So by all rights this could have been a rough night at the Four Seasons Centre. But what transpired was astonishing, with everyone on stage giving a brilliant vocal performance. And with a tight, lively and theatrically committed effort from all, this Tito was a chain with no weak link.
Much credit for this is due to conductor Daniel Cohen, whose fluid and mercurial handling of the cast and the COC Orchestra made for a musically vivid evening. The pace was brisk yet the music was detailed. Even the recitatives were well shaped and engaging.
McCausland’s clear, bright tenor seemed made for Mozart – with just a touch of vibrato, and smooth phrasing that brought his role to life. Moreover, he threw himself wholly into his leading role with confidence, portraying a complex character – uncertain of those around him, and burdened by the decisions he must make – in a very human way. McCausland is one to watch!
Alkema showed no signs of whatever was ailing her, displaying robust soprano with a dramatic edge and a surprisingly strong low range. And Leonard was in fine form for her big Act I aria – deftly negotiating all those crazy embellishments with admirable artistry.
Add to this mix the supple mezzo voice of Wallis Giunta as Annio, the stentorian bass of Robert Gleadow as Publio, the pure sweetness of soprano Mireille Asselin as Servilia, plus a strong showing by the COC Chorus – and what more could we want?
However, some critics have already gone on record saying they wanted a different sort of production altogether. (See here or here.) To be sure, Andrew Cavanaugh Holland’s marble-walled set (originally built for the Lyric Opera of Chicago) made the opera look like it was staged in theatre lobby, complete with stanchion ropes and a garbage can. And director Christopher Alden’s stage direction sometimes wandered into eccentric realms – perching his cast on the furniture in awkward ways.
Yet Alden’s inspired decision to inject some humour into this Tito (making it the least “seria” opera seria I’ve ever seen) turned out to be just what was needed to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. It worked – and if he can get results like this with a quirky, modern staging of a “lesser work” by Mozart, he can put Carmen on the Moon, for all I care!
© Colin Eatock 2013