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Walk into any opera house and look around. In one word, what do you see? Old? Money? Snobs? Intellect? Elite?
When you think of opera as an art form, do you think of Bugs Bunny in bull horns, or a guy in a speedo selling gum? Maybe you're thinking of Italian food?
At Opera Five we believe that opera is all these things, but that it can be so much more. It's an art form that has unlimited potential, that has inspired artists for centuries, an art form we love and most importantly one that can move any audience, period.
Opera 5's Barber: fab singing & Spanish flair
One great concept is putting guitarist Andrew Cloutier into the action. He plays all the recitatives - a perfect sound that piques interest without pulling focus - and he plays a wordless role as the accompanist to Almaviva's serenades to Rosina, and to Rosina's singing lesson with "Don Alonso".Read More
Opera 5: new faces, new show
Derventzis loves that Beaumarchais' Figaro plays - the 18th century source material of Rossini's Barber - tell stories of rich people being outwitted by society's underdogs: "a woman and a servant."Read More
Talking with composers: Cecilia Livingston
"When people reach for a musical comparison they usually say I remind them of Britten, which is a huge compliment – and what a comparison to live up to! And it makes sense of the darkness that's in a lot of what I write. (I really enjoy writing music that is witty and satirical; I just keep getting asked for those darker emotional journeys.)"Read More
In review: Suffragette
Director Jessica Derventzis opened The Boatswain's Mate with a rousing British chorale vigorously waving Canadian Flags, Gay Pride Flags, and Trans Pride Flags - only to not introduce a single queer character. It seemed disjointed, out of place, and kind of pandering. While I respect that there are queers all over this industry, if you're going to wave our flags in your opening number of your show, we should at least be in the show somewhere. Ultimately, I felt like Dame Ethel Smyth's suffragette mentality and protest spirit was missing in the material.Read More
The Ride of the Dragkyries: how to name an opera drag queen
The attention-seeking Lucia wears her di Glammermore tartan with pride, and just a titch of morbidity. She likes cemeteries, believes in ghosts, and she has the wild eyes of someone with a past - someone you don't want to piss off. One is never quite sure if that smear of red on her kilt is from her lipstick, or from something more sinister.Read More
This year's Elizabeth Krehm Memorial Concert: a follow-up
At last count, the evening raised over $20,000 for the ICU at St. Michael's Hospital, showing once again that music can heal almost any hurt. On the whole, since the inaugural concert, the Krehms have raised over $60,000 in support of the place that provided Elizabeth with the top-level care and support.Read More
Strength in numbers: Indie Opera T.O.
The launch of Indie Opera Toronto includes profiles of each company's history and creative teams, brand new photography by Dahlia Katz, integrated social media for the Indie Opera platforms and each company's own social media outlets, an integrated calendar for all upcoming productions and short films by Darren Bryant.Read More
Spotlight on: Geoffrey Penar
"I think when it feels bad for me, I'm not thinking about the action of the scene, I'm just worried about the next phrase. I remember a coaching with Patrick Hansen (head of Opera McGill). He told me, "Geoff, just act it! Stop thinking so much. Just make sense of the words and act it." And it fixed so many of the technical problems I was having instantly."Read More
Die Fledermaus? Die Fleder-fabulous!
Guys, this is a great kickoff to summer. It's campy, it's fun, there's free beer and snacks. It's exactly the way I think that Strauss II would want to see it performed in this day and age. Seriously, get a group of you together, buy some tickets and go literally have a ball. And even though we all hate audience participation (usually), trust me when I say the more you throw yourself into the scene, the more fun the show will become.Read More
Updating operas: why stop at the libretto?
