Review: Rob Ford: the Opera (University of Toronto Faculty of Music)

Rob Ford: the Opera played to a capacity house this afternoon at The MacMillan Theatre.  800 people were there according to the Dean of the Faculty, Dr. Don McLean. (No, not that Don McLean.) I arrived at 1:45pm and the line up snaked its way from the lobby doors of the theatre down a corridor, around a corner, outside, back inside , and then down another corridor. They opened the Balcony so there would be enough seats.

Somehow I doubt that everyone was an opera fan; I suspect the subject matter had something to do with the attendance.  Opera fans or not, the audience loved the performance, lots of laughing and lots of applause – and possibly some new opera fans?Rob Ford: the Opera is described by the press release as “… a surrealist fantasy based loosely upon the personality of Toronto’s current and much discussed Mayor.” It’s written by Michael Patrick Albano and the music is composed by Massimo Guido, Anna Hostman, Adam Scime and Saman Shahi, all student composers. Each of them composed a specific scene (or scenes), which could be a recipe for chaos but it worked seamlessly.

You could cram what I know about opera into a very small thimble and have room left over.  I really can’t comment on the technicalities of the production. I can say that it impressed me. It seemed like a real opera, surtitles and all. The music was beautiful. The performers were talented actors as well as being talented singers.

Andrew Haji was excellent as Rob Ford in a dark suit and red tie. In an early scene we see him trying to learn to ride a trike and getting very frustrated.

I had two favourite characters. Rosanna Murphy played Margaret Atwood playing God in a dream sequence. She was perfect, she even walked like Margaret Atwood.

Lamilynn Gubbe as the Unhappy Seagull was my other favourite. Her random little head turns and twitches looked exactly like a bird. She was wonderful.

Another terrific touch was the panel of librarians who judged Rob Ford. I know, librarians don’t look like that anymore – black pencil skirts, cardigans, glasses and knitting – but they used to.

The script (libretto – I’m learning) was perfect. Funny without being nasty. And the ending was perfect.

It was a beautiful production even though there wasn’t much in the way of a set. The lighting was very effective. In one scene Margaret is on a platform behind a black curtain. She’s lit so we can see her in almost exaggerated detail. She glowed. It made me think of the way some old religious paintings glow. Beautiful.

There was only one performance of Rob Ford: the Opera but I hope it gets produced again. All that young talent!

Rob Ford: the Opera opened the New Music Festival which continues until February 5.


– Rob Ford: the Opera played at The MacMillan Theatre (80 Queen’s Park)

Photo by Richard Lu

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