OPERA CANADA – FALL 2015 Edition
Opera in Review (pg. 34 – 35) – CANADA – BADDECK, NS
Cape Breton in August, the gorgeous town of Baddeck, the Alexander Graham Bell Museum and the excitement of a locally produced opera world premiere—what could possibly be better? The Bells of Baddeck proved a tour de force production, with more than 40 participants, a small orchestra conducted by Stuart Calvert and an incredible venue, with the official replica of the Silver Dart, the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to fly in Canada, overhead. This drama of hope and triumph spans the lives of the illustrious Bells: Mabel Hubbard’s from childhood, her great romance with Alexander Graham Bell and their choice of Cape Breton as their home.
Lorna MacDonald, creator, producer and librettist, and composer Dean Burry, delivered an exuberant musical tribute to this part of Canada and to the extraordinary couple that left such a mark on its history. The premiere production was a successful blend of mostly original opera, some Celtic music, speech (in the Singspiel tradition) and even a bit of barbershop quartet harmonizing.
The opera begins with 9-year-old Mabel Hubbard trying to convince a panel of judges that deaf children are not dumb and entitled to an equal education. Bethany Reid’s interpretation of the clever and vivacious child made a delightful introduction. Along with several other young performers, the students at the school for the deaf convincingly captured the typical speech frailties that Alexander Graham Bell, strongly sung by baritone Geoffrey Sirett, was invited to cure. His voice was well suited to the heroic role, and his onstage piano playing a pleasant surprise. Soprano Allison Angelo was a warm, lovable and very convincing Mabel Bell, while mezzo Stephanie Tritchew and bass-baritone Giles Tomkins gave voice to her parents most impressively. A duet for Mabel and Christopher Enns’ Lt. Selfridge was particularly memorable.
This production was clearly a labor of love for its creators and many performers (too many to give adequate notice in this review). The piece appeals with both its historical seriousness and the lightness of humor and romance in its presentation.
For its inaugural run of 19 performances, it achieved an impressive 86% sellout, and the production will be remounted July 2-Aug. 2, 2016. —Daphna Levit