Opera York's Gala at Maxim's
By Sybille Forster-Rentmeister
What a difference a year makes when the right people get together and make a
concerted effort to advance a common cause. This year’s gala fundraiser of
Opera York was bigger, better and even more entertaining than the last one.
This time the Famee Furlane transformed into Maxim’s, the French nightclub
where the future of the so-called Merry Widow is decided.
DuBois single-handedly rewrote Franz Lehar’s famous operetta to make it
suitable for the hall. He adapted it so brilliantly that cuts in the
storyline were not noticed at all. The fabulous singers moved from song to
aria with ease, accompanied by a small orchestra, part of the set and just
big enough to create the right illusions.
narrator, Anthony Paton, filled in any open questions to connect the pearls
of music with each other.
The audience, just having enjoyed a sumptuous Italian dinner with wine and all the trimmings, felt as though they were part of the set at Maxim's, guests in this French house of hospitality, where Europe’s famous and infamous upper crust and pretenders hang out when they want to see and be seen. And there was indeed a lot to see, even in the audience that night in mid-April.
Mayor of Vaughan, Michael Di Biase, turned up and so did other politicians,
including the Hon. Elinor Caplan, P.C., M.P. It is really good to know that
the opera has so much support among the powers that are. Perhaps the dream
of a performance centre for the Vaughan region will come true soon.
and President Philip Trow, himself a musician, and Joan Sax, also Co-Founder
of Opera York and a musician, both had welcomed everyone heartily and
praised their Volunteers and Artists, especially Mark DuBois, who had taken
on the many hats of Artistic Director, Tenor, Conductor and everything else
that such a production brings with it, his wife Maria by his side as Stage
Manager. The brilliant adaptation was itself a dramaturgical masterpiece,
proving once again that Mark DuBois is not called a Canadian treasure
Lynch navigated her way effortlessly through the plot thick with men wanting
to end up with her, or rather her millions. Her lovely voice caught just the
right timbre when she remembers her youth, her homeland with everyone’s
favourite aria Villia and other songs.
Fredette surprised again with her effervescent performance of Valencienne,
the "anständige Frau", the proper wife, who would never flirt with another
husband is Baron Zeta, played by Roy Schatz, who brings his immense comic
character quality to the part of ridiculously naïve husband.
lover of course is sung by Mark DuBois, who else could (almost) convince a
lady to run away with him, conduct an orchestra and see to it that every
performer feels great on stage, including young and newer talent like Lauren
Segal, soprano, as Olga, and Rosalind Mills, mezzo soprano, as Sylviane.
Mark Potvin as St. Brioch fills in the story with his comedic talent and
fine baritone voice, as does Bernie Lynch, tenor, as M. Cascada.
who gets the Merry Widow after all is said and done? Count Danilo of
course, Anna Glawari’s first love, sung by Matthew Zadow in a youthful and
rich baritone voice. Tall dark and handsome he played a very convincing
playboy, plagued by doubts and lack of commitment, yet pursued by woman
Martin, a Director with Opera York, pursued him relentlessly and with much
verve in her cameo roll as Praskowia. And through the last act the audience
was treated to real life dancing by the St. Elizabeth Dancers, showing that
they can do the CANCAN, as did Gisèle Fredette in a very "spritzy" number
with show costume.
The production, neither concert nor full version, was a unique blend of ingenuiety and know-how, a feast for the eyes and the ears, utilizing this venue to its best advantage. The one thing that could stand improvement is the sound system, which one cannot do without in a venue like this. It was not built with perfect acoustics in mind. Even the best performers will have a hard time projecting to the end of the hall in a restaurant with a house system. And if we consider that there was practically no time for a full technical dress rehearsal, then we know that we witnessed a miracle, which was well rewarded with long salvos of applause.
The silent auction had many more items to offer than last time and should have raised a nice sum. Even Ms. Caplan bid and won her bid. The 450 plus people attending definitely had a wonderful evening and walked away as happy as the opera company and its cast and volunteers. Everyone we spoke to said that they could hardly wait for the next offering.