theatrical imagination because his text conjures up images of Macbeth, of Hamlet (Ophelia), of Romeo and Juliet, of Gisèle and  of  all the most tragically mad  figures of  theatre and literature that one could desire. Lucia is a bit of all that and with Donizetti,s melodic music the artistic and musical direction by Tyrone Paterson as well as the general direction by Tom Charlton,,  success is guaranteed. 

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Turandot at the National Arts Centre:a Brilliant Staging Helped erase the Weak Stage presence of Calaf (Richard Margison).

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Puccini’s opera about the cruel Chinese princess, who beheads her suitors to avenge herself on men for killing an ancestor, is based on Carlo Gozzi’s play Turandotte (1762) but actually the legend of Turandot has nothing to do with China. It was originally Persian. The composer died before the opera was  first produced in 1926 , leaving unfinished fragments of music and libretti that had to be rewritten and reworked, (with the collaboration of the original conductor Toscanini) to capture the spirit of what  the Maestro might have created himself if he had lived.  Just to show that the genesis of this work is worthy of a Puccini opera itself.

The production by Opera Lyra currently  playing in Southam Hall at the National Arts Centre is a sumptuous and magnificent spectacle, where  the unidentified prince, known  as Calaf, longs to possess the divine beauty of the the  frigid princess whose  repressed sexuality (“No man will ever possess me!”)  explodes into murderous acts of blood and  torture  as the excited crowds  flow about her feet singing the emperor’s praises and waiting for the executioner’s axe to fall on the next unlucky suitor, proudly exhibited here as an almost Christ like Persian prince, a sacrificial victim in a white robe. In fact the whole  axe grinding  ritual in Act I with the  appearance of the tattooed and muscle bound executioner became a heightened  stage moment of  pain and pleasure   that  director Brian Deedrick seemed to relish immensely, as it signalled the beginning of a superb piece of stage  design that brought much of the  strength to this production.

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