From Opera To Broadway at Meaford Hall
Meaford Live Music
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reviewed by Bill Monahan
It’s not often that the Opera House at Meaford Hall resounds with real operatic voices. As beautiful as the venue is, and despite its acoustic clarity, it is too small to mount a full scale operatic production. And opera stars rarely perform in another context. So it was a treat to experience From Opera To Broadway on Saturday night. We owe it to Angeline and Rob Dubien of Royal Lepage and to the Craigleith Manor for their sponsorship, and to the initiative of Craig Ashton who brought together four of his professional peers to create this special program.
The mood of the concert was carefully sculpted, starting with the ensemble singing Libiamo ne’lieti calici, a rollicking “drinking song” from Verdi’s La Traviata and carrying through to an inspiring finale of The Impossible Dream followed by You’ll Never Walk Alone. The stage set was simple with some elegant decoration upstage and four microphones in a row with the piano off to one side.
Because of their power and presence, their classical precision and passion, there’s a tendency to deify opera performers in a sense. This program countered that in ways that were both designed and unintentional. After the opening number, Craig spoke to each of the other performers individually, asking them for personal stories to add a human dimension for the audience. Baritone Jan Vaculik told of singing to his infant son who burst into tears partway through the aria. Pianist Susan Black, after mentioning that the most important musical lesson she learned was to “never turn down a gig” grabbed the microphone and stood to make a pitch directly to the audience to let us all know that she is for hire. Mezzo Soprano Katie Knapp recalled how she and Craig have difficulty singing duets together without dissolving in giggles. But the best anecdote came from soprano Teresa van der Hoeven with her story of sharing the stage with another soprano who, in the midst of an animated chest heaving solo suffered a wardrobe malfunction and it fell to Teresa, while the music continued, to “stuff them back in”.
THIS WEEK – AUG. 22 TO 28, 2016