At this point, Alice Coote is virtually synonymous with this production of Cendrillon, having sung the role of Prince Charming in London, Barcelona, and New York in recent seasons. She brings a beautiful, rich tone and an affable touch to Prince Charming's moping. Stagg and Coote's duets are especially rapturous, with their beautifully-matched instruments making Act III's long-anticipated reunion all the more sublime.
"That time is imprinted in my brain, and I think it will be forever," says Khalil of singing Ayre at Toronto's Ismaili Centre, a cultural symbol of the city's fostering of Islam. She gave three performances between November 10-12, 2016, less than a week after Trump's election win. "This piece felt like it was so needed at that time."
We open to a massive set of stairs as wide as the stage. Perched atop is a lone figure in garishly flamboyant toreador garb. This is our narrator and we understand her to be Carmen, or at least, a version of her. She is an omniscient and timeless figure, as if speaking to us from beyond the grave to tell her story.
An audience of kids also tests the temperament of the folks onstage. *WOW Factor* is cast with current and past members of the COC Ensemble Studio, and it was specifically the new members who impressed with their versatility. I had seen bass-baritone Joel Allison in the COC's stark production of Eugene Onegin, and it was a hoot to see him turn a full 180 as the buffo-for-kids Mr. Magnifico.
Ultimately it's the music that resonated the most, while the theatrics — played out in a dichromatic set via mimetic interpretations of the libretto — filled in the gaps that awkward shuffling and transitional applause between segments are otherwise expected.
"In Turandot, that we did last year, or in All is Calm, the expressive potency of the human voice is the commonality. The spoken word is expressive too because it uses the human voice. It has music, it has rhythm, it has form, and it has pitch – all the things that some music does, but just that it is spoken. That is the dramatic glue to this piece."
Hansen is a lover of chamber music, but is less enamoured with the traditional setting of chamber music performances. He writes in his director's notes, "Audiences understand they'll arrive to a venue and see chairs set out awaiting the musicians, organized along very standard and - let's just say it - totally uninspired, predictable placements so that the musicians can see and hear each other."
Rodolfo and Mimì shared what felt like a genuine chemistry. Sung by Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw making her ENO debut, it was a subtle and heartfelt performance. There was something classic about her sound that I really loved. It was a true triumph. Musetta, sung by ENO Harewood Artist Nadine Benjamin, was unfortunately the weakest character for me.
Soprano Jessie Lyons went hardly unnoticed as Lucia, who spent most of her time on the winding stage, alongside Jonathan Zeng as Charles, whose charisma and stunning tenor voice required the attention of all attending. The audience also couldn't ignore Andrew Groble's thunderous baritone voice that was a delight for the ears, with additional support from Naomi Brigell emotional performance of the slowly deteriorating Genevieve.
"Our production includes a little LGBTQ+ content, as well as a nod to polyamory. Given the way the original sought to challenge the status quo, we felt this is very much in the spirit of the opera. I think the result is still a hilarious, satirical look at relationship stereotypes, and one that all audiences can enjoy!"