Thursday, July 28, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

Lisa D’Amour has an uncanny ability to turn what appears mundane and perhaps pedestrian into an intriguing, stimulating and intelligent play. I am referring to Detroit, her 2010 work that is now playing at the Coal Mine Theatre in Toronto.

The situation could not be simpler. Two couples live next door to each other in suburb of an American city but have never met. One of the houses has been empty for a long time but is now occupied by Kenny and Sharon. Their neighbours, Ben and Mary, decide to invite the new couple that has just moved in for a barbecue. What could be simpler? 

We want to find out more about the two couples of course. Ben and Mary have lived in their house for some years and they appear to be friendly and well-adjusted people. Almost. Ben worked for a couple of banks but was recently fired from his job. He wants to develop a financial planning business and run it on a website from home. Mary works as a paralegal and she likes to drink. Is she on the verge of being an alcoholic? Even their patio is frayed at the edges, their umbrella will not stay open and the sliding door is not sliding very well. They have no friends and we start surmising that this couple has issues that may be serious problems, no?

Louise Lambert, Sergio Di Zio, Craig Lauzon and 
Diana Bentley. Photo Dahlia Katz

Kenny and Sharon’s house is owned by their aunt and they seem to have temporary permission to live there. They have no furniture and intend to move to better and perhaps permanent accommodation soon. They have just come out of rehab from serious addictions. Kenny works in a warehouse and Sharon works in a call centre.  They have lived in all kinds of places including a hotel and can’t quite relate to the idea of neighbours with whom you get along. These people have real problems.

And that is just our introduction to the two couples. With D’Amour, you are well-advised to pay attention to the subtext because that is where the beauty and complexity of the play lie. Director Jill Harper points the way in her subtle handling of the script that looks so simple on the surface but is in fact psychologically complex and compelling.

The acting is outstanding. Diana Bentley plays Mary. She wats to be a suburban wife in a nice house where she and her husband can entertain their neighbours. Ben (Sergio Di Zio), as I said, dreams of setting up a consulting business but is incapable of doing anything. Kenny (Craig Lauzon) and Sharon (Louise Lamber) are pathetic people who lie about their past and even their names. All of them present a façade that cracks as we see the reality of their lives. Bentley, Di Zio, Lauzon and Lamberts give outstanding performances.

There is a fifth character called Frank who makes a short appearance and brings memories of the good old days of the neighbourhood. Eric Peterson plays Frank and he does a superb job even in a small role. 

The set is designed by Ken MacDonald who has to work within the severe limitations of the Coal Mine Theatre. The space available is pitiful and he does his best in presenting the adjoining houses of the two couples with scant room for much more. All is left to our imagination.

Detroit is a subtle and complex play where we reach into the horrid past of four people who are trying to present an exterior of normality. They lie to each other and to us and in the hands of Jill Harper and the actors provide us with 90 minutes of riveting theatre.


P.S. A postscript is de rigueur about Coal Mine Theatre. The storefront on Danforth Avenue, Toronto is an unacceptable venue for so talented a company. Where is the government or the wealthy donor to give them funding for a proper space? Their choice of plays deserves the highest commendation. I am not sure if the plays are chosen by Ted Dykstra and Diana Bentley, the Chief Engineers of the company or by other readers but the high quality of the choices and the supreme quality of the productions deserve the highest praise but also funding for a better theatre.   


Detroit by Lisa D’Amour continues until August 7, 2022, at the Coal Mine Theatre, 1454 Danforth Ave. Toronto, M4J 1N4.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appeared in the newspaper.

Monday, July 25, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

Every Little Nookie by Sunny Drake is now playing at the Studio Theatre as part of the 2022 Stratford Festival season. If you saw the play and enjoyed it, do not bother reading this review. You no doubt saw virtues in the play and the performance that escaped me completely and you deserve to keep your pleasant memories.

Let’s meet the eight characters of the play. Kenneth (John Koensgen) and Margaret (Marion Adler) are a middle-aged couple living in a suburb and playing Scrabble and bridge. They have an adopted daughter named Annabel (Rose Twong) who is trying to succeed as an artist while living in a small apartment with three of her friends.

Annabel’s partner is Grace (Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah) and her other friends are Smash (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff) and Crystal (Veronica Hartiguela). We also have Matt (Richard Lam). a separated father who falls in love with Annabel and Phoenix (Robert King) a middle-aged man on the periphery of the group.

Marion Adler (left) as Margaret with John Koensgen as Kenneth in 
Every Little Nookie. Stratford Festival 2022.Photo by David Hou.

