Even with Gershwin's best intentions in demanding that this opera only ever be produced with an all-black cast, it is nonetheless apparent that this was and is an opera written for the white gaze. Be it the cringe-inducing libretto, the caricatured depiction of Southern accents (both white and black), the depiction of the hyper-saturation of religion in black communities (on and on with talk of the "promised land") and the gross exaggeration of Bess as the quintessential portrait of semper femina.
The music, while still adhering to some trappings of the medieval stylings, began to explore outside the bounds of its medieval stylings in order to do something new. The libretto, already full of pathos for its subject, finally found its stride as far as moving the plot at a good clip.
Mezzo Jamie Barton inhabited the lead role of Léonor very naturally indeed, especially in her aria “O mon Fernand,” itself a perfect example of Donizetti’s felicitous employment of confident Parisian harpists and wind players in prominent positions. Such inspired orchestrational choices are the sort of thing that give great singers an optimal point to start their dramatic conceptions of such arias.
Stage Director Kristine McIntyre brought Poulenc’s one woman drama into the modern era with her own updated translation of the libretto. Performing the opera in English removed the need for supertitles which let the audience focus on the drama. In addition to the telephone, McIntyre added in some new technologies such as a smartphone and tablet.
Richard Strauss's Salome has always been a controversial opera, to say the least. The premiere performance in 1905 was not particularly well received, though famously the premiere was attended by Giacomo Puccini, Gustav Mahler, and Adolf Hitler. Based off of Oscar Wilde's play of the same name, Salome comes from a Biblical tale, though highly erotic and controversially murderous.
It seemed to be a two-and-a-half-hour opera about people being their worst in a confined space. It was, basically, a series of vignettes that could be amusing and meaningful in a shorter format.
With the world premiere nature of this show and the resurrection of some of this music, it should come as no surprise that the songs disappeared from our cultural lexicon because they’re not musically memorable. I kept waiting for a showstopper, but none were forthcoming
Directed by Joan Font with choreography by Xevi Dorca, this revival of the 2015 production with set and costumes by Joan Guillén, is described in the program notes by the director as "action that could happen" in the 19th century, or even today in Toronto. I do beg to differ.
I am by no means an Orff scholar, so my analysis may be subjective. The collection of twenty four poems from a larger collection written by medieval monks with varying themes, yet this production seemed to hone in on just one: lust.
The Schubert-song recital is a staple and one that I find, for the most part, to be overdone. There is no denying the composer’s immense and invaluable contribution to the lieder repertory. His songs are like golden threads in the intricate tapestry that is the history of German lieder, but personally, I find that a recital programme of unrelated Schubert song to be lacking in imagination when there is a wide variety of song repertoire to be programmed in interesting and new ways.