Tolkien opera played on stage in Toronto
Playing at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre Theatre, The Hobbit is an impressive, beautifully performed operatic production of Tolkien’s fantasy novel. With the exception of one old-timer, the cast ranges in age from three to nineteen years old.
My school-aged theatre companion is a Tolkien fan, so this opera was a treat for him. He enjoyed following this much beloved story that had Bilbo become adventurous and heroic as he attempted to outwit a dragon, and I’m thankful it was turned into an opera. Since I only vaguely know the story of The Hobbit, the surtitles proved to be a guiding light.
Bilbo the hobbit (Nicholas Mochocki) and Thorin the dwarf (Clara Moir) held the story together with their strong voices, physical expression and fitting wardrobe. At such young ages, Mochocki and Moir demonstrated admirable commitment, discipline and endurance. Gandolf (grownup Giles Tomkins) was instantly recognizable with his tall hat, paternal presence and booming voice.
As for the music, you can listen to an earlier recorded version of Far Over the Misty Mountains for yourself on the the composer Dean Burry’s website. For me, it’s the standout piece from the opera. Now you can imagine kids singing it who are not even old enough to drive! The other song that really stuck out for me was a song performed by the people of Laketown.
In terms of costumes, I thought that Gollum (Zahra Somji) looked perfectly creepy, especially when he was eating the fish. I also liked the powerful presence of the dragon, whose huge head was presented rather than his whole body. I found this to be effective because its immense mouth and beady eyes added to its scariness.
My only critique is that I found the stage to be a touch too dark throughout the whole production. I felt that a bit more light was needed. My eyes were a bit tired after this performance and I think it’s because I found myself squinting.
All in all, it was a wonderfully executed operatic version of a much-appreciated fantasy. A love of opera, magic and teamwork brought this production to life.
Image from the Canadian Children’s Opera Company website