Awards are a wonderful way to celebrate excellence. They serve to promote individuals and their performances, while also raising the profile of an entire industry. I hope that nothing I say here in any way diminishes the work done by so many artists in so many disciplines. Today the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) announced their nominations for the Dora awards for the current season.
A question posed on Twitter a few days ago has me thinking about the whole conversation around awards. Someone was asking about the boundaries, why some companies and shows would be included or excluded from particular categories. It’s a valid question considering how problematic these related questions are:
- What’s the difference between a musical and an opera, or between various sorts of theatre, sometimes in distinct categories, sometimes sharing one hybrid classification?
- Are the awards ultimately limited by who saw what show? This means that the mainstream shows with the big companies have an automatic advantage.
- What happens when someone is nominated twice? I worry because I wonder: will two performances by Kristina Szabo divide votes –like the Liberal and NDP candidates running in a Canadian election—but lose out to the single performance of Christine Goerke? But in fairness Goerke’s role was so huge, it was equivalent to any two performances from the others.
As a permanent inhabitant of the peanut gallery I confess that I need those big guys–the daily papers– to continue their pontifical existence, so that I can seem to be ‘alternative’. I am an agnostic though about the categories. I will offer a few comments and opinions now that the nominations are out.
The whole question of categories is somewhat problematic, a case of six of one, half dozen of the other. For example, when I look at the category “Outstanding New Musical/Opera”, I can imagine the difficulties faced by the nominating team. There are four nominees:
- Airline Icarus
- Spoon River
- Tapestry Briefs: Booster Shots
But wait a minute.
#UncleJohn is a new English adaptation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. And Tapestry Briefs isn’t one opera, it’s an anthology of miniatures, actually a bit like Spoon River except there’s a single authorial team, not the gaggle you had with Tapestry. I suppose my conservatism is showing when I think that they could split the award between “new opera” –giving that half to Brian Current & Anton Piatigorsky for Airline Icarus— and “new musical”, with that half going to Albert Schultz and Mike Ross for Spoon River.
I am a bit confused with the thought that Ivany is good enough to be in the category I just named—where I think he has a legitimate shot at winning, depending on how all those classical votes trade off against the legit theatre crowd pulling for Soulpepper—yet he’s nowhere to be found in the “Outstanding Direction” category, where the nominees are:
- Albert Schultz for Spoon River
- Atom Egoyan for Die Walküre
- John Tiffany for Once
- Robert Carsen for Falstaff
- Robert Lepage for Bluebeard/Erwartung
Why not Ivany, yet why Lepage for a show as ancient as this one, that first saw the light of day decades ago? Much as I enjoyed that show, it was not really Lepage directing so much as members of l’Équipe Lepage, and an assistant director with the COC. If he is to be rewarded why not the bold Needles & Opium at CanStage rather than this old show? All three COC candidates are worthy nominees, but how does one compare their work to what Tiffany or Schultz did? And it’s the same with “Outstanding Musical Direction” where one must admit how different they are from one another. Again i would be happy with any winner, but would have no idea how one decides across such broad categories.
Further down the page, where it’s now called the Opera Division, at least we are supposedly looking at a level playing field. For Outstanding Production instead of four different Canadian Opera productions — Bluebeard/Erwartung, Falstaff, Die Walküre and The Barber of Seville— as challengers to Airline Icarus, was there no room here for Tapestry or Against the Grain? In fairness to TAPA (and the COC), all four COC offerings are splendid, worthy members of this category. And there is another category where perhaps they will acknowledge the young artists, namely “Outstanding Performance – Ensemble”, where Tapestry, Soundstreams and AtG face off against Johannes Debus at his best: Falstaff and Walküre.
There are two more intriguing categories to mention.
“Outstanding Performance Male”? Five outstanding candidates slug it out even though I would have included Kyle Ketelsen from the COC Don Giovanni, the most outstanding performance by a male this year. Of the five actual nominees I think Gerald Finley deserves the nod for his Olympian workload, not just for the size of his artificial gut and makeup every night, but his Italianate approach to Sir John Falstaff. Yet every nominee would be a worthy winner including young Neil Craighead.
And “Outstanding Performance Female”? This one is more problematic for me. There are two obvious winners, either of whom will leave me very contented. I will now say what I refrained from saying while I might hurt ticket sales, namely that Ekaterina Gubanova ran roughshod over the Hungarian text of the role of Judith; if the role is nothing more than a loud high “C” perhaps she has the right to be nominated. Perhaps. Serena Malfi was pleasant as Rosina, although she didn’t sing the role as well as the woman with whom she was double –cast, namely Cecilia Hall. I’d be comfortable with Christine or Krisztina winning: that is Goerke’s Brünnhilde or either of Szabó’s pair of nominations, one for Erwartung, one for Tapestry Briefs: Booster Shots. Her Erwartung was one for the ages.
Perhaps i seem to be contradicting myself when I say Kelly Kaduce in Madama Butterfly was the best performance I saw all year. But if she were nominated she wouldn’t win.
It’s intriguing that the two singers i cite both have the initials “KK”.