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VOICEBOX: Opera In Concert.

Massenet's Werther was one of VOICEBOX: Opera In Concert founder, Stuart Hamilton's favourite operas. It was also one of the earliest operas presented by OIC in the fall of 1975, its second season. It starred the great contralto Maureen Forrester as Charlotte. Opposite her in the title role was the then unknown tenor Paul Frey, in one of his earliest professional stage experiences. Werther was presented only one other time by OIC in its history, in 1987. Seen on Nov. 25th, the four principals were tenor Matt Chittick (Werther), soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian (Charlotte), baritone Brett Polegato (Albert), and soprano Holly Chaplin (Sophie). Narmina Afandiyeva was the music director and pianist.

The performance was semi-staged, with projections to set the mood along with minimal props. The soloists wore concert attire and their movements were limited to some basic stage blocking. This opera stands and falls by its Werther, a daunting role and a huge sing for the tenor. A graduate of UBC, McGill and the Calgary Opera Emerging Artist Development Program, Chittick possesses a clear and bright lyric tenor and good French diction. He gave his all, but at this point in his young career, his Werther, while promising, is a work in progress. He possesses the right musical instincts but needs a more reliable technique and ease of vocal production.

This was soprano Bayrakdarian's role debut as Charlotte, usually sung by mezzosopranos. Bayrakdarian's strong middle register is ideal for this role, and she sang with powerful, rich tone, only marred by some flatness at the top here and there. More problematic was a distinct lack of chemistry between the lovers, not helped by the illogical staging. Forget about passion--they were rarely close together. In the final scene, she sang "his eyes are closing, his hand is cold ..." while standing ten feet behind him!

Holly Chaplin was a bright-voiced if slighdy edgy Sophie.Veteran baritone Brett Polegato was an assured and strong-voiced Albert, with the requisite gravitas--too bad the role doesn't give him all that much music to sing. Impressive was the masterful playing of pianist Afandiyeva. Massenet's orchestration is surprisingly heavy, almost Wagnerian in spots. Afandiyeva produced torrents of sound, achieving as orchestral a texture as a single piano would allow. The OIC Chorus did yeoman's work. All in all, an enjoyable Sunday afternoon at the opera. --Joseph So

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Title Annotation:TORONTO
Author:So, Joseph
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Jun 22, 2019
Words:389
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