The Boris Brott Autumn Festival is a cake, baked in layers of chaos capped
with a rich icing of great fun.
The chaos can provide some disappointments. The gentleman next to me at the second of the festival’s concerts, Viva L’Italia at Liuna Station,
Tuesday night, had come to hear several duets from Puccini’s La Bohème, which he particularly loved and that he’d seen advertised. He said this to me
as he glumly perused a program that had not one Puccini duet on it.
And, while I’m on this subject, there is another disappointment. In my Classical Gas column yesterday, you’ll have noticed I told you the
festival’s Concerto Extravaganza concert Oct. 11 in Hamilton Place’s Studio Theatre was free. That was the information given to me in writing by
Brott’s own hand but a week ago. It now has a $10 ticket.
The chaos stems from the festival not knowing, until about five minutes
before curtain time, whether it has any funding or not or how much that funding is and hence what it can afford.
It can be fun, giving an air of spontaneity and improvisation to what can be a very staid and stuffy art form.
For instance, there was a duet from La Bohème on the program, A soave fanciulla, but it wasn’t listed. Nor was La donna e mobile from Rigoletto or
Brindisi from La Traviata.
This last omission took even conductor Brott by surprise. When tenor Mark DuBois announced he and soprano Suzanne Kompass would sing it, Brott
had to scuttle right out of the hall to go get his music so he could conduct it.
It was DuBois who simply carried the evening off as if he’d driven a diesel locomotive up to Platform One, put the stage on a flat car and driven
off with it. He is at the top of his game, in fine voice and in fine fettle, too.
Always one of my favourite Mozartean lyric tenors and still a handsome devil of an operatic hero. DuBois’ voice just soared with real power
and musicality over this much heavier repertoire.
His other enormous assets, his humour and utterly assured stage presence,
turned the entire concert into a intimate evening of musical fun that drew
everyone in the audience to him like a magnet...
Hugh Fraser is an award-winning critic, who has been reviewing music
for more than 20 years.