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Sharp-Ears the Fox conies close to being a family opera with its singing animals. Using a new English libretto by John Murrell, Artist Emeritus at Banff, and an orchestration by British composer-in-residence Jonathan Dove Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen was transferred from the Moravian woods to the Rocky Mountains and updated with smart, sassy language. The new orchestration for a smaller orchestra retained Janacek's rich sounds and modern mood. The interpretations by the youthful singers and members of Banff Centre Orchestra in August made the music very accessible.

The agility and flexibility of the double cast were by turns endearing and beautiful. However, as Sharp-Ears, I preferred soprano Betty Allison's convincingly foxy movements, her sly vocal style and her well-rounded characterization. Baritone Brent Calis's swaggering woodsman, ob-sessed with retrieving the escaped Sharp-Ears, was balanced by allowing his love of nature and loneliness to show. Jon-Paul Decosse, as Preacher/Badger, melded his comedic talents with a powerful and mellow bass-baritone to clearly define the complexities of each character.


Peter Brook's La tragedie de Carmen fit ideally into the Margaret Green-ham Theatre at the Banff Centre. With a quarter of the audience on the stage, the actors' every nuance was exposed in Brooks pared-down setting and more violent take on Carmen. Most of the much-loved music remained, but there is no chorus in this minimalist version of the lush Bizet opera.

Emily Parkinson's Carmen brooked no hint of confinement or diminution of her freedom through a series of deft moves. A powerful voice reinforced her obsession with instant gratification and demand for freedom. Riccardo Iannello's Don Jose, overwhelmed by his passions and wornout by Carmen's elusiveness, takes his anger out on others. As Micaela, Lisa Di Maria's confidence and warm soprano combined with a solid characterization of loyalty and strength to render her interpretation fascinating and memorable.

The fights, choreographed by stage-combat director J.P. Fournier, startled the audience with their realistic manoeuvers--a remarkable feat when much of the audience was within arm's length of the action.
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Author:Christison, Tim
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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