Toronto Operetta Theatre.
Oscar Straus's The Chocolate Soldier is based on Shaw's Arms and the Man, though the operetta is less acerbic than the original. It comes over, rather, as a somewhat farcical love story with a few gentle pot shots at the military and militarism. There are some good comic lines and the music is tuneful and well crafted. Guillermo Silva-Marin's production (Apr.) for Toronto Operetta Theatre was set conventionally c. 1900, the story told in a straightforward manner. He found frequent opportunities to insert movement, which made for quite a lively show. It was, though, mostly about the principals, their interactions and their evident comedic abilities. Singing Nadina, a young Bulgarian maiden, Jennifer Taverner may be just about the ideal operetta soubrette with her light, bright, agile and accurate soprano. She's also a good actress, with excellent comic timing and good movement. She has two admirers; her fiance, the Bulgarian "hero" Alexius, and Bummerli, a distinctly unmilitary Swiss in Serbian service. The former, a bumptious and insufferable character was played deadpan by tenor Cian Horrobin. He made a good comic foil for the other characters and sang well. Baritone Michael Nyby sang Bummerli. He's also a very good actor and brought out the straightforward cynicism of the character. He sang well, though one might have wished for a somewhat sweeter tone in an operetta's leading man. Anna Caroline Macdonald played Nadma's cousin, Measha, and Eugenia Dermentzis her mother. They did a fine job of representing the airheaded female equivalents of the vacuous Bulgarian officers. Dermentzis 's darker-toned mezzo contrasted nicely with the brighter-toned younger characters. Then there was Greg Finney as Colonel Popoff, the ineffectual and unsoldierly commander of the Bulgarian army who bumbles through the piece as little in control of his womenfolk as his army. He was very funny and his singing very solid. The minor roles and the chorus were fine, though the standard of dancing was variable. Peter Tiefenbach conducted a well-paced reading of the score with a small chamber orchestra. --John Gilks