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Burnt Toast: 8 Mini Comic Operas About Love.

Burnt Toast: 8 Mini Comic Operas About Love

Rhombus Media/marblemedia; 50 minutes

Music by Alexina Louie, libretto by Dan Redican

The Esprit Orchestra, Alex Pauk, conductor. Larry Weinstein, director.

Starring Dan Redican, Jean Stilwell, Shannon Mercer, Paul Gross, Jessica Holmes, Scott Thompson, Philip Akin, Leah Pinsent, Colm Feore, Bob Martin, Liane Balaban, Diane Fabian, Mark Breslin, David Alpay, Sarah Manninen, Kristin Lehman, Paul O'Sulllivan, Colin Mochrie, Debra McGrath, Cathy Jones, Joel Katz, Maurice Dean Wint, Martin Houtman, Zorana Sadiq, Mark McKinney, Barbara Hannigan and Sean Cullen

With the voices of Jean Stilwell, Shannon Mercer, Michael Colvin, Krisztina Szabo, Martin Houtman, Peter McGillivray, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Benjamin Butterfield, Joel Katz, Zoran Sadiq, Russell Braun, Ann Monoyios, Doug MacNaughton and Barbara Hannigan How can this original made-for-DVD comic opera miss, with a cast of some of Canada's greatest actors and singers involved in the project? The inspiration for Burnt Toast was the wildly successful 1997 Louie/Redican five-minute opera, Toothpaste, in which a marriage breaks up over the woman's irritating habit of not replacing the toothpaste cap. (The characters of Constance and Trevor from Toothpaste also appear in Burnt Toast.) The new opera, made up of eight self-contained vignettes, describes the stages of love. The through-line is Redican himself as a weird, silent professor who uses Wonderbread and a toaster as a metaphor for what we are about to see in each mini-opera. For example, in "Stage 1: Attraction," he uses a magnet to pick up a piece of bread. As human relationships crumble, the toast starts to burn.


Redican's libretto is very clever, even cynical. For example, in "Stage 4: Marriage," the handsome young groom promises to "drink, fart and snore" while the pretty bride declares her love by swearing she will turn the kids against the husband, all to shimmering, neo-Romantic music.

The glory of the piece is Louie's score, which manages to quote from Lucia di Lammermoor, Die Zauberflote and Tristan und Isolde while sounding completely unique. She has matched each vignette with a homage to an opera style. For example, the courtroom scene of "Stage 7: Disintegration" is high Baroque, with the court stenographer mimicking playing a harpsichord and all the players letting fly with florid ornamentation. (The woman, played by Cathy Jones and sung by soprano Ann Monoyios, is acquitted by the all-female jury for killing her husband who kept leaving the toilet seat up.) What Louie proves is that she can write in any style and mood, and do it brilliantly.

The film is gorgeously shot on location, with wonderfully inventive camera angles that highlight the music and text while not getting in the way. The costumes are perfect for each character. Perhaps the best moment among many is Colin Mochrie's anti-wife tirade (voiced by baritone Russell Braun) in "Stage 6: Perseverance." As Mochrie rampages through the garden of his suburban bungalow, taking out his anger on the leaf-blower and hedge-trimmer, Braun tears through Louie's version of The Queen of the Night's aria that requires all kinds of vocal effects from falsetto to growling. It is hilarious.

Burnt Toast will be broadcast on CBC-TV's Opening Night on Feb. 9.
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Author:Citron, Paula
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:Verdi: Don Carlo.
Next Article:Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro.

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