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Following the success of its concert production of Idomeneo, the Vancouver Academy of Music romped through Die Fledermaus to the delight of an appreciative audience. Presented in Granville Island's intimate Waterfront Theatre, stage director David Meek turned every difficulty inherent to the small stage to his advantage. No curtain? Stage the overture with cast members setting up the trick on von Eisenstein. No pit? Set the orchestra on a corner of the stage and have Frosch include it in his monologue. No percussion? Have the introductory characters (as street cleaners) use their brooms in place of the snare drum ... and in three-quarter time, too. Limited wings? Have some characters enter from the house. All this stage business added to the piquancy of the plot.

Two sopranos shared the lead role. Melody Mercredi, a sensuous, provocative Rosalinde, skillfully used her vocal control to fascinate her "lover" and bewitch her "husband." Soula Parassidis, a more devious, controlling wife, displayed a wide range of tonal color and projected well. David Morrow and John Bacon, both playing Baron von Eisenstein, had well-trained tenor voices beautifully suited to the role. All the singers made a seamless transition from song to speech. The part of Adele, always a highlight in this opera, was sung and delightfully acted by both Lindsay Sutherland Boal and Carrie Wiebe. As Alfred, Ben Schnitzer was suitably pompous and pushy, and amazed the audience when he broke into vibrant tenor arias at every opportunity. Other parts were well-characterized and nicely sung by David Gibbons, John Weng, Joel Klein, Jerod Bertram, Aurora Falkner-Killam, and Katheryn Garden. Prince Orlofsky (Colleen Renihan and Mia Harris) provided a new twist to the story by competing for Adele's affections with Herr Frank. Guest actor Michael Wild was the definitive Frosch. The nine-piece student orchestra plus piano (played by music director Donna Falconer) set a merry pace for this effervescent score under the baton of Frank Klassen.--Hilary Clark

Vancouver Opera's La traviata, though not transcendent, had sufficient positive elements and no major failings to make for an engrossing and ultimately moving evening.

The company's Principal Conductor, Jonathan Darlington, led a responsive orchestra, demonstrating that he can be as convincing in Verdi as in his previous Mozart collaborations. The handsome sets and costumes from Santa Fe Opera were large scale, filling the Queen Elizabeth Theatre's stage. Chorus and principals wore the 19th-century costumes with ease and distinction, a tribute to the discreetly unobtrusive but telling direction of Nancy Hermiston.

As Violetta, Madeleine Bender was as good as any interpreter of the role seen in the opera's considerable history with the company. She had the right physical attractiveness, was a responsive actress and encompassed all of the disparate vocal demands with aplomb in a clear, strong lyric voice. Her Alfredo, Roger Honeywell, looked credible and sang with fervor, if somewhat roughly at times. John Avey's Gorgio Germont was very competently sung, managing to traverse the pompous and censorious as required while showing some glimmers of sympathy as the drama unfolded. Supporting singers--Sandra Stringer (Flora), Karen Ydenberg (Anninan), Richard Devillier (the Marchese d'Obigny), James McLennan (Gastone), Angus Bell (Dr. Grenvil), and Jonathan Liebich (Baron Douphol)--created credible characters in their brief appearances. Leslie Uyeda's chorus distinguished itself both musically and dramatically.--Floyd St. Clair
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Title Annotation:Canada
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Sep 22, 2004
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