I said a festive goodbye to 2016 with the help of the last Pirates of Penzance of the year from Toronto Operetta Theatre (TOT). They’re taking a well-deserved break for the holiday (and Happy New Year to you too), before resuming their run on Friday-Saturday-Sunday January 6-7-8.
This Gilbert and Sullivan operetta is one of those indestructible pieces that can be done in a myriad of ways. The TOT approach emphasizes musical virtues while offering a faithful reading of the text as we saw today: to the delight of the audience.
We saw the latest stage in the development of Colin Ainsworth. The Canadian Opera Company gave him the small comic role of Bardolfo in their recent Falstaff, a completely new direction from anything I’d seen him do, and so it wasn’t a surprise to see how well the comedy worked for him playing Frederic. Ainsworth still has that sparkling diction and lovely voice we know from his Opera Atelier appearances, but was given some genuine schtick to play as well.
Vania Lizbeth Chan was every bit his equal, a sparkling Mabel with so much coloratura to offer in “Poor wandering one” that her cadenzas wandered off into the world of Lakme, brilliantly sung. Curtis Sullivan, whom we’ve seen opposite Ainsworth in several Opera Atelier shows, was the very model of a modern opera baritone, as Major-General Stanley. When it was time for the obligatory political commentary TOT didn’t hesitate to hand the opportunity to Sullivan for a hilarious final verse of the famous tune. Nicholas Borg as The Pirate King and Austin Larusson as Sergeant of Police sang beautifully.
Derek Bate led the TOT orchestra, a taut clear reading of this familiar score. I wonder if it’s Bate’s adaptation, as the TOT orchestra is eleven players.
The TOT will be back February 25th for “Orlovsky’s Mardi Gras Ball“, a Masquerade including three course dinner, Die Fledermaus in concert, dancing and a silent auction.