Now for the fun part. Annabel and her friends hold swingers’ parties at her parents’ home when they are away. The sexual proclivities of the young are binary, non-binary and a mixture of both and when they speak, they scream, they contort their bodies and do everything to avoid normal speech. On many occasions they are simply incomprehensible and usually very annoying. They look as if they are in some kind of skit where exaggeration is de rigueur and comprehension by the audience is optional.

Margaret and Kenneth find out about the ongoing sex parties and she is intrigued so much that she tells her husband “I need someone in my driveway.” She starts looking for someone to accomplish that and finds Phoenix to occupy her driveway repeatedly. We even see her nude (almost). Kenneth is attracted to Crystal, an academic working on her dissertation who is in a monogamous relationship but works as a sex worker as well. Their relationship seems platonic at a cost of $600.00 per session payable by Kenneth,

Sex is very important in the lives of these people and in the play. There are a few dedicated laughers in the audience but I did not find it even mildly amusing.

Foreground from left: Richard Lam as Matt, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff as Smash, 
Verónica Hortigüela as Crystal, Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah as 
Grace and Rose Tuong as Annabel with Marion Adler as Margaret and 
John Koensgen as Kenneth in Every Little Nookie. Stratford Festival 2022. Photo by David Hou.

There is a social angle to the play wherein we are served with a serious dose of claptrap about socialism, communism and assisted housing. Some of these people are being evicted and they want to buy a house. They do not have a plug nickel but think that Annabel’s parents can guarantee any debt generated by the purchase of a house.

The set by Michelle Tracey consists of a large slide that forms a bed at the bottom. It is used frequently by all the characters and with so much sex involved it is the appropriate symbol for the play.

The rest is up to director Ted Witzel who instructs the actors to speak and act in obnoxious ways. In the second half of the performance Drake changes the pace and has quick dialogues between different sets of actors. They add nothing to the play and subtract none of the annoyance.

Do non-binary people talk and act like that? Are they oblivious to reality and the best they can do is deliver claptrap about living without really working?  I have no idea and my annoyance had increased to the point where the more than two hours of the performance seems like an eternity.     

I tried to figure out who chose the play and why. Perhaps it is intended for a younger audience who may find it amusing? Perhaps. Maybe.


Every Little Nookie  by Sunny Drake continues until October 11, 2022 at the Studio Theatre, 34 George Street East, Stratford. Ontario.

Sunday, July 24, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

Louisa May Alcott’s novels have been a rich source of material for adaptation for the theatre and film. The Stratford Festival has chosen to showcase Little Women as part of its Schulich Children’s Plays and all indicators are that it is a brilliant choice. Playwright Jordi Mand’s adaptation and Director Esther Jun’s handling capture the humour, love, loss and sentiments of the March family in 19th century Concord, Massachusetts and give us a wonderful three hours at the theatre.

Mand opens the play with a young woman and a big, old-style family trunk on an empty stage. The trunk, of course contains family heirlooms and memorabilia and when it is opened three women come out of it. Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy are the four March sisters and we will follow their lives from the American Civil War when we first meet them to well after it. The adaptation will take us through their ambitions, love, marriage, birth and death in an absorbing fashion.

The central character is Jo, a feisty individualist who breaks the mold of the submissive 19th century woman. She intelligent and ambitious and wants to become a writer. Allison Edwards-Crewe gives an energetic performance that at times I felt verged on over-acting. Edwards-Crewe can do anything with the role, and I think directorial prudence would have helped her performance. Like her creator, Jo becomes a writer, does not marry and in the end establishes a school. We applaud Jo and Edwards-Crewe.

From left: Lindsay Wu as Amy March, Brefny Caribou as Beth March, 
Allison Edwards-Crewe as Jo March and Verónica Hortigüela as Meg March 
in Little Women. Stratford Festival 2022. Photo by David Hou.
The other nine actors represent more than twenty characters, but the sisters and the mother deserve special credit. Brefny Caribou has the role of Beth March, Veronica Hortiguela plays Meg March (as well as the Parrot) and Lindsay Wu is a delightful Amy March. Irene Poole plays their mother whom they call Marmee.  They give superb performances.

There are many satellite characters such as the crotchety Aunt March of Marion Adler and the young men who will court the “little women.” Stephen Jackman-Torkoff has three such roles, Richard Lam has only 2, and Ryan Wilkie has the role of Mr. March (the father) as well as Professor Bhaer. The doubling is done seamlessly and many of the other roles are as party guests.

