I started this entry on October 10th and am finally getting around to finishing it - family, Thanksgiving and life got in the way. The dates are all wrong of course but .....
|Paris 1894: Verdi rehearsing Falstaff as |
captured by Maurice Feuillet.
This was my first visit to the "new" opera house since it opened in September 2006 with the first Canadian performance of the complete Ring Cycle. When it opened the Centre, with its five-tiered, horseshoe-shaped auditorium, was praised for its superior sight lines and acoustics and on first viewing I can only second that praise. From my seat at centre in Ring 3 I had an uninterrupted view of the stage. The sound was warm and immediate and there was never a problem of balance between the pit and the stage.
My only caveat has to do with a personal preference: I despise surtitles! Yes I know they are a Canadian invention - yeh Canada! - but I find them distracting and from my seat (for the entire season I might add) I am at direct eye level with the proscenium surtitle panel. However that is my only gripe with the facility - the buffet does an excellent chocuterie plate, prices are reasonable for a glass of bubbly, the public areas spacious and the washrooms plentiful. Now on to the performance itself.
Several of my opera
|The Ford's kitchen updated to Windsor 1950s by designer Paul Steinberg: Mistress Ford had all the mod-cons but still did her laundry by the Thames!|
|Blinded by bling Falstaff (Gerald Finley) is easily |
duped by Signor Fontana (Russell Braun). Two great
Canadian baritones match wits and voices!
Photo: Michael Cooper
And unfortunately Russel Braun was given some ridiculously over the top business leading up to, and during, Ford's great jealousy monologue. Surely this is not a time for comedy? The man is almost insane with jealousy and there is nothing to suggest that either Verdi or Boito intended this as satire or a source of amusement. Braun overcame the staging to deliver a gripping, almost frightening, portrayal of a man giving voice to the overwhelming, though unreasonable, emotion of betrayal.
|Mistress Quickly (Marie-Nicole Lemieux) tempts Sir |
John with the promise of an assignation with Mistress
Ford "dalle due alle tre". Photo: Veronika Roux-Vlachova
Again the supporting men did not seem to have a great deal of individuality - perhaps the fault is Verdi's? I was hard pressed to distinguish Bardolpho (Colin Ainsworth) from Pistola (Robert Glaedow) though Michael Colvin's Dr. Caius was a finely drawn comic creation. Frédéric Antoun was a lyrical Fenton if again not quite hitting the mark in his lovely aria in the final scene.
The COC chorus destroyed the Ford kitchen and tormented Falstaff in fine fashion. The orchestra responded to Johannes Debus youthful approach with brio. This was his first go at a very complex work and he caught the brio and sparkle if not any of the autumnal overtones. Only once - and briefly - in those tricky ensembles in the second scene did he seem to lose control of his forces.
|It takes Gerald Finley over two hours get into the various prosthesis that turn him into|
Verdi's Fat Knight. The process was captured in video and photos by the Toronto Star.
Anne-Marie Jackson / Toronto Star
|Falstaff (Gerald Finley) and friends raise their glasses and assure us that "he who laughs last, laughs best!"|
The following is the promotional video from the COC website for the production. I was more than pleased, as I'm sure they are, to see that all seven performances were sold out.
October 23 - 1867: 72 Senators are summoned by Royal Proclamation to serve as the first members of the Canadian Senate.