Does this point to a subtle, non-malicious, yet inherent slight towards libretti, and by extension, librettists? If opera is the spectacular melding of music and text, why does the former seem more sacred than the latter? And finally, is an updated libretto to the tune of un-updated music a fundamentally incomplete idea?Read More
Aria Umezawa: Opera 5's Die Fledermaus, with surprises
June 8-11 at Toronto's 918 Bathurst, Opera 5 presents Die Fledermaus, that beloved, waltz-tastic tale of parties and blackmail. Rachel Krehm and Michael Barrett star as Rosalinde and Eisenstein, sharing the stage with Julie Ludwig as Adele, Keith Lam as Falke, and Erin Lawson as the heiress Oksana Orlofsky. Of course, in Opera 5 fashion, this Die Fledermaus is updated, interactive, and audiences will meet a very special guest, by the name of Pearle Harbour.Read More
Powerful stuff: the Elizabeth Krehm Memorial Concert
Last night's Elizabeth Krehm Memorial Concert at Metropolitan United Church was a grand, cathartic experience. Elizabeth Krehm passed away in 2012, after spending a month in St. Michael's Hospital Intensive Care Unit; since 2013, the Krehm family has been holding benefit concerts, donating 100% of the money raised to the ICU in Elizabeth Krehm's name. This year was Mahler's 2nd, his "Resurrection" Symphony, with Evan Mitchell leading the Canzona Chamber Players Orchestra, the Pax Christi Chorale, and soloists Michèle Bogdanowicz and Rachel Krehm.Read More
Mahler's 2nd: in memory of Elizabeth Krehm
Opera 5 Artistic Director Rachel Krehm and her family present a benefit concert to raise funds for St. Michael's Hospital, where Rachel's sister Elizabeth passed away on November 17, 2012 at the age of 22. The concert is part of an annual series started by the Krehm family in 2013, in honour of Elizabeth and of the wonderful care she received from the doctors and nurses of St. Michael's Hospital.Read More
Check out: Opera 5
Artistic Director Aria Umezawa and General Director Rachel Krehm, also known as the ladies of Opera 5, said to me that although they take their work and their art very seriously, they don't take themselves seriously. I think that's a great way to sum up Opera 5, a Toronto-based company that creates a full opera-going experience for its audiences. They commission new works, put up rarely heard operas, and pair their performances with food, drink, and atmosphere suggestive of the evening's entertainment.Read More
Does new opera raise the bar for performers?
In a competitive industry, I'm fine with the concept of promoting singers who have acting skills and can learn music fast enough to fit into the woefully short rehearsal time many companies are afforded. Survival of the fittest, I say, and new opera is a beautiful and direct route to honing those skills.Read More
Spotlight on: Maika'i Nash
Maika'i Nash is one of Canada's busiest pianists and vocal coaches. He is the Resident Music Director of Opera 5, and he has worked with singers in Toronto, Montréal, and New York City, making his debut at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall this past season with soprano Andrey Luna.Read More
The Case for Nomadic Opera
I'm always an advocate of up-close theatre, but the need for large-scale, overwhelming productions of Verdi, Wagner, and the likes, is legitimate. But what would happen if Canada's larger opera companies took a portion of their productions out of their main stage?Read More
In review: Modern (Family) Opera
Last night Opera 5 opened their double bill, Modern (Family) Opera, which was made up of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s Il segreto di Susanna and the world première of Darren Russo’s new opera, Storybook. Stage directors Grace Smith (Wolf-Ferrari) and Opera 5 Artistic Director Aria Umezawa shared the double bill, bringing their unique styles to two pieces that couldn’t have been more different.Read More
Stuff to see in January
My January concert-going schedule is filling up nicely. I offer up a quick list of stuff I’m seeing this month in Toronto, in the hopes that I’ll see you guys there.Read More
In recital: Lucia Cesaroni and Adrian Kramer
Coming up in Toronto next month: two Canadian singers team up in recital. Tenor Adrian Kramer, soprano Lucia Cesaroni and pianist Maika'i Nash present Extensions of Us: Melody and Movement.Read More
In review: Offenbach/Hahn
Last night was opening night at the New Theatre Alliance Française de Toronto for Opera 5's (check out their Opera Cheats) season opener: a romp through the French obsession with the Far East during the 19th century. We were treated to a double bill of Île du rêve by Reynaldo Hahn and Ba-Ta-Clan By Jacques Offenbach, two very different pieces that not only show the varied differences of the East's influence on Western music, but also the versatility of a stellar cast of darn fine singers.Read More
Opera 5's Aria Umezawa on Offenbach/Hahn
This weekend, Opera 5 puts up their fall show, a double bill featuring Reynaldo Hahn's L'île du rêve and Jacques Offenbach's Ba-ta-clan. Opera 5 is all about combining art forms (including the beloved culinary arts!), and I was curious about this pairing of Hahn's "idylle polynésienne" and Offenbach's "chinoiserie musicale".Read More
Opera Gossip is the best Gossip
I heard some interesting news through that long and winding operatic grapevine: Toronto's small and mighty opera companies are banding together! There are some great creative minds behind this indie opera collective, and the possibilities are even greater. By forming a collective, the companies will be able to share resources like performance venues, audition space, and their respective contact lists of singers.Read More