Saturday, January 24, 2009

Operalicious Week, from the Ridiculous to the Sublime

Jerry Springer: The Opera opened a week ago Friday at Hart House Theatre in the University of Toronto campus. Directed by Richard Ouzounian, better known as theatre critic in the area, it was enthusiastically performed with tons of energy and some surprising talent. And this time, I stayed till the end. The theatre itself has been part of a wonderful renovation of its lobby and entrance halls. Unfortunately the theatre itself still boasts incredibly uncomfortable seats with a deficiency of leg room. Anyway, the piece itself was occasionally clever, quite a lot of fun and magnificently vulgar, as you can imagine.

Fidelio isn't my bag entirely, lacking the psychological intricacies I seem to seek in much of my entertainment, but the Canadian Opera Company's production does feature Adrianne Pieczonka performing Leonore for the first time in her wonderful career, and a fine supporting cast. Oh yes... and a whole lot of stirring music, resonating beautifully throughout the Four Seasons Centre. I've heard that Beethoven's deafness contributed to the challenging, vertical vocal lines he composed for Fidelio, so it takes some singer to handle it, and Pieczonka does, with an expressiveness in her voice that is never compromised by the vocal agility she has to exhibit. She looks the part and acts the part.

The most heartbreaking moment takes place towards the end of the opera: her husband has been incarcerated unjustly for years. She has disguised herself as a man to work in the prison where she believes he is held. She finds him and bravely steps between him and his sworn enemy to save his life. When at last they are alone, he is dumbfounded by what she has done to save him. And this exchange takes place:

Florestan: My Leonore, what have you done for me?

Leonore: Nothing, my Florestan.

I tear up just typing it. Love conquers all... in Fidelio.

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