TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto:
​symphonic, choral, opera, chamber, jazz and period music​

Bruce Sledge (Percy) and Allyson McHardy (the queen’s musician) delivered top-notch performances to round out the production.

It would be difficult to improve on this impressive production, which will be repeated at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on May 5, 8, 11, 16, 20, 24, and 26 2018. Thank you COC!

Sondra Radvanovsky as Anna Bolenain the Canadian Opera
​Company’s production of Anna Bolena, 2018
Photo credit: Michael Cooper

(l-r) Allyson McHardy as Smeton, Christian Van Horn as Enrico VIII (centre) and Jonathan Johnson as Hervey (at far right, in red) in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Anna Bolena, 2018; Photo credit: Michael Cooper

The audience at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts was treated to an impressive performance on May 3. The singing was dazzling, the acting engaging, and the orchestral playing, under the able baton of accomplished opera director Corrado Rovaris, was expressive, and carefully synchronized with the singing.


​Donizetti composed this opera (his thirty-first) for Milan in 1830, and it represents a new stage in scene length and in the co-ordination of music and drama. 18th-century opera stages were lit by candle light. How long could a scene last? How long did it take a taper to burn down before it set the stage on fire?

Sondra Radvanovsky as Anna Bolena (centre) with Christian Van Horn as Enrico VIII and Keri Alkema as Giovanna Seymour (above banner) in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Anna Bolena, 2018
​Photo credit: Michael Cooper

(l-r) Jonathan Johnson as Hervey, Bruce Sledge as Lord Riccardo Percy and Thomas Goerz as Lord Rochefort in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Anna Bolena, 2018 
Photo credit: Gaetz Photography

18th-century operas were made up of very short units called numbers, each one made up of a chorus and an aria, or two arias, very often in the combination of cavatina and cabaletta (a slow, expressive aria followed by a faster aria in the rhythm of a galloping horse). The operas of Rossini were all set out in this way.

The practice changed in Milan in the Carnival season of 1830. Bellini wrote La Somnambula with its extended, dramatic sleepwalking scene, and Donizetti composed Anna Bolena, with its long dramatic units (just three scenes in each of its two acts), interruptions of traditional forms, and the final, lengthy and highly evocative scene of Anne's delirium before the execution. Donizetti still used the combination of cavatinas and cabellatas, but in ways that fit the meaning of the drama more closely than had been the case before. 

(l-r) Keri Alkema as Giovanna Seymour and Sondra Radvanovsky as Anna Bolena in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Anna Bolena, 2018
Photo credit: Michael Cooper

Anna Bolena at the Canadian Opera Company—Terrific Soprano loses her head (figuratively and literally)

The staging was well devised, and the choruses were placed above the action as observers. This was all the more impressive considering that the orchestra pit had been filled with water the night before.

​​Review by Paul Merkley FRSC

Toronto ON May 4th 2018

(l-r) Bruce Sledge as Riccardo Percy (kneeling), Christian Van Horn as Enrico VIII, Thomas Goerz as Lord Rocheford (behind chair) and Sondra Radvanovsky as Anna Bolena in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Anna Bolena, 2018
Photo credit: Michael Cooper

As Matthew Timmermans noted in his excellent pre-performance talk, this opera is not often heard, in part because the lead singers' parts are very demanding in range of pitch and dramatic expression. Donizetti wrote the role of Anne for the diva-composer Giuditta Pasta, in whose villa he stayed during the month of composition. One month was the standard time frame for the composition of an opera in the early nineteenth century. We may reasonably suppose that she exercised an influence both over the vocal details of her part and the dramatic layout, which features her character in long, expressive scenes.

With her astonishing vocal range and talents, Sondra Radvanovsky sang and played the role of Anna to perfection. One wonders how she can perform such demanding music night after night. The performance of Keri Alkema as Jane Seymour was also praiseworthy, and the second-act duet of these two sopranos was electrifying.