PC Nutcracker

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S (the best dancer at one of the schools I go to… or went to, before the car accident) took me to Ballet BC & Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s last Nutcracker (on tour) of the season.

There’s lots to like about the production:

  1. RWB is a little different each year. This year’s Nutcracker takes place in 1910s Canada and includes hockey, people falling on icy sidewalks, and polar bears. So Canadian;
  2. Soft colours and fine painted details make lovely, realistic costumes and storybook backdrops;
  3. Makeup & costumes look good on the non-white dancers, too, and the “multicultural” bits are more balletic and less racist than most! (Incidentally, the Arabian costumes should’ve been First Nations);
  4. No more bear baiting or obvious favouritism among the kids. A bear comes into the house for food. So, so Canadian.

Conversely:

  1. S feels the 1930s opening is pointless if the Kingdom of Sweets is just business as usual;
  2. Smallest mice look like clones of Disney’s Goofy (same face and colour and all) while the Mouse King looks like a dog-headed man;
  3. Chinese/tea dancer still has double buns, arms forming permanent Ls, and hands fused in gesturing “1”s. At this point she may as well be using those fingers to push up the corners of her eyes, she’s such a stereotype;
  4. All the angels are blonde!… you want me to say. Actually, the wigs are so metallic gold I don’t give a damn.

No one was spectacularly good or bad, which perhaps makes for better holiday viewing than placing awesome virtuoso dancers alongside people who fall out of jumps. The choreography was too safe, though, wasn’t it?

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Photo from RWB, since my curtain call photo failed

On a side note, we sat dead centre in the lower balcony (as mentioned before, S has high standards for everything ballet). The view would’ve been perfect if the mother and child in front and two women another row down didn’t lean forward the entire time. Behind them, to S’s left, a man with a wedge-shaped head started playing with his little phone in the middle of Act I. After I asked him to turn it off, he squirmed and rustled wrappers for over an hour. S says she was afraid he was going to attack me, but he merely threw a fit from a safe distance at the end before running away.

If you think not being racist is being too PC, you wouldn’t like this production. Otherwise, you can still catch the RWB Nutcracker in Winnipeg later in December.

Die Bart Die: Die Fledermaus at Vancouver Opera (and a Bonus Play)

This is late as I’ve been preparing for a trip to Germany (Staatsballett Berlin, yo), but in March I saw Vancouver Opera‘s production of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus.

I’ve loved opera since I first took opera studies in the SFU English department, and the first opera I ever saw in person was Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte with VO, 10 years back. (Turned out not to be quite my thing, being a comedy.) I even subscribed to their 2013/2014 season.

But since one of VO’s reps — let’s call her Francine — hassled me last summer, I’ve borne a bit of a grudge.

Over the course of a few weeks, Francine called half a dozen times demanding to know if I would resubscribe. I hadn’t yet looked at their 2014/2015 lineup, but she offered no information (unlike the other rep who phoned, just once). When this crotchety CS genius caught me at work/sleep, she’d keep talking, and sounded disbelieving and offended when I offered to call VO back when ready.
Each time I picked up, Francine increased in volume and aggression, until finally I received a call that was literally, “Are you gonna subscribe or not?”

When I complained to VO during the intermission of one of the operas, they gave me an address to email. And then never responded. Thus completing the circle of excellent customer service.
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San Francisco Opera being an 18-hour drive away, VO is unfortunately the only good live opera around, so for Christmas I got B-cat tickets to Die Fledermaus.

This year they encouraged pictures to be taken (and shared online) at the final bow

It was good. We both prefer tragedy over comedy, but it was good.

[This opera is ollld. Do you really need a spoiler alert?]

Die Fledermaus, which I’ll forever remember as the opera Rachel missed in that episode of Friends (the one in which Ross meets Emily) is a comic opera about a man, Gabriel von Einstein, skipping his week-long prison sentence to go to a ball, at which he encounters his wife Rosalinde and maid Adele in disguise. The ball is held by the Prince so that Falke could publicly make a fool out of the latter’s pal von Einstein, as revenge for another prank involving a bat (the titular fledermaus) costume.

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With several of VO’s operas the previous year, and with all student operas I’ve seen, weak (?) voices seem to be a problem. i.e. Some of the singers are unable to project, and are drowned out by the orchestra. Is this a thing?

Aside from first faltering minutes of Joyce El-Khoury’s Rosalinde, who soon warmed up beautifully (and the Prince, who is too minor a character), there are no voice issues in this performance. Not quite as smooth is the insertion of jokey references to Vancouver places and people — VO touts this as being set in “Viennacouver” — but the jokes aren’t bad, and Frosch, the drunken jailer who delivers most of them, is a hit with the audience.

B-cat and I especially liked David Pomeroy‘s Alfred, Rosalinde’s enthusiastic foreign lover, with his wonderful voice and energy.

Vancouver Opera’s next and last production of the season is Sweeney Todd, with performances on April 25, 26, and 30, and May 1 to 3.

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Plus:

Two weeks after the opera, I took B-cat to Arts Club Theatre Company‘s production of The Foreigner at Shadbolt.

Written by American playwright Larry Shue, The Foreigner is a farce about Charlie, a shy, cuckolded Brit reluctantly vacationing at a country resort in the US where the other guests mistake him to be something very rare: a real foreigner! They discuss private matters in front of him, try to teach him English, etc. Add a pair of no-goodniks with Klan ties who try to cheat the lodge owner out of her property, and hijinks ensue.

B-cat and I have been lucky in that each play we’ve seen this year has been better than the previous, and The Foreigner is the best yet. Except when Charlie’s bowing and hai-ing get way too Mr. Yunioshi for comfort, and except when the portrayals of the Klan and bigotry truly terrify — ironically, considering my only complaint (unless the awful Japanese stereotyping was intentional…) — we laughed and laughed and cried and laughed. As did everyone else.

tempArts Club‘s next next production is Farewell, My Lovely on Granville Island. It’s a private eye tale based on a Raymond Chandler novel I haven’t read. I won’t be able to see it, but you should if you have the chance.