Wednesday, May 29, 2024

What an experience…

I have been so busy over the last few weeks and meaning to write some in-depth reviews of the productions and concerts I have attended, but I would hate for you to read about this stuff in July, so here is a quick overview of my experience at Ariadne auf Naxos last week.

I had the opportunity to attend the COC’s opening night (4:30pm!?!) performance of Ariadne auf Naxos last weekend. Why on earth start an opera at 4:30pm on a Saturday? I made it through the entrance prior to the overture, was in the elevator prior to the overture, but by the time I reached my floor the music had started. I was literally seconds late. Was I allowed to enter the theatre and sit in my single seat directly on the other side of the door? No. Now, I hate a disruption but I’m talking about side ring seats which are all separate, kind of like a long private box, ie. barely anyone would notice you scoot in and sit down. Fine, I accepted my fate of having to watch the entire first act on the atrium television along with what amounted to as many as 40 patrons watching from a single plasma TV alongside me. This situation could have been acceptable, but one thing was not: THE TV HAD NO SOUND. Can I repeat that? No sound. That means I had to watch the entire first act of a two act opera without sound. Oh, okay, fine, they were gently pumping sound from the auditorium through the lobby intercom system, but the low volume and poor transmission made it feel like I was listening to a version of musical white noise, rather than a brilliant Straussian opera. The single shot camera mounted somewhere at the back of the theatre meant that I could barely make out any of the practically silent stage action either. COC, if you aren’t going to have late seating or even the option to stand at the back of the theatre (as was the case in the past) then please make the atrium viewing experience worthy of the money I paid for the ticket. I’m not asking for the VIP experience, but seriously, provide us with sound at the very least.

Once I got into the theatre for the second act I relaxed and enjoyed the experience. Well, almost. Adrienne Pieczonka who was to play Ariadne was, unfortunately, ill with a virus. She was replaced on very short notice by Amber Wagner, from the Ryan Opera Center at Chicago Lyric Opera. She did a very good job considering she was a last minute replacement, and kudos to her for standing up to the challenge. Unfortunately, the chemistry between her and Bacchus, Played by Richard Margison, was non-existent. Margison has had a fantastic career and loads of experience, which meant that I expected a lot more from him. His portrayal of the god Bacchus was lacklustre and his singing seemed somewhat laborious in the upper register. Overall, during “the opera”  I felt that the buttery, expansive tonal colouring that makes Strauss’ music so sumptuous was missing. Jane Archibald was a precise and entertaining Zerbinetta and I will refrain from discussing her singing since she was suffering from a chest infection at the time of the performance.

The production runs for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 30, May 3, 12, 15, 18, 21, 27 and 29, 2011.

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