by Lynn on March 12, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre, 227 Front St. E., Toronto, Ont. Plays March 9 and 10 at 7:30 pm, March 12, 1:00 pm and 7:30 pm

Music by Ian Cusson

Libretto by Colleen Murphy

Director/dramaturg, Julie McIsaac

Music director/orchestral pianist, Frances Thielmann

Set and costumes designed by Camellia Koo

Lighting by Mikael Kangas

Cast: Vartan Gabrielian

Simona Genga

Jamie Groote

Alex Halliday

Midori Marsh

Owen McCausland

Charlotte Siegel

Jonah Spungin

(Marcel): Austin Buckley (March 9)

Olivia Pady (March 10)

Ari Shparber (March 12)

A haunting opera geared to introducing young audiences to opera using their language, their concerns and technology that poses soul-searching questions.

The Story. Best friends, Léa and Ivy go to the carnival because they hear that a guy they know is playing a ghost and they consider that guy, “hot.” The carnival is not doing well financially so there is a plan to have the ghost pop up when he’s least expected, scare the patrons, cause buzz because of it and then people will check it out. Ah, the lure of ‘buzz’. In fact Léa and Ivy discover that there is a ‘real’ ghost named Marcel in the Haunted Manor of the carnival. His story is horrible and heart-breaking. He entreats both Léa and Ivy to help him solve his own mystery. Will they do it? Will they help a soul in trouble since they sympathize with him.

The Production. (Note: I won’t comment on the music or singing because that isn’t my forte. I will comment on the theatricality and production).

Designer Camelia Koo has designed a wonderful multi-coloured canopy suspended over the space that suggests a carnival tent that gets one in the mood for a circus. Playwright Colleen Murphy has peppered her libretto with references to the world of the teen: Ivy is glued to her cell phone looking at e-mails, texts, Instagram posts etc. The young man playing Fantasma is delighted that he is ‘trending’ on Facebook and the ‘buzz’ is building. Léa’s mother is a single parent and can’t afford to give her daughter a cell phone so she constantly texts Ivy if she wants to get in touch with Léa. I love the small fact that the phone is almost always answered by the young friend so she can pass on messages to Léa.

Both Jamie Groote as Léa and Midori Marsh as Ivy play their teenaged characters with that easy-going attitude that they are free and curious to do what they want, as long as a parent isn’t watching. The performances never seem forced to convey they are playing teens.

Director Julie McIsaac builds the tension nicely when the two teenaged girls must decide to help Marcel the real ghost or obey Léa’s mother and follow her home. Both teens promised Marcel they would help. Julie McIsaac establishes that confliction of the pull of the conscience and the command of the mother.

Comment. At 45 minutes, Fantasma presents a story that is just otherworldly enough to be intriguing with a crisis of conscience that grips. The language of the characters and the characters themselves captures the world of the target audience. Many theatres lament where their future audience is. The Canadian Opera Company is doing something concrete to try and engage them.

Produced by the Canadian Opera Company

Ran: March 9 and 10 at 7:30 pm and March 12 at 1:00 pm and 7:30 pm.

Running time: 45 minutes.

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