For the Love of Opera: Review Pyramus and Thisbe

Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe, not an opera for the uninitiated

(l-r) Phillip Addis as Pyramus, Owen McCausland as the Narrator and Krisztina Szabó as Thisbe in the Canadian Opera Company’s world premiere production of Pyramus and Thisbe (with Lamento d’Arianna and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda), 2015. Photo: Gary Beechey

Everything about Pyramus and Thisbe seems dull and muted, including lighting and costumes.

Let’s start on a high note. Canadian Opera Company debuted their first Canadian world premiere in 16 years. Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe Lamento with d’Arianna and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda comprise this momentous occurrence at the Four Seasons Centre for Arts. On the one hand, it’s highly important to introduce new creations to the stage, and particularly in opera if we’re thinking about keeping up with the times, and staying relevant. On the other, it would be nice if the piece offered was enjoyable.

I always worry when a director provides people with a ‘warning’ or feels the need to prepare the audience for what they are about to see. So when I read the following pre-show notice, I was worried.

The opera Pyramus and Thisbe does not attempt to recount the story of Pyramus and Thisbe in a literal manner. Instead it takes a more abstract and modernist approach with the potential for a very poetic and fascinating musical and theatrical outcome.

It certainly was modernist, and I suppose it had potential, but it just didn’t grab me, I found myself wondering what was going on, and when it would end.

It all came across as very dull, and everything seemed muted including the lighting, and costume choices. The score is slow and airy which only further induces the trance like state on stage and throughout the audience.

Baritone Phillip Addis and mezzo Krisztina Szabo must be commended as they sang well and with gusto. The COC Chorus is always spot on, and they often become stars unto themselves in performances–they do not disappoint here either.

Pyramus and Thisbe wouldn’t be advisable for someone new to the world of opera. At curtain call, the applause was weak and felt forced, and this was from seasoned opera-goers. If you need an opera fix this month, consider instead the far more enjoyable La Traviata, also on the COC Stage.

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