Perhaps it is not so much the love for Vienna but what Vienna stands for that finds such big acceptance in Toronto. Even people who have never been there but have experienced some form of Viennese ambience and culture always are willing to go where they can have more of the same. This makes the Toronto Operetta Theatre a great success with Canadians of middle European descent, who are especially familiar with the Viennese music genre.
One can hardly imagine a New Years Eve, or Sylvester, without a light opera followed by a late night light supper, dressed to the nines, showing off a little "bling" acquired perhaps recently at Christmastime. What a great tradition!
We are fortunate in Toronto to have the Toronto Operetta Theatre under the artistic direction of the multi talented Guillermo Silva-Marin, a self-professed workaholic who runs several artistic venues.
The TOT exists since 1985 and has produced many happy hours for countless enthusiasts. I myself recall many a memorable moment, such as the highest C on the planet. It was sung by a soprano on top of the CN tower’s pod, an amazing feat and dangerous too. The wind was strong and there was not a solid barrier to keep one from being blown away over the edge.
This year the offering of the season is Wiener Blut, which could be translated as Vienna Blood, but the meaning is more in the direction of Vienna Life and the typical joie de vivre the city is famous for. The music was composed by Johann Strauss II and completed by Adolf Mueller. The plot is also very much as we have come to expect from a Viennese operetta, and deals with several love stories going awry, confusion ensues and in the end everything works out just fine. It is the usual play of immorality while trying to maintain a moral exterior and was written by Victor Leon and Leo Stein.
One of the reasons why we wanted to see the operetta - other then not having seen it in a few years - was the participation of Mark DuBois, whose performances we always enjoy. He did not disappoint us in the role as Count Zeldau of the House of Reuss Greiz Schleiz, which must be a tongue twister for non-German speaking artists, but they all managed admiringly well!
Mark DuBois looked very trim and fit, his tenor voice has lost nothing of its lustre, nor did he lack his mischievous sparkle on stage. He was on from the minute he appeared, which cannot be said of all the performers. Some of them required a whole act to warm up their charm and voice. Marcel van Neer as his secretary Josef also performed right from the start with gusto. He displayed a great comedic talent very becoming for this role.
Jackalyn Short sang the part of the mistress Franzi. Her powerful soprano became nicely mellow during the course of the evening. We saw Stewart Graham as her father, and Carla Huhtanen as a peppery Pepi.
Katerina Tchoubar was quite alluring as the wayward wife that returns to claim her rightful place next to hers husband’s side as the Ambassador to Vienna.
The rest of the cast was always ready to fill in, dance, and move the set, which is a marvellously rehearsed play in itself on the relatively small stage. All that happened in a sort of crossover Biedermeier look and setting with wardrobes reminiscent of this same period, pulled together by the fabulous Strauss music under the baton of Kevin Mallon. Try to catch a performance. It is still running till January 8, 2006.
And even though this was not the usual over the ramp performance the whole effect was charming and another fine credit for Silva-Marin and his enduring Toronto Operetta Theatre, which has come a long way from humble beginnings to being an institution we cannot do without. Where would all the Hungarians, Germans and Austrians be going in Canada for their annual injection of old world charm?
Luckily the TOT also performs other musical theatre forms such as the famous English equivalents.
Next in line is Kurt Weill’s Lady in the Dark. Check it out at www.torontooperetta.com.