Designer Teresa Przybylski has created a brilliant set. The play is set in some seven locations and Przybylski uses a few moveable panels and simple pieces of furniture to indicate changes of place. Some scenes are very short, and no time is lost in making the change. How can you keep track of where you are? There are “photos” of each location at the top of the stage. When we are in the March house in Concord, the appropriate photo is lit. We have scenes in Paris, New York, Aunt March’s house and others and we always know the location. Excellent work.

The production features some modern music which is accompanied by some dance steps. Flailing arms, body contortions and jumps do not dancing constitute. Or so I thought until I realized that the audience just loved the music and the dancing. Something similar happened during the final curtain call when the actors took strange poses (I thought) but the audience just loved what they were doing. If there were moves or reactions that would strike older viewers as odd, just ignore them. Esther Jun clearly knows her audience of young people and understands their tastes. They loved the show.

Little Women was a blow for women’s rights and freedoms more than 150 years ago. It supported domesticity, family ties, love, and freedom of choice. A woman could have a career and not marry; she could choose her mate freely. In other words, Louisa May Alcott spoke to young people in the 19th century in a voice that is comprehensible and applaudable today. At the Stratford Festival, the humor, humanity, adventures, love, marriage, birth and death are all captured in a marvelous and thoroughly enjoyable production.


Little Women by Jordi Mand based on the novels Little Women and Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott continues in repertory until October 29, 2022, at the Avon Theatre, 99 Downie Street, Stratford, ON N5A 1X2.

Thursday, July 21, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

The Stratford Festival offers us All’s Well that Ends Well, one of Shakespeare’s least produced problematic plays. It’s not something we are not used to when we have plays like The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew and others but All’s Well may be tougher to crack than even those plays.

Director Scott Wentworth understands the contradictions and complications of the play and delivers a production that does not minimize the issues. All’s Well is a comedy, it has a happy ending after all and there are a lot of laughs in some of the more outlandish scenes. There is also the core story where a virtuous woman has to pull quite a sleight of hand by fraudulently placing herself in her lover’s bed and becoming pregnant

Whatever the problems, we must note that All’s Well has a highly notable pedigree in the history of the Stratford Festival. It was the second play that was produced at the Festival in July 1953 following King Richard III. Those were the only two plays that inaugurated the Festival and both were directed by the redoubtable Tyrone Guthrie. We are now in the 70th season of that Festival and I look back with borrowed nostalgia at the 1953 cast. Alec Guinness played the King of France, Irene Worth played Helena, Don Harron played Bertram and Douglas Campbell played the clownish Parolles.

All’s Well was a highly successful production, we are told, but the Stratford Festival was not exactly tripping over itself to produce it with any frequency after that. If I am correct, the 2022 production is the sixth in the history of the Stratford Festival.

It is a worthy successor to Guthrie’s production from what we can tell from some of the reviews of the 1953 showing. Wentworth and his Designer Michelle Bohn have set the play in 19th century England – black suits, top hats, tails. Guthrie had set the 1953 production in World War II.

Jessica B. Hill as Helen with Ben Carlson as the King of France 
and members of the company in All's Well that Ends Well. Stratford Festival 2022.
Photo by David Hou.
The pivotal character in the play is Helen or Helena, the daughter of a famous but poor doctor, living with the Countess of Rossillion. In a nice touch, Wentworth opens the performance with a funeral which happens to be that of Count Rossillion which explains why his son Bertram is sent to the King of France to become his ward. Briefly, the king is sick, Helen is the only one who can cure him, she does and the king offers her Bertram as her husband. He does not want her but is willing to take her if she removes an ancestral ring from his finger and becomes pregnant by him.

Jessica B. Hill gives a superb performance as Helen. She is a woman in love and will do anything to win Bertram even though he has hightailed it to Italy to fight in some wars. Achieving the two conditions set by Bertram seems impossible but Helen is not about to give up. Bertram is about to bed a woman but Helen arranges for a swap. She gets the ring and becomes pregnant. You may wonder as much as you want about the wisdom of Helen’s actions but Hill never waivers in her representation of a woman of principal and virtue and neither should you.

Ryal Wilkie does a fine job as Bertram but that does not raise his character in our estimation. We can make excuses for Bertram (young, naïve) but cannot argue about Willkie’s performance.

Rylan Wilkie as Parolles with Michael Blake (left) as First Lord Dumaine, 
Irene Poole as First Soldier and members of the company 
in All's Well that Ends Well. Stratford Festival 2022. Photo by David Hou.
The inimitable Seana McKenna is Bertram’s mother, the Countess of Rossillion, and the latter  is a paragon of strength and virtue while McKenna is a paragon of acting.

