Medea (Canadian Opera Company) 

Set to a broody and demanding score by Luigi Cherubini with Carlo Zangarini’s Italian libretto translation, the COC’s ambitious new co-pro mines Euripides’ iconic tragedy for every ounce of its delicious melodrama and winningly rejects pressure to impose important modern meaning upon the disturbing tale. A twist ending that sees the titular sorceress joining her children in their fate adds new character dimension but, for the most part, director/set designer Sir David McVicar lets the intense but ultimately simple story take a back seat to emotion and fabulous theatricality. The incomparable Sondra Radvanovsky shows off her exquisite range and control in a central performance full of thrilling dynamics and bold physicality a lesser singer couldn’t handle without risking their breath. But it’s the design that makes this production stand a head above the rest. A perfectly angled mirrored wall creates depth on the stage while presenting the action from a second angle, allowing for some truly showstopping visuals along with the requisite metaphorical resonance. Lush, epic, and heavy, the design perfectly reflects the tone of the piece and, together with Cherubini’s music, draws you into Medea’s tortured world to experience it as a feeling more than follow it as a plot.


Don Pasquale (Canadian Opera Company)

I love some good counter-programming so, while this wacky Donizetti romp was not really my style, I appreciate it as a cheeky counterbalance to the grand Medea. The competent cast doesn’t benefit from the comparison, however, no one quite light enough on their feet to leap out of the shadow of Medea‘s international stars. Bold direction is the only thing that makes sense to me with opera so the loud design and modernization of director/designer/dramaturges Barbe & Doucet is very welcome but it doesn’t go quite far enough. A delightful comic book motif is introduced to great effect and quickly abandoned and the energy never rises to the infectious delirium best suited to the nonsense story. Donizetti’s score has some delectable treats, especially in the second act, and the production’s standout piece makes a great showcase for the ever-reliable COC ensemble. Perhaps a strange thing to say about a production so visibly odd but more oddity feels necessary for the chaos to coalesce.


Four Minutes Twelve Seconds (Studio 180 Theatre in association with Tarragon)

This dark and difficult one-act from the reliable Studio 180 delivers, as all the best things do, lots of questions and no easy answers even as the text at times over-complicates at the expense of coherent character motivation. The starry pairing of Sergio Di Zio and Megan Follows makes for an immensely watchable foundation as their characters deal with an impossible situation and confront what they don’t want to believe to be true. The production at times feels a little under-prepared as the naturalistic dialogue bleeds through jumped cues and missed lines but director Mark McGrinder’s strong pacing and simple use of space help to keep the focus on his stars. The uneven script is hard to love but the Di Zio and Follows’ earnest charisma carries us through.