Toronto Operetta Theatre
Citron, Paula, Opera Canada
Oscar Straus's 1908 operetta The Chocolate Soldier is based on Arms and the Man, and Toronto Operetta Theatre's artistic director, Guillermo Silva-Marin, perhaps in homage to G.B. Shaw, played it straight with the staging and managed to create effective dramatic moments. In fact, with each subsequent TOT production, there tends to be less silliness and better characterization and story-telling. The pretty lattice set and attractive rented costumes also helped to make The Chocolate Soldier a class act, not to mention the hilarious new English lyrics by Adam Carstairs. The work is a one-song operetta, with only "My Hero" being well known. What is interesting about The Chocolate Soldier is just how many extended passages there are--at times operatic in their complexity--and music director Wayne Strongman put the challenges of the singing front and centre, both for the soloists and the chorus, while conducting his chamber ensemble with tasteful but romantic restraint.
Gifted coloratura soprano Shannon Mercer, as the young Bulgarian, Nadina, had some shrill notes at the top and lamentable diction, and one wonders if the role is a bit heavy for her feathery voice. …