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Parker’s Toronto, The Magic Flute and the COC, no.1
Posted on February 27, 2011 @ 2:14 pm by

Blog advisors say write about what you know—so as a true, born and lived-in-Toronto-all-my-life city dweller—each week I’ll feature a Toronto place, event or experience. No apologies that Blog 1 is about opera, except to say, don’t be alarmed. The truth is—I had to start somewhere. And this week, well, we went to the opera.

Torontonians run the risk of being like close family—we forget that our city is “all grown up” now. No more is this apparent than in the performing arts scene. Toronto is home to many of North America’s best companies, and most innovative worldwide. I was reminded of this while attending the Canadian Opera Company’s performance of The Magic Flute.

If you’ve never been to an opera, perhaps suffer from “fear of large singing divas” or being bored to death listening to songs in a foreign language, put those reservations aside. Opera is a grand, fun (yes, fun), and totally over-the-top experience for the senses. If you really want to give it the old college try, start with The Magic Flute.  Watch for it for it next time the COC presents it—according to General Director Alexander Neff, that will happen sooner than later.

The Magic Flute truly is an opera for everyone.

Last Friday night, all rings of the Four Seasons Centre were packed, with the average age about 35. Although always a bit reserved—as Toronto’s classical audiences tend to be—the excitement in the crowd was palpable.

Like me, I suspect it this was partly because The Magic Flute is simply not performed very often, actually only once before in the COC’s history. Musically, it is a challenge, particularly for the role of the Queen of the Night and her very high F. But that, of course, is part of the fun.

The performance was perfect—yes, perfect—no smug reviewer-talk here. And without getting into an opera lecture, here’s what you have to remember about The Magic Flute. A success from its premier in 1791, Mozart created the work to be both unapologetically absurd and unbelievably profound. Yes, it is a very silly story about silly characters and a confusing awkward plot AND yes, it presents audiences with the most perfect and most beautiful music few human beings have been able to produce before or since.

Founded in 1950, the COC is only slightly older than me, i.e. not that old. What started one year as little festival in Toronto has become Canada’s largest opera company, a major and prestigious force in North American classical music, and a training ground for professional singers around the world. It’s musicians and artists continue to be integral to the cultural life of Toronto and Canada.

In this city, we no longer have to fantasize about seeing opera in a great hall of Vienna or Milan (although that is always a good thing too). We have it right here in our own hometown, Toronto.

And to that I say, ‘Bravo!’

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