Lara Ciekiewicz and Keith Klassesn
Reviewed by James Karas
Those gypsies are all over the operetta landscape. The Gypsy Baron, The Gypsy Glade, The Gypsy Virtuoso, The Gypsy Premier, not to mention Gypsy Love and Gypsy Dust, give these people a major niche in the genre. With that type of dominance how could Toronto Operetta Theatre not produce The Gypsy Princess by Imre Kalman again?
TOT gave The Gypsy Princess its Canadian premiere in 1988 (none too soon for a work that premiered in 1915) and the current production is full of vim, some wonderful singing and a good way to end the old year and greet the new one.
Plot? Well, Prince Edwin of Austria (Keith Klassen) is madly in love with Sylvia (Lara Ciekiewicz), a cabaret singer in Budapest. As you may have guessed, his parents back in Vienna do not approve and they are in fact planning for him to marry Countess Stasi (Elizabeth Beeler).
We will start backstage in the Orpheum Theatre, Budapest, where the Chorus and Dancers will whip up some energy and give us some delectable singing and Edwin will propose to Sylvia in order to prevent her from going abroad. But his friend Count Boni (Ian Simpson) will ruin all by disclosing the fact that Edwin is already engaged to Stasi.
Ciekiewicz has a luminous face and voice and she handled the main role with panache. She could reach her high notes with ease and was lyrical and splendid in her romantic duets.
Tenor Keith Klassen has the looks and bearing of prince in an operetta but he was not at his best on opening night. He sounded forced at times, almost harsh at other moments and he was overwhelmed by the small orchestra on other occasions. Not a good night for him.
Ian Simpson sang competently as Count Boni. He carried much of the comedy in the operetta and helped with the plot by marrying Stasi. You see Stasi is a nice blonde with a lovely voice courtesy of Beeler and she has to be taken care of for plot purposes.
Prince Leopold, Edwin’s father, was quite comical partly because of the ridiculous beard and wig parked on Joseph Angelo’s head. Mezzo soprano Eugenia Dermentzis as his wife Princess Anhilte flicked her head backward in aristocratic disdain at the lower orders.
The fifteen piece orchestra with a good contingent of strings was conducted by Derek Bate and sounded very good especially when it came to the wonderful waltzes..
The sets consisting of the backstage of the theatre and the ballroom of Prince Leopold’s palace in Vienna are presented quite effectively with a minimum of furnishings and effective lighting.
The directing is efficient and well done. This broad comedy is handled ably and there are a few references to current events that are funny without being glaringly inappropriate. Credit for stage directing, lighting design, set décor and dance sequences goes to TOT’s Founder and General Director Guillermo Silva-Marin, the company’s sine qua non. There is little enough operetta in Toronto but without Silva-Marin availability may be reduced to almost none.
The costumes were simply beautiful. There seems to be no room for a costume designer but whoever arranged for renting the gowns from Malabar had good taste.
Once again TOT has managed to do a superior job in producing an operetta against a background of reduced arts funding. The audience had a different message. On opening night the theatre was quite full.
TOT’s next production will be TAPTOO by John Beckwith and James Reany which will be receiving its professional premiere on February 22, 2012.
The Gypsy Princess by Imre Kalman, music, and Leo Stein and Bela Jenbach, libretto, opened on December 28, 2011 and will be performed seven times until Januaryb8, 2012 at the Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario. Tel: (416) 922-2912. www.torontooperetta.com