Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Memento Mori

Figuring Out Figaro

Last night I attended the new COC production of The Marriage of Figaro. This was not my first Figaro having seen one years ago so I found myself trying to understand what was the intention of the director,  Claus Guth. The curtain arose on a grand staircase in a Scandinavian styled room in a grand house that had seen better days. The set consisted of a set of doors and one window off to stage right that bathed everything in a bright Scandinavian light. The costumes were all dark giving the production the feel of a Strindberg play or a Bergman film. Watching these dark costumes against the stark walls, the audience was left wondering, why? What did the dramatic costumes and whitewashed set tell you about the action in the opera? Throughout the evening choices made by the director left me wondering what was he trying to say? There was an odd black bird, an Escheresque like set in act four and doors opening and closing throughout the piece that never added to the dramatic action on stage. 

Added to this was the addition of a new character, a non-speaking part, Cherubim played by Uli Kirsch. The changes between acts and sets never varied from the rooms of the Scandinavian styled house. We moved from room to room without any real dramatic force or energy. This was made more apparent by the time it took to change sets while the audience remained in their seats. These delays are borne with ease when the resulting changes are dramatic and beautiful, sadly, Christian Schmidt's sets and costumes never really gave us that wow factor. 

The singing not surprisingly because Figaro is an ensemble piece was uneven and seemed to warm up only as the evening progressed. Josef Wagner's Figaro while bright and crisp never had any real heft or presence on the stage and missing was Figaro's sense of humour. Indeed the humour and lightness which makes Figaro such a fun opera was missing save for the antics of the added character Cherubim. The idea was that Cherubim as cupid directed the action of the characters in the opera, and while he did have some really cute interactions, especially when writing on the walls with light, too often he became a distraction rather than a strength. 

The best voices of the evening were the women. Erin Wall was wonderful as the Countess, almost bringing down the house with her arias. As was Emily Fons' Cherubino who made us all believe in his power to enthral and seduce with his voice. One pleasant surprise was Sasha Djihanian'a Barbarina. The part is small but her voice was strong and powerful filling the hall with a crisp beauty. Overall while I enjoyed the evening Guth's interpretation gave the piece a heaviness that is not reflected in the light, playful score written by Mozart. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016


It has been a relatively warm January week without any typical January weather. This morning after picking up our dry goods in Kensington Market Mr.T and I made our way via the subway to IKEA. After arriving back on Monday night Mr.T discovered that the pullout drawer on his PAX dresser broke, so our trip today was to find a replacement drawer for his dresser. Because it was such a nice day the place was not surprisingly packed. We found the PAX section and were able to find the part we wanted, the replacement is more solid than the one he had, but were informed that they no longer keep parts for the PAX units on site. Instead we would need to drive to another location to pick one up. The only other option was for us to order the drawer and have it delivered resulting in a $ 59.00 delivery charge. In the end we came home empty handed a little disappointed about not being to fix the problem. 
For dinner we opted to dine locally, heading up to Sushi on Bloor for a nice, simple sushi dinner. Since moving to their new location just a little west of their previous place the restaurant is always packed and even though we arrived for an early dinner it was still packed. We had to wait a short while for seats but were glad to have a nice simple dinner close to home. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Love These

Years ago when I was in my punky phase I wore long underwear I had dyed black underneath a black watch kilt I had found at a local Army & Navy Store. On top I finished it off with a really nice cable knit sweater and combat boots, I loved the look and wore it all until it all fell apart.

Memento Mori


The Grim Reaper at Melatenfriedhof Cemetery

A Dark, Wagnerian Night

Siegfried Canadian Opera Company
Last night I attended my first opera of the 2016 COC season. It was the third in the Wagnerian Ring Cycle, Siegfried. I had seen a televised Met production but never had the pleasure of seeing it live in its full four glory. The production last night was designed and staged by Michael Levine, who helped craft the entire COC Ring Cycle. This meant more minimalist sets and costumes. The three long acts were broken up by two intermissions which were needed for this marathon evening. 

Act One opened on a large tree trunk placed on stage centre with its branches blown out in a pattern that suggested an explosion. Placed against a black backdrop and a black stage the effect was truly stunning and beautiful. The tree representing Wotan's Yggdrasial, the great Tree of Life had bits and pieces of tree, assorted buildings and stage materials and people suspended in mid-air. Some of the people were swaddled as they were in Die Walkure with a few suspended representing the parts of Siegfried's past. When he sang about them these ghost like figures came to life via movement and lighting. While I loved everything about the staging I found the white pyjama-like costumes the weakest part of the production. 

Act Two opened on the same tree but from another angle. Instead of looking at it from the ground we saw it from above allowing Levine to create the illusion of woods and Fawner's cave. The dragon Fawner himself was created by a group of dancers clad in white who were able to create the illusion of a swaying dragon three people high while suspended in space. It was a creative solution. 

For the last Act the tree was replaced by a ring of people in a circle representing the ring of fire. Their movements suggested not only the mountain but the fire itself. Everything through the entire evening was stunning and beautiful because of how stark and creative it was. 

The staging was matched by some truly beautiful singing. The hardest roles were of course Siegfried and Wotan who sing throughout the entire production. Stefan Vinke was able to carry the entire production with a voice that was clear, but never really that emotive, while Alan Held always commanded the stage with his singing. His voice was the embodiment of Wotan.  However the true powerhouse of the evening was Christine Goerke who returned to reprise her role as Brünnhilde in magnificent form. For the last section of the opera her and Vinke sang together ending the evening on a truly high note. While it was a marathon night I am glad I finally experienced my first full staged Siegfried.