Ben Carlson is King of France and his performance is in the usual high standard that we expect of him.

All’s Well that Ends Well provides rich opportunities for comedy  that takes you away from miracle cures, betrayal and woman-swapping. There is a subplot involving a clown called Parroles, a companion of Bertram. He is a classic liar and braggart and he is eventually gulled and humiliated by other officers. He is dressed in a bright red officer’s tunic and yellow scarf and played for the fool that he is. Gullying has elements of cruelty and this one is no exception but it happens to be very funny and Wilkie gets full marks for a superb performance. There are numerous opportunities for laughter and Wentworth takes advantage of them.

All’s Well remains a problematic play but Wentworth’s intelligent and astute handling provides us with a superb production.  We are happy to see it whether we go back imaginatively to 1953 or simply enjoy the treatment of the play in the new Tom Patterson Theatre.  


All’s Well that Ends Well by William Shakespeare continues in repertory until October 29, 2022, at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford, Ontario.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas 

Moses and Pharaoh (or Moïse et Pharaon if you prefer the French title)  is a grand opera by Gioachino Rossini that is rarely produced to the point that many of us have not even heard about it. The Aix-en-Provence Festival has run into the breach by producing a highly creditable production for the post-covid era.

The opera has many fine points but it also contains some lacunae that will make you scratch your head at three and a half hours of  a performance that starts at 9:30 p.m. It may also test your stamina to stay awake. It is performed at the Theatre de l’Archevêché  with its open roof which means we have to wait for darkness to set in before the performance can begin.

Moses and Pharaoh is about the exodus of the Hebrews from their captivity in Egypt. If you have not read your Bible or seen Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, you should, because you will get a good idea about the plot there. Director Tobias Kratzer and Designer Rainer Sellmaier have a few surprises and some are not pleasant ones.

The opening scene takes place in a modern office where men in modern suits are discussing or negotiating something. They are quite animated but we do not hear what they are saying.

On the left side of the stage, we see a modern refugee camp. The people are dressed reasonably well and there are no signs of despair but they do want to get out of Egypt and go to the promised land of Israel.

© Copyright: Moses and Pharaoh by Gioacchino Rossini – 
musical direction Michele Mariotti – staging Tobias Kratzer – 
Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2022 © Monika Rittershaus

One man stands out because he wears a completely different costume from the others and he is none other than Moses. Think of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments and you will get a precise picture of what he is wearing. Staff in hand and flowing robe, he looks as if he stepped out of the Old Testament. Michele Pertusi in the role has a marvelous, resonant baritone voice and he exudes authority. We do not argue with Moses  because he also has the ear of God and Pertusi because he has the voice and bearing to perform the role.

We know something about the negotiations and miracles preceding the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt but Luigi Balocchi and D’Etienne de Jouy, Rossini’s librettists have added a love interest. Anna (I am using the English names of the characters for convenience), Moses’ niece is madly in love with Amenophis, the son of the Pharaoh! Is she going  to give up her faith or will he renounce his pharaohship and trek across the desert to Israel?

Soprano Jeannine De Bique as Anna has a marvelous voice and she can leap across octaves like Superman can leap to the top of buildings. Not always in complete control but she still delivers a highly accomplished perfromance. Samoan tenor Pene Pati has a supple voice that reminded me of the youthful Juan Diego Florez but again with some control issues.

Mezzo-soprano Vasilisa Berzhanskaya as Amenophis’ mother Sinaide turns in perhaps the best performance of the night especially in her rendition of  “Ah, d’une tendre mère,”  in which she implores her son, tenderly and lovingly, to forget Anna and marry the  Assyrian princess chosen for him. It is a long recitative and aria and Berzhanskaya gives a bravura and memorable rendition.

Bass-baritone Adrian Sampetrean gives a solid performance as the troubled Pharaoh  who is buffeted by a desire to keep the Hebrews and the powerful miracles performed by Moses’ God.  He is responsible for some of the plot twists such as promising to let the Hebrews go and then going back on his word. Moses has God’s ear and he asks and gets some pretty awful stuff, like plagues, drought, floods and very destructive storms.

© Copyright: Moses and Pharaoh by Gioacchino Rossini – 
musical direction Michele Mariotti – staging Tobias Kratzer – 
Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2022 © Monika Rittershaus

The production has some graphic videos of droughts, floods and storms, all shown to us on television news reports.

The Egyptians are not convinced and they gather in a temple to praise the mother of the goddess Osiris. They have dancers to entertain them and we are treated to an interminable ballet. The faithful in the temple start fidgeting (or is it my imagination?) the Pharaoh gets up and with every such move we think the dance is over. But it is not.

The Pharaoh finally relents and lets the Hebrews go. We have to get the parting of The Red Sea and the exit from Egypt. As we all know the Red Sea will part and we see it doing just that on a powerful video. This may not be de Mille, but it is impressive enough.

The Egyptians decide to give chase and we see men in suits and smartly dressed women in high heels running across the desert to catch the Hebrews. No horses, no soldiers just people from their office jobs running to catch up with enemy. It’s all on video of course. They catch up and the Red Sea engulfs them. We get some dramatic views of people swimming, sinking and eventually their corpses floating on the water.

It is a memorable production with some superb singing and interesting ideas. But women in high heels chasing the Hebrews across the Red Sea? No need to worry about it, I suppose. We know the Hebrews made it.


Moïse et Pharaon ou Le Passage de La Mer Rouge by Gioachino Rossini opened on July 7 and will be performed a total of six times until July 20, 2022, at the Thêâtre de l’Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence, France.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper.

Saturday, July 16, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

Il Viaggio, Dante is a new opera by Pascal Dusapin that received its premiere at the 2022 Aix-en-Provence Festival. It received a major production with Kent Nagano conducting the Orchestre de l’Opera de Lyon and directed and choreographed by Claus Guth. They are both major figures in the world of opera and you snap at attention when you see their names.

Pascal Dusapin is a prolific composer who has written ten operas. In Il Viaggio we accompany Dante as he travels in the underworld led by Virgil. It is a dream, a nightmare or perhaps a realistic bow to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is the 700th anniversary of the great work.

The opera begins with the Narrator (Giacomo Prestia) wearing a sequined suit welcoming us. He will appear several times during the opera, grab a microphone and address us. He looks like s  standup comic, but he speaks of us being in a small boat following his big one. This sounds more like Charon, the deliverer of the souls of the dead to Hades than some variety show host.

© Copyright: Il Viaggio, Dante by Pascal Dusapin – world premiere – 
musical direction Kent Nagano – staging Claus Guth – 
Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2022 © Monika Rittershaus

A man is sleeping, and we see a video showing him driving at some speed while thinking of a beautiful woman in a red dress. There is a serious crash and the last thing we see is the man’s bloody hand reaching for the hand of the woman. The man is Dante (baritone Jean-Sebastien Bou) and he is dreaming of his eternal love, Beatrice (soprano Jennifer France).

We see an ordinary apartment which becomes the waiting room for the damned.  We meet Santa Lucia (soprano Maria Carla Pino Cury) and the Roman poet Virgil (Evan Hughes), shepherd’s stick in hand, who will guide Dante through the circles of hell, out of the darkness, through purgatory and finally to Paradise where there is light and joy and Beatrice appears. The scene is rich with biblical references from the Song of Songs to a Gregorian Chant.

The old Dante is journeying through the underworld, but he recalls his youth and his passion for Beatrice and he is represented by Young Dante (mezzo soprano Christel Loetzsch). We also have the impressive Voice of the Damned in Dominique Visse. The singing was generally impressive even when we were exposed to some screeching that was clearly intentional.

The Chorus of the Opera of Lyon and a group of dancers as well as extras are put to extraordinary action. Ken Nagano conducts the Orchestra of the Lyon Opera through the complexities of Dusapin’s music. It ranges from the lyrical to the seriously dissonant and goes to places that would challenge the knowledge of the most musically educated especially on a first hearing.

The opera is complex both in its narrative and musical content. Is it a psychological drama with references to the Divine Comedy, is it a dream that librettist Frederic Boyer has devised and Guth has added to with his inimitable touches? It is hard to say on a first viewing and perhaps after many more exposures to the work.

Il Viaggio, Dante was commissioned by the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Opéra National de Paris in coproduction with Opéra National de Paris, Saarländisches Staatstheater Saarbrücken and Les Théâtres de la ville de Luxembourg.


Il Viaggio, Dante by Pascal Dusapin opened on July 8 and will be performed a total of four times until July 17, 2022, at the Grand Theatre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, France.

James Karas is the Senior Editor – Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

The 2022 Aix-en-Provence Festival is back with a full program of operas and concerts in the gorgeous medieval city. Richard Strauss’s Salome opened the opera season with a production by Andrea Breth featuring the 31-year-old soprano Elsa Dreisig in her debut performance in the title role. There were some marvelous moments and some worthy of complaint.

Let’s start with what I thought was the best part of the production and of Dreisig’s singing. In the final minutes of the opera, Salome has her wish and demand for the head of Jochanaan – John the Baptist – fulfilled when it is delivered to her on a silver platter or a shield, if you are picky. It is the ultimate gratification and ultimate disappointment for her and Dreisig has to express both in powerful and emotional singing. Jochanaan rebuffed her when she wanted to kiss him but now, she can kiss him and bite him like some fruit. But he is dead, and his wild eyes are closed. There is triumph and defeat for the young girl who fell in love with the wild Prophet. Dreisig’s voice soars with anger and emotion and expresses deep regret in a singular rendering of the recitative/aria.

 John Daszak,  Elsa Dreisig  and Angela Denoke.© Copyright. 
Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2022 © Bernd Uhlig

Unfortunately, that does not hold true for Dreisig’s performance throughout. She does not have a big voice and on some occasions, she was drowned out by the orchestra, and she compared uneasily with the other singers who outvoiced her. Breth presents Salome as a teenager with Herod, her stepfather, lusting after her while she develops a passion for the imprisoned Baptist. She is a sweet girl who sings very beautifully but a bigger voice would have been nice. But she rose to the occasion in the last minutes of the production in a bravura performance.

Andrea Beth’s production was interesting if not entirely satisfactory for other reasons. The opening is somewhat confusing as we settle in for a dark and foggy set showing the open cover of a tomb, or maybe a cistern in this case. The scene which is supposed to be on a terrace lasts for forty-five minutes and only Salome is lit by the moon. After a while you want to see what is going on, more than you want to appreciate the director’s vision, or the set designer’s (Raimund Orfeo Voigt) and lighting designer’s (Alexander Koppelmann) view of the darkness of the soul.

For the party scene, the set consists of a gray backdrop with a large table where Herod and his guests sit for the banquet. It is not much of a banquet or a party. Everything happens behind that table until Salome agrees to satisfy her stepfather Herod’s request for a dance at any price.

Salome’s dance, with or without seven veils, is traditionally a very important part of the opera. With Breth’s vision of Salome as a young, innocent girl, perhaps we are not entitled to expect a sexually charged dance that would satisfy Herod’s lust. We get almost nothing. Choreographer Beate Vollack produces four Salomes doing some steps, but it is a long way from any kind of dance. Is it because Dreisig cannot dance or did Breth think what we see qualifies as Salome’s Dance? It does not.

The other central motif of the opera is the decapitation Jochanaan and the presentation of his head to Salome. There may be a decapitation but there is no head visible. All that Salome gets is a large bucket and we assume that the Baptist’s head is in it. She sticks her head in the bucket to give the much-desired kiss on the mouth to Jochanaan and comes out with blood on her face. We saw Jochanaan’s head at the beginning of the performance when he looked out from the cistern and the reason for not showing us his head after it was severed from his body is a mystery to me.

The other singers deserve unstinting praise. Tenor John Daszak heroically sings the dirty-minded Herod. Herodias is his wife, the mother of Salome and the former wife of his brother. Yes, welcome to Hamlet. Angela Denoke is a first-rank soprano who sings marvelously and illustrates how she was able to nab her brother-in-law after her husband “disappeared”.

Strauss’s third opera has some wild music that the Orchestre de Paris under the baton of Ingo Metzmacher played with great fervor and volume. The one-act opera lasts for about one hour and forty minutes with no intermission. It is based on Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name  


Salome by Richard Strauss opened on July 5 and will be performed a total of five times until July 19, 2022, at the Grand Theatre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, France.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper.


Reviewed by James Karas 

Welcome to the 2022 production of Mozart’s Idomeneo at the Aix-en-Provence Opera Festival in the south of France.

At the same time, welcome to Japan, 1945. That may seem seriously incongruous but if you think hard and give your imagination free range, you may find a connection. But first let’s check with the performance of Mozart’s opera.

It is the most exquisitely sung production I have ever seen or heard. These are the singers who go from recitative to aria to duet to trio etc. and keep you enraptured by their delivery of Mozart’s composition. Tenor Michael Spyres perched on a moveable stand like everyone else, sings a superb Idomeneo. He may not move but his vocal cords can and he sings beautifully and movingly. Mezzo-soprano Anna Bonitatibus sings the pants role of Idamante, the son of