As a celebration of the 60 years of Opera McGill, the Schulich School of Music late last month presented a run of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus in the Monument National. The opening was a big success, with a fresh array of voices, exquisite Art-Nouveau sets by Vincent Lefèvre and brilliant costumes by Ginette Grenier.
No minimalism from director Patrick Hansen, although the camp was generally of the high rather than low variety. Spoken dialogue was mostly in German – a useful pedagogical exercise as well as a means of avoiding a language fuss. There were, nonetheless, a few touches of working-class English, à la My Fair Lady, from Adele and Ida. And of course the libretto calls for fractured French.
One amusing invention was an out-of-tune band mimicking the general inebriation. The traditional Act 2 special guests were McGill alumni Joshua Hopkins, Dominique Labelle and Daniel Taylor, all in great shape, if introduced in a somewhat stiff and formal style.
To the surprise of many, Hansen assumed conducting duties himself. He drew smooth sounds from the compact orchestra (which included only 11 strings). The Laughing Song (featuring the dazzling coloratura of Gina Hanzlik) was a hit in part because of its free and natural pulse.
Baritone Jonah Spungin sang warmly and acted well as that high-spirited cad Eisenstein. The overture sounded as though it had been rehearsed – a luxury these days even in professional houses. Bravi tutti.
The Opera McGill B!nge festival runs March 10 & 11: 7 operas in 24 hours! Click here for more information.
Read our interview with Opera McGill Artistic Director Patrick Hansen, which was published in the December/January issue of La Scena Musicale, here.