Opera review: A clever blend of Baroque and modern in A Synonym for Love at the Gladstone Hotel

Emily Atkinson as Teresa in Volcano Theatre and Classical Music Consort production of A Synonym for Love at the Gladstone Hotel (John Lauener photo).

Take something like an opera, give it something like a staging across four floors of a Victorian hotel, and you either have a treat or a disaster on your hands.

Fortunately for the clever troupe of singers, actors and orchestra musicians having the dramatic time of their lives at the Gladstone Hotel until Aug. 31, their modern English adaptation of George Frideric Handel’s 1707 cantata Clori, Trisi e Fileno, renamed A Synonym for Love, is an unqualified success. Continue reading

An operatic synonym for bittersweet at the Gladstone Hotel

Scott Belluz and Tracy Smith Bessette in Ross Manson and Ashiq Aziz’s A Synonym for Love, adapted from an opera by George Frideric Handel, at the Gladstone Hotel (John Terauds iPhone photo).

The performing arts are an ecosystem where birth and death are forever locked in a passionate tango. The year’s most fascinating operatic gambit — coming to life at the Gladstone Hotel Sunday through Aug. 31 — is a case in point. Continue reading

How music speaks to us changes and evolves with each generation

Classical music is way more about the here-and-now than we give it credit for.

Each generation interprets, listens and relates to music a little bit differently, which means that what we worry about today may very well be irrelevant to our great-grandchildren. Continue reading

Preview: Handel opera Alcina sprouts from Toronto’s rich vocal soil

As I sat listening to a dress rehearsal early this evening of George Frideric Handel’s great Italian opera from 1735, Alcina, it stuck me that we are living through a golden moment in Toronto’s operatic history.

There are now so many excellent singers in our midst that it is actually possible for a group of them to sit down over coffee, decide wouldn’t it be nice to climb one of the peaks of Baroque opera — and pull it off. Continue reading

Opera review: Zhang Huan’s messed-up Semele for Canadian Opera Company redeemed by soprano Jane Archibald

Jane Archibald as Semele and William Burden as Jupiter in Canadian Opera Company’s production, which opened on Wendnesday night (Michael Cooper photo).

Resetting an opera in a different time and place happens all the time, and works fine when the director manages to preserve the essence of the composer and librettist’s intentions.

But, in trying to create a rapprochement between Chinese and European traditions, Chinese visual artist Zhang Huan has made a wreck out of the most popular full-length English Baroque opera, Semele, a work that bursts with some of the most beautiful music George Frideric Handel wrote. Continue reading

What does putting a real temple on stage add to an opera production?

(CLARIFICATION: The first paragraph is changed, in response to the Canadian Opera Company’s objection that I had unjustifiably described the logs as showing signs of dry rot and termite damage.)

While at the Four Seasons Centre yesterday to do an interview, I was allowed a sneak peek at the construction site in the backstage wings, where, after rehearsal hours, crews are assembling a real Ming-era Chinese temple for the Canadian Opera Company’s upcoming production of Handel’s Semele.

Continue reading

Video: Happy 327th for George Frideric Handel

327 is a strange anniversary year. So, to mark the birth of George Frideric Handel on this day in 1685, I thought I’d choose something strange — and neat: a brace of flautists performing a Handel Passacaglia: