I encourage any of my readers who have the opportunity to attend a performance in the current run of Ariadne auf Naxos at the Four Seasons Centre. It really is a wonderful opera, if not Strauss's best (he did write 16, about 10 of which, by my reckoning, are still performed).
I had expected to hear two of the reigning Canadian opera divas and was crestfallen when I learned that Adrianne Pieczonda was indisposed. American soprano Amber Wagner filled in admirably. She has a beautiful full spinto voice and also understudied Aida at the COC this season.
It was announced that Jane Archibald had a "chest infection" but would go on anyway. It certainly didn't impede her performance much, if at all. Zerbinetta's music is extraordinarily florid (and very high, I noticed a couple of Es in the score). Archibald seemed to under-sing some of the time, but the highest, flashiest bits were full sung out. She performed all of this in the midst of very busy, almost gymnastic, staging.
The real star of the show was British mezzo Alice Coote. Hers is seamless mezzo soprano voice with glorious, really thrilling, top notes.
Among the men, John Easterlin was the standout. He has a shining tenor voice and dealt capably with the very high testitura of the roles of the Dancing Master and Brighella. The dancing and singing of the four male Commédia players (Easterlin with Peter Barrett, Michael Uloff and Christopher Enns) was precise and very entertaining.
American veteran baritone Richard Stillwell sang the Music Master and Richard Margison the roles of the Tenor and Bacchus.
Simone Osbourne, Lauren Segal and Teiya Kasahara (all past or present COC Ensemble members) did some lovely ensemble singing as the Nymphs on Ariadne's wrecked stage of a desert island.
The COC orchestra, under Andrew Davis was simply marvelous. I must mention the outstanding playing of principal clarinetist James T. Shields.