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

Listening: The ghosts of Wagners future and past hover over Gluck, Elgar and Schoenberg

Susan Graham starred in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Iphigénie en Tauride, desolately staged by expat Torontonian Robert Carsen.

Grabbing the heart with text and music takes many forms. This weekend, we have a chance to sample opera reduced to its essence, and two very operatic ways of crafting oratorio and cantata.

The first comes via CBC Radio 2’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, which broadcasts the Canadian Opera Company’s critically praised production of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 1779 masterpiece, Iphigénie en Tauride, featuring American mezzo Susan Graham in the title role. Continue reading

Opera review: The Auction fits into its Westben festival setting like a rooster on a fencepost

Baritone Bruce Kelly, soprano Olivia Rapos and conductor Philip Headlam are among the performers in the world premiere of The Auction, a full-length opera presented to July 1 at the Westben Arts Festival Theatre (John Terauds photo).

It’s mystifying that one has to leave Toronto in order to see the premiere of a new, full-length Canadian opera.

We’re lucky that Westben festival co-founders Brian Finley and Donna Bennett have had the courage to take the risk, because The Auction, a two-hour, two-act opera by composer John Burge and librettist Eugene Benson, is getting a fine start in life. Continue reading

Soprano Xin Wang only Torontonian among opera winners of Dora Awards

American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham won a Dora last night for outstanding performance in an opera for her starring role in the Canadian Opera Company’s Iphigénie en Tauride.

The Canadian Opera Company did well at the 2012 Dora Awards, Toronto’s annual salute to its theatre, musical theatre, opera and dance productions. Continue reading

Concert review: Henry Purcell opera Dido and Aeneas gets a setting equal to the music at Sharon Temple

Meredith Hall sings Dido at the Sharon Temple on June 17 (John Terauds iPhone photo).

If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to experience music from inside an acoustic instrument like a guitar or a cello, a concert at the Sharon Temple will give you a pretty good idea. Continue reading

Essay: Toronto Symphony’s Mahler 8 an epic-scale peek into a conflicted soul

Gustav Mahler (photo art by Keith Adams)

Tonight, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra offers a picture-window view of the tourtured soul translated into music with the first of two performances of Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony of 1,000,” aka his Symphony No. 8.

Mahler (1860-1911) was famous in his day as an opera conductor and secured the respect of Germanic Europe in his mid-20s by conducting a Wagner Ring Cycle and completing an unfinished opera of Carl Maria von Weber, Die drei Pintos.

But Mahler never actually wrote an opera of his own. That’s probably because the man who stood on the podium of the Metropolitan Opera as well as many of the big houses in Europe knew that that inner turmoil is hard to convey on a big stage.

So he used pure music — instrumental and song — to express the inner battles between the devil sitting on the left shoulder, whispering seductive notions of all sorts in one ear, and the angel sitting on the right, exhorting us to remain on the straight-and-narrow of an upright, virtuous life. Continue reading