It was riskily enterprising for Opera in Concert to program Meyerbeer's five-act grand opera, Les Hnouenotsym the confines ofToronto's Jane Mallett Theatre (Nov..27), where there is little room to recreate the operatic spectacle that made this now rarely performed piece the first to rack up L000 performances at the Fans Opera. When you have a cast in tuxes and gowns coming and going from the wing;--there were 15 named parts--the large-scale scenes and tableaux are barely distinguishable. Even staged, the piece tends to move in fits and starts, but there is a dramatic arc to the St. Bartholomew Day massacre of 3,000 Protestants by Cacholics, which here registered as a minor tiff. Did anything of Meyerbeer s original survive to justify the effort?
Well, yes, in the event--with a compellingly strong musical performance (albeit cut). Credit right off the top goes to Music Director Michael Rose, whose piano accompaniment was a tour de force in itself. Meverheers score is very colorful, and though a piano can't hope to reproduce all its musical hues. Rose s account was vivid, urgent and dramatically compelling.
The men of the OinC Chorus, directed by Robert Cooper, launched the vocal action with a tightly executed but rousing drinking song, and some of the earlier solo numbers established the protagonists well. Among the named male soloists, the rich open timbre of Edgar Ernesto Ramirez (Raoul) confirmed again the great promise of this young Mexican/American tenor, and bass-batitone Alain Coulombe's experience and musical authority made the most of Raoul's soldier servant, Marcel (Meyerbeer regarded this role as one of his best characterizations). It was a pleasure, too, to hear soprano Raphaelle Paquette bring her bright tone and lovely legato to the role of Marguerite de Valois. She gave a fine account of the difficult "O beau pays de Tourrainc" though did have some intonation problems later when she pushed too hard at the top. And the firm-voiced Leslie Ann Bradley proved an excellent choice for the role of the ill-fatedValentine. Smaller roles were handled well enough to flesh out a concert performance that left you wanting to see the piece fully staged.