Mark DuBois - World Renowned Lyric Tenor
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A
Toronto has the Sound of Music

By Sybille Forster-Rentmeister
Echo Germanica

Just imagine life without music. What would this city with its millions of people be like? We need music like we need air to breathe to withstand and keep up with the fast pace life demands of us these days.

In April I saw 2 operas (Rigoletto and Die Walkuere, read the review by Amanda Tower and for more and upcoming events go www.coc.ca; one lighter Opera, Die Fledermaus from Toronto Operetta Theatre, www.torontooperetta.com, and I heard three concerts, one in Roy Thomson Hall, one in the Glen Gould Studio and one as part of the Austrian Diplomatic Lounge. Without these musical adventures spring just would not be complete. Each different venue offers perspectives on life other than what we experience on a daily basis, yet there are strong recognizable similarities. Looking at life through the arts has a therapeutic value not to be discounted, and music is especially valuable that way.

Operetta Theatre

The TOT has delighted audiences, especially those of European heritage, for many years with the lighter form of opera. Johann Strauss, Jr. is certainly immortal, if not only, but also for Die Fledermaus. This perennial crowd pleaser has traditionally been one of the New Years Eve specials to be expected, other than The Merry Widow. The TOT produced the opera for the 3rd time, and I still recall the previous version from 1998 well. In the newest production I thought I recognized some of the costumes of the 50ies era, which featured the overdone look of French designers: pencil skirt with poof overlay for instance, which added to the slightly over the top sentiments of the production then and now. But in an operetta or opera we do not expect realism, not in costumes, not in story line, not in behaviour. What we do expect is great acting with good timing and great singing. And that we certainly got for the most part in this years production of Die Fledermaus. In fact, I do not recall having seen a livelier version ever before.

The substantially beefed up part of Alfred was sung by multitalented tenor Mark DuBois. We have not seen him as lively and energetic for some time. Here it was clear where he belongs: on a stage, any stage where he can sing and act and show off his versatile voice, and in this instance his comedic timing. He had very recently come back from a 3 city European tour of singing "God" in a Canadian composed Oratorio. Vienna, Bratislava and Prague gave him and his colleagues 15 minute long standing ovations. It must have been gratifying to hear such accolades. This translated perhaps into an extra amount of free energy to be used in this part of a love-crazed tenor. He sang parts of every conceivable tenor role with much bravura, and when he lays on the Italian accent no one can stop laughing.

The object of his adoration was of course Laura Whalen as Rosalinda, a young Canadian soprano with a lovely voice and fine acting ability. Easy on the eyes and with a good sense of humor she handled her part and arias with good technical skills and managed to communicate well with the audience.

Despite vocal difficulties Ross Neill delivered an imposing Eisenstein.

Elizabeth Beeler as the chambermaid also did well with her part, especially in the acting department, and while her soprano did manage the heights, it was a bit harsh in the upper register, a symptom of many a singer from the popular musical stages, where an edge is desirable.

Alexander Dobson was pleasing as Dr. Falke, the bat. His baritone is well rounded and he knows his way around a stage.

Guillermo Silva-Marin not only staged this new production, he also sang the part of Frosch, the jailer, who wants to learn to sing. Let it be known that he can sing even without the lessons from Alfred, and quite well too! His comedic timing is also great and his willingness to make a fool of himself added greatly to the merriment.

Keith Savage who created a most unusual character with mincing, yet military steps, a bored attitude, and a mobile face played Prince Orlovsky. One was reminded of the dime between the cheeks a tenor needs to sing the high notes, according to Mark DuBoisí Alfred.

Calvin Powell as the warden, Brett Chapman and Geoffrey Arseneau sharing the role of the lawyer Blind rounded out a well-chosen cast with an ensemble group of singers who were most lovely to look at and listen to.

The satirical libretto was also dramaturgically enhanced with very now comments on the state of affairs in our fair land, sponsorship scandal and all, just as we are accustomed to hear in an operetta, and the small but well-rounded orchestra under Maestro Derek Bate made the evening entirely wonderful. The only pity is still that not enough younger people have discovered the pleasures of good old-fashioned operetta/light opera...

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