Magazine article Opera Canada

Edmonton Opera

Magazine article Opera Canada

Edmonton Opera

Article excerpt

Edmonton Opera gave new meaning to the notion of costume drama with its production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado in early February. There weren't many traditional Japanese trappings--no pagodas or geisha-style kimonos. Indeed, there was no scenery, just a white thrust stage with sheer curtains that hid a resonant Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at stage rear. This Mikado was certainly Japanese, but in the spirit of contemporary anime cartoons rather than the historical times of the Shogonate.

Forever updating the standard repertoire, companies sometimes bury the intrinsic virtues of the original vehicles, but EO's Mikado proved an inspired blend of simplicity and audacious re-imagining. Designer Deanna Finnman's contemporary looks gave a nod to Japanese youth culture and street fashion in extroverted shades of orange, yellow and red. The effect was comical, childish and sexy by turns. The singers were both the backdrop and centre of attention in this immensely enterraining take on the beloved farce.

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Baritone Curtis Olds played the ineffectual Grand Executioner Ko-Ko with the charismatic authority of a genuine entertainer. Sporting a high, curlicue cow-lick and a cheerful yellow-and-black out-fit that brought the Victorian-era satire of British colonial arrogance well into the 21sr century, Olds filled the stage with the antic G&S spirit necessary for any successful production. Adopting a somewhat nasally, mewling tone, he was fun to watch throughout, but especially when cornered near the end and forced to woo Sonya Gosse's battle-axe Katisha with the tender ballad, "Tit-Willow" He delivered both the comedy and the quasi-operatic artful singing that keeps G&S in the mainstream repertoire.

Olds and director Robert Her-riot updated Gilberts libretto with many contemporary allusions--from RIM s stock price through Justin Bieber to sundry topical Alberta references--and the audience loved it. …

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