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Glenn Gould School Opera showcases our future opera singers in a well-crafted production of La Cecchina!

Kendra Dyck as Sandrina and Asitha Tennekoon as the Marchese

Photo credit: Nicola Betts, courtesy of The Royal Conservatory of Music

Lynn Isnar as the Marchesa with Jocelyn Fralick as Count Armidoro

Photo credit: Nicola Betts, courtesy of The Royal Conservatory of Music

Director Marilyn Gronsdal did her best to make the opera relevant to a modern audience. Gronsdal set the story in the 1960s in an Italian villa and placed the author of the story above and behind the action, composing the plot as it unfolded below him. Having written the plot into a tangled mess, the writer invented a new character (a soldier played by himself) to bring the piece to a happy conclusion with everyone marrying. But not so fast, Gronsdal changed the ending. The opera’s heroine Cecchina, having proved herself worthy of marrying the aristocrat, threw away her wedding vale as the opera ended opting for her own independence over marriage. Gronsdal’s comedic touches were evident in making use of stage props such as using a rake alternatively as a guitar, a sword and as a lover as well as the many antics of the two maids. Laura Gardner’s sets and Siobhán Sleath’s lighting transformed the stage into a genuine theatrical experience.

Lynn Isnar as the Marchesea, Kendra Dyck as Sandrina, Lillain Brooks as Paoluccia

Photo credit: Nicola Betts, courtesy of The Royal Conservatory of Music

Jonelle Sills as Cecchina

Photo credit: Nicola Betts, courtesy of The Royal Conservatory of Music

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 18 2017

The Glenn Gould School's opera production of Niccolò Piccinni’s opera La Cecchina, was presented twice this week as a showcase for eight aspiring and talented opera singers. It was staged in the wonderful acoustics of Koerner Hall complete with orchestra, extra theatrical lighting and a representational set that made creative use of the concert stage. It divided the space into several distinct areas. 

The opera dates from 1760 and can be classified as opera buffa. Although very popular for years after it was first produced, there may be good reason that it is seldom produced these days. It isn’t easy to find operas in the standard repertoire that are ideal vehicles for young singers and musicians. GGS is to be commended in its choice of a work that provided huge challenges and artistic possibilities. La Cecchina may not be ready for a revival with the world's major opera companies any time soon, but it makes for a great showcase for the kind of talent that GGS put on display this week.

Conductor Leslie Dala led both the singers and the orchestra in a polished performance. The orchestra, made up of 30 musicians from the Royal Conservatory Orchestra was well rehearsed and responded with ease to Dala's spirited direction. Dala is the Music Director of the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Associate Conductor and Chorus Director of Vancouver Opera. His experience working with young artists showed.

Each of the singers performed exceedingly well, both vocally and dramatically. Each had challenging arias that would tax the limits of seasoned performers. It will be interesting to watch their progress as they attempt to make the leap to the demanding world of professional opera in the coming years. Jonelle Sills, Kjel Erickson, Kendra Dyck, Jocelyn Fralick, Lillian Brooks, Lynn Isnar, Bradley Christensen and Asitha Tennekoon each demonstrated enormous potential.

The Royal Conservatory Orchestra will perform next at Koerner Hall on Friday April 7th under the direction of Bramwell Tovey and featuring Rebanks Scholar Jennifer Murphy performing Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35