Tuesday, February 27, 2024

COC Staging Of Pomegranate Is Greater However Not Higher

coc Pomegranate
A scene from the Canadian Opera Firm’s world premiere manufacturing of Pomegranate, 2023 (Picture: Michael Cooper)

Pomegranate, opera in two acts. Music by Kye Marshall. Libretto by Amanda Hale. Jennifer Tarver, director. Rosemary Thomson, conductor. Manufacturing by the Canadian Opera Firm. COC Theatre, June 2, 2023.

Most operas undergo levels earlier than reaching their closing type. Pomegranate, which acquired what was billed as its world premiere Friday evening on the Canadian Opera Firm Theatre, in truth, began life in 2014 as a tune cycle by Kye Marshall (music) and Amanda Hale (phrases).

By 2019 it had developed right into a chamber opera telling the story of two younger lovers who join in historic Pompeii as initiates to a feminine thriller cult after which discover themselves reincarnated within the Fly By Night time, a Toronto bar that served as a centre for lesbian activism in 1981. A profitable staging by Buddies in Dangerous Instances Theatre attracted the curiosity of the COC.

It could be pure to anticipate the embrace of the biggest firm within the land to result in many enhancements. The orchestra is certainly bigger. Now there’s a refrain of six. A preamble having one thing to do with a faculty journey has been added to the libretto. However inflation just isn’t a synonym for worth. What Pomegranate has gained in magnitude, I worry, it has misplaced in readability and freshness.

One purpose for the miscarriage was the puzzling choice — by the corporate that did greater than some other to determine surtitles within the opera home — to disclaim spectators this primary assist to comprehension. It may be argued that opera audiences (and creators) have grow to be too reliant on textual content flashed overhead however the reality of the matter is that sopranos in full profession, particularly in a so-so acoustic surroundings, are obscure. Too usually in Pomegranate we had been diminished to recognizing a phrase right here and there and making an attempt to assemble which means retroactively. Within the midst of the 75-minute first act this grew to become an exhausting train.

The dilemma additionally put us within the paradoxical place of listening with rapt consideration to Teyia Kasahara 笠原貞野, a performer of formidable stage presence, speaking passionately because the priestess however not having a lot of an concept of what was on her thoughts. Likewise, the couple on the centre of the story (mezzo-soprano Adanya Dunn as Suli/Suzie and soprano Danielle Buonaiuto as Cassia/Cass) spun their lyrical duets however left us with little greater than the overall understanding that they longed to be collectively. Given the scads of notes they had been required to sing, they made a unusually skinny impression.

There have been however performances to savour, from baritone Peter Barrett (the lone male on stage) as Marcus the centurion and (later) Salvatore the scandalized uncle; and the mezzo-soprano Catherine Daniel, whose heat work as Suzie’s distraught mom represented the opera’s top of pathos.

Kasahara because the barkeep Jules had a memorable aria in a high-end Broadway type harking back to Kurt Weill. Music within the first act was modally classical, in step with the setting. If Marshall relied closely on that “vintage” standby, the harp, there was nonetheless loads of color within the rating, which started with an old school overture. Cello and violin had heartfelt solos. Dramatic timpani rolls alerted us to the peril posed by Mount Vesuvius.

The refrain, as marshalled by director Jennifer Tarver, struck acceptable poses in Act 1. An lively dance within the Fly By Night time earned the one spontaneous applause of the night. The lovers generally acquired bodily however there was little in the best way of ingenious interplay. The assault on Marcus by a swarm of bees, so memorable in 2019, went for nothing. Units and costumes had been ample.

A number of performers had been making COC debuts. Notable amongst them was the conductor Rosemary Thomson, who led the 27 or so members of the COC Orchestra with authority and panache. It was fascinating to look at her incisive work on the sidelines. Opera conductors are normally sequestered within the pit. The COC Theatre, a brickwork former warehouse house, has no pit.

Pomegranate, which had a sold-out run of three performances, was endorsed by Pleasure Toronto as a Main Cultural Occasion and billed by the COC as boundary-breaking. Nicely, we live in 2023. Identical-sex love is totally established as a topic for operatic therapy.

Which is to say that Pomegranate, even in its problematic expanded type, has the uncooked supplies of successful. It’s scheduled to be revived in Vancouver in August 2024. There may be time.


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