The Sound of Music in York
By Sybille Forster-Rentmeister
Within 5 weeks Opera York delivered two different concerts.
In the beginning of October the so-called Opera for Seniors, with or without
a delicious Italian lunch, was sold out, as we have become accustomed to.
Many attending stated that they would appreciate coming out more often for
such a venue. Not only is it considered a diversion and good for body, mind
and soul, it actually causes intense pleasure for most. The older crowd is
vastly familiar with the melodies and arias of opera and operetta. This
music is a walk down memory lane for them. And while some can no longer
attend a full evenings performance, the midday outing is perfect for them.
On October 3rd the eager crowd was treated to
another of Opera York’s purposes, that of promoting young Canadian talent in
the field. Besides the Artistic Director and his ever-present muse Gisèle
Fredette we were treated to four young talents of considerable calibre.
Of course Mark DuBois opened the concert with a rousing
aria, not letting us forget for a minute that he is the tenor that can sing
beautiful circles around many, has a bigger hanky by far then some of the
more notorious tenors of the world, and that he always shows up and sings,
even with a cold. He never lets down his audience. Even when he was under
the knife for an operation after the accident around Christmas last year,
the show did go on. He had replaced himself in the program and ran the show
from his bed. This multi-talented consummate musician is ideally suited to
take some young talent by the hand and guide them through the pitfalls of an
early career. He has seen it all and done it all. He has weathered the
storms and remained humble in the glory. His numerous friends will attest to
another night a month later, on November 2nd, again in the Famee
Furlane Fruili Hall in Woodbridge, he again showcased some of the same young
talent as well as what is described as veteran performers like Gisèle
Fredette, Kinga Mitrowska, Corinne Lynch and Roy Schatz.
young talent introduced was a stunningly powerful Jessica Muirhead with a
unique "back-breathing" technique that makes it appear as though she is not
breathing at all, as she later explained. At the lunch concert as well as
the evening one she makes the audience think of other singers of days gone by. I
responded to the warm but clear rounded edge in her voice the same way I did
and do with Callas. Her soprano voice lends itself to all the dramatic roles
and we are looking forward to her further development.
Karan is a young and charming effervescent soprano of Russian descent, very
petite with quite a big voice. She too performed in both concerts. Her
technique is well developed. Her performances are skillful and well acted.
She knows how to create an effect at the right time. I liked her best when
she came across a bit less studied, as in her last piece about wanting to be
a Prima Donna. This aria suited her playful temperment especially well.
Bruno Cormier’s warm baritone resounded in the hall at
lunch. He was very comfortable with his performance and with the crowd.
Unfortunately he could not return for the other concert and was replaced by
Zadow, which turned out to be a wonderful surprise. This young and handsome
baritone learned several duets in a couple of days just for this concert! He
performed solo, with one of the ladies and also with Mark DuBois, and he
just shined. It was very clear that he is extremely versatile and a very
giving performer, which does bode well for him.
Di Maria an exotic looking soprano with an amazing voice, very mellow and
clear. Her pianissimos are poetry in sound. She fitted well into the theme
of Starlight Serenade.
The lunch concert also featured a Woodbridge native,
Anne Morrone. She too is like a rare exotic songbird, yet brings a bit more
drama to the stage, and leans more towards opera than operetta or musical.
During the lunch concert there were 8 performers in all, and
during the evening concert we counted 11, which included the two wonderful
accompanists, Danny McErlain And Mila Filatova. The evening concert was so
rich, so varied and because the artists are so giving, perhaps a tad too
long. But no one would have wanted to have missed any of the fine
performances of any of the artists.
far as the more seasoned performers are concerned, one delight was followed
by another. Gisèle Fredette’s legendary versatility, her warm and rich mezzo
soprano, her ability to deliver even a
pant-role with extraordinary panache, her tasteful appearance, the wardrobe,
just everything about her spells success and a very well deserved one.
Kinga Mitrowska decided to exercise her amazing ability of finding even the
highest note with a total sureness, no wavering, no sneaking up to it. She
hits it right on, crystal clear and without vibrato. The microphone even in
a hall not exactly perfectly build for the fine performance arts is not her
does not need any help at all for her mighty voice. It is quite apparent
that she has played a lot of big European houses, where big voices are
perhaps more familiar than here. It was a real pleasure to hear her again
and see her elegant appearance on the stage.
then there was Roy Schatz, a veteran Gilbert and Sullivan performer who had
the audience in stitches with his patter-songs and choreographed antics.
a fine G&S performer, but much, much more, was Corinne Lynch. She proved to
be a lyrical powerhouse, singing just about any imaginable style possible
that night. But the most riveting performance was a duet between her and
Mark DuBois from Phantom of the Opera.
wonders why these two did not play the leads in the popular musical
together. It was the most convincing performance of the Phantom I have seen.
It went straight under the skin. Mr. DuBois was the most Svengali-like
figure of the many versions I have seen.
Which brings me back to the man that has forwarded music in
this country like few others. He is not called a Canadian treasure without
good reason. Mark DuBois’ commitment to music and the education and
entertainment of future and current audiences is legendary. He deserves many
more accolades than I can provide in this space.
Artists are by nature much more generous than, let’s say,
moneylenders or butchers. But Mark DuBois is even a cut above most artists I
know. Perhaps that is why performers come when he asks them, from all over
the world to work with him.
The Starlight Serenade ended with all performers singing,
"Climb Every Mountain" and all 11 performers taking a few bows to thundering
Opera York has very quickly come into the public eye
because of the commitment of the opera’s board and the many volunteers that
gladly support the organizations fine purpose.
the audience keeps asking for more performances. Perhaps Woodbridge will
make its dream of a real performance/entertainment centre come true and
Opera York can be at home there, and establish a lasting presence in our
We are looking forward to future programming and especially
to the production of the Merry Widow next spring.