Kevin Armstrong’s Opera For Heathens is playing at the Tarragon Theatre, Solo Room at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Opera For Heathens should be playing in a concert hall or a German open air stadium circa 1989
Have you ever wondered what Mozart would sound like had he been heavily influenced by Johnny Cash? Similarly, what would Donizetti sound like under the influence of Metallica or Rossini under the influence of Bugs Bunny?
Kevin Armstrong performs it all. Opera by Mozart, Puccini, Bizet and Rossini. Rock opera by Queen, Meat Loaf (Jim Steinman), The Who and Andrew Lloyd Webber. And if it weren’t enough that this musical talent sings with so much versatility, Armstrong also accompanies himself on guitar, alternating between an acoustic and seven-string electric instrument and a looping device for added musical depth and variety.
Armstrong is a talent and a force and while the Solo Room caters to solo performers, it did not do him justice. The space is too polite, too reserved, too subscription crowd for his brand of performance. It is way too timid to take on the kind of big sound that would really make his show rock! He rocks; it’s hard for a gifted operatic voice not to. But the music needs to be louder.
Even if you’re an opera neophyte like me, Kevin Armstrong makes the genre very accessible and enjoyable. He is engaged, affable, funny and a true showman. There were opera aficionados in the front row at today’s performance who bopped along to selections from Tosca, Don Giovanni, Carmen and The Barber of Seville.
Then there was me, a rock opera fanatic. I thought Armstrong had had me at “heathen”. Or Queen. Or was it Meat Loaf? I got goosebumps, like a nerd, when he finished the first verse of “Objects In The Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are”. I was curling my toes for selections from The Who’s Tommy.
By the time he broke out the Judas Iscariot from Jesus Christ, Superstar, I was liquefied butter.
The audience gave a much deserved standing ovation after Armstrong’s final song, “Figaro’s Aria”.
Kevin Armstrong is a great musician and an excellent performer. If you’re looking for a musical experience that fuses high art and popular culture, Opera For Heathens is the show to see!
- Opera For Heathens is playing at Tarragon Theatre, Solo Room (30 Bridgman Ave., 2nd Floor)
- Showtimes: July 3, 10:00pm, July 5, 3:00pm, July 6, 5:00pm, July 7, 8:00pm, July 10, 8:15pm, July 11, 4:30pm, July 12, 8:45pm, July 14, 5:45pm
- Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
- Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
Image of Opera For Heathens provided by Kevin Armstrong