Dear Brott Music Festival friends,
Last night’s Magic Flute performance was one of the most engaging I have ever experienced. All of the voices were truly excellent – there wasn’t a less than superb performance to be found – and the orchestra was in top form. The innovative production was entirely successful: I have become a “steampunk” devotee and my grandson Andrew ( aged 7) was thrilled and attentive throughout. My only regret was that there was only a single performance; I would have been happy to have spread the word to my Bach Elgar Choir community. This was a “can’t miss” production!
With many thanks and congratulations,
Heartiest congratulations on an outstanding Zauberflőte last night. Both orchestra and singers were on top form. The two main Queen of the Night arias were superb, especially the one in Act II, which would have brought honour to any opera house in the world. Keep up this splendid work! -Dr. Alan Walker
Something really wonderful happened to me Thursday night.
I was sitting in the tightly packed orchestra (downstairs) section of First Ontario Place Concert Hall (that I used to and still call Hamilton Place), when a real, live, orchestra-in-the-pit, scenery-on-the-stage, costumes-on-the-singers opera broke out.
Brott Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute no less. It was an all English affair rented from Opera McGill with thanks to Schulich School of Music of McGill University.
The person in the seat behind me was a well-known music aficionado and mother of at least one professional musician I know of.
She said, as we strolled out for our intermission: “That wasn’t just the NAO (National Academy Orchestra) was it? It was a whole level up from that. Right? They got extra people in.”
“They have their mentors,” I replied. It is after all an academy. The concert master was announced (Joseph Lanza of Sinfonia London) by Director of Development Jacqui Muir in her introduction to the evening “but, no, that was the NAO. They are, after all, the top Canadian graduates of the world’s top music schools. They are very, very good.”
I don’t think I convinced as the level was startlingly high.
Superbly led by Brott in the first act with apprentice conductor Jaelem Bhate taking over in Act II for how long before handing the troops back to Brott I didn’t notice. I was taking my youngest granddaughter to her first opera and was multitasking.
The singers too, are in the academy but if you want a mentor at throwing a tantrum, may I recommend the young star coloratura soprano Holly Flack. There is simply no top to her voice. She ranged the stratosphere as she threw a fit for the ages in her famous aria that topped what was a wonderful young cast.
Zachary Rioux and Max van Wyck (and his speaking cover Johnathon Kirby) both vocally and dramatically made an excellent duo of Prince Tamino and Papageno respectively. Anne-Marie MacIntosh was sweet and songful presence and what complemented the fine singing and acting of the entire cast was the simple yet very effective choreography of the Three Ladies, Elizabeth Polese, Morgan Trayner and Juliana Curcio and the Thee Spirits Reba Sigler Daniela Agostino and Emma Chalifoux ditto armed men and various priests. Even the chorus was well drilled by Norman Reintamm and stage director Patrick Hansen should receive loud applause. More could have been made of the comic/villain Monostatos, though we were all delighted when Papageno got his scrumptious Papagena in Megan Micelli.
It was a “steampunk production”. Explaining steampunk costuming can get one tongue tied quickly but it is instantly recognizable as such and was ideally suited to this allegory/fantasy of an opera. With one exception. High Priest Sarastro was a bit underdressed. High priests do not dress as we mere congregants do. Surely steampunk has enough baubles and add ons for a diadem or two to make a high priest instantly The Boss. His dignity was well expressed, apart from some insecurity in the lowest ranges of his fine young bass voice.
Being sung and spoken in English does not excuse a production’s lack of surtitles. Joan Sutherland, one of the all-time great sopranos could set off perfectly reasonable arguments as to what language she was singing in, let alone what the words were. Bel Canto does not lend itself to clear diction. Large concert halls do not make for clear diction without microphones – anathema to opera. This cast made heroic efforts but only a word here and a few words there emerged from the flux. A large screen at centre stage told many tales. Fearsome dragons, tests of fire and water and beautiful scenes and abstracts said much but not a word.
I know it’s expensive but opera these days needs surtitles. The people want them.
-Hugh Fraser, former Hamilton Spectator Music Critic