Community opera at its best, Toronto Opera Repertoire offers accessible and entertaining shows like the Italian Lucia di Lammermoor
If you’re fascinated by the opera (like I am) but are nervous about a heavy ticket price, not understanding the show and feeling overwhelmed being stuck in a tuxedo, ball gown, opera glasses and stuffy opera crowd (like I have been), then the Toronto Opera Repertoire (TOR) is perfect for you.
Opera – complete with stunning sets, stunning voices, amazing musicianship, costumes and supertitles (projected to the ceiling) combined with the dedication and accessibility of community theatre is what the TOR is all about. Their production of Lucia di Lammermoor playing at the Bickford Centre is a perfect introduction to the world of opera.
Written by Gaetano Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor made its original debut inNaples in 1835. The story is very akin to Romeo and Juliet – a tale of warring families and forbidden love. Lord Enrico Ashton (Yevgeny Yablonovsky) has murdered the father of Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood (Jay Lambie) who then swears vengeance on the Ashton family until he meets Lucia Ashton (Carrie Gray) and falls madly in love. But as can be expected, tragedy follows.
The entire performance is sung in Italian and for those non-Italian speakers, the English translation is projected above the stage. As with watching any foreign subtitled film, sometimes it can be a little difficult to follow. During the scenes with the chorus and cast on stage, I found myself occasionally forgetting to look up for the titles being captivated by what individual members on stage were doing, how they were reacting to the scene that was playing out. I’d end up missing a line or two, but that doesn’t take away from understanding the show.
Opera is not easy to perform. There’s no question about it. During most musicals there are at least some spoken parts in between songs. With opera, everything is sung and sung in a way that demands a remarkable amount of vocal control and strength. So hats off to this entire cast of community performers, many of whom perform with the TOR as a side passion to their regular day jobs. I was accompanied for the performance by my friend Laurien who was as blown away as I was with the stamina of the performers throughout the show.
As Laurien and I discussed the show during the two intermissions, we found ourselves both captivated by the performance of Anthony Fauré who played multiple roles as Lord Arturo and Normanno, Captain of the Guard. Though neither role was particularly large, the moment he stepped onto the stage and began to sing, he captivated the stage and the audience.
Laurien noted the slight delay in cohesion of the chorus to gel with the flow of the story and summed it up to opening night jitters. I was duly impressed with the performances of Yevgeny Yablonovsky for the diligence and perfection he put in his role and of Carrie Gray for the sheer magnitude of her vocal ability. Also, pianist Rina (Hyewon) Kim who provided the music for the entire production – amazing work.
The beauty of his performance lies in the fact that it is generated from the community performing classic pieces and being produced in a way that is accessible, open and welcoming to those that may not normally get a chance to experience the opera – noted by what appeared to be a class of high school music students in the audience. You don’t require a ticket into high society to be welcome to the show, you won’t need to dress up, you don’t even require opera glasses – you simply need to experience.
– Lucia di Lammermoor is showing at the Bickford Centre (777 Bloor Street West)
– Performances are on February 15, 18, 24, 29 and March 3 at 7:30 pm with a matinee showing on February 26 at 2 pm.
– Tickets are $25 and $15 for students and can be purchased in advance online at UofTtix.ca, by phone by calling 416-978-5549 or at the door.
Photo of Carrie Gray and Yevgeny Yablonovsky by James Thomson.