From witty to ecstatic, Vancouver Opera fetes it festive
Vancouver Opera Golden anniversary Concert
At the Orpheum Theatre on Friday, November 6
Leonard Bernstein’s overture to Candide opened Vancouver Opera’s 50th-anniversary gala with a flash of showmanship. It would be hard to think of a better kick-off.
The featured singers were coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl, sopranos Sally Dibblee and Kathleen Brett, mezzo Kimberly Barber, tenor Benjamin Butterfield, baritones Brett Polegato and Yalun Zhang, and bass Alain Coulombe. Though they don’t have the name recognition of, say, Placido Domingo and Beverly Sills, they were splendid. So were the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, its conductor Jonathan Darlington, and the Vancouver Opera Chorus.
Video feeds of the B.C.–bred tenors Ben Heppner and Richard Margison were shown, as well as of Judith Forst and Irving Guttman, who is deservedly called the father of opera in Western Canada.
The arias and ensemble numbers were chosen to reflect opera’s infinite variety of moods, from Dahl and Barber’s take on the love-struck duet “Mir is die Ehre widerfahren” from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier to Polegato’s surreally mournful reading of the “Pierrot’s Tanzlied” from Erich Korngold’s mysteriously neglected Die Tote Stadt and the pathetic Lií¹ (Dibblee) singing “Tu che di gel sei sinta” from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot just seconds before she dies.
The Rosenkavalier excerpt was ecstatically sung, as was a duet from Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers (Brett and Butterfield), though the latter didn’t make enough of Don Giovanni’s “Dalla sua pace”. His approach should have been more aristocratic and softened by a honeyed mezza voce at the return of the opening tune.
Dark voices were splendidly represented by Coulombe in an aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and by Zhang’s menacing “Va, Tosca”.
A concertized version of the second act of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus followed, and although this comic operetta’s convoluted plot is tedious, it was leavened by a timely and witty parody of the lyrics and an appearance by actor Jay Brazeau.
All that need be said is that the program was funny, full of great tunes, and bright with festivity. It captured a feeling of merriment that suited the occasion.