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

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 » )

Timothy Vernon: New Artistic Director of Opera Lyra

Reviewed by on    Arts News  

Timothy vernon courtesy of Opera Lyra

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

(Continue reading » )

The Marriage of Figaro: Opera Lyra’s Near Perfect Operatic Event

Reviewed by on    Opera  

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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.

(Continue reading » )

The Marriage of Figaro. This Opera Lyra Production Ranks High!

Reviewed by on    Opera  

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Photo: Barb Gray. John Brancy and Sacha Djihanian

It’s pretty obvious that Opera Lyra is making a pitch to the Downton Abbey fan club by attempting an early 20th Century take on The Marriage Of Figaro.

Halfway through the overture, we get a glimpse of servants being assembled in front of the stately English exterior of “Highclere Castle” and inspected by a dignified butler. The scene is a somewhat tiresome contrivance, and not really in synch with Mozart’s music. And, let’s face it — the the music is what counts in this production, and, happily, the playing of the overture already has us appreciating the silken elegance of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s contribution to the evening under conductor Kevin Mallon.

So when it comes to honouring the Mozartian soundscape, the delights the production provides are manifest. For the most part, this is a beautifully sung Figaro, featuring some stellar work from the principals, and in particular a notably engaging performance on all fronts from Wallis Giunta in the trouser role of the lovelorn pageboy, Cherubino.

(Continue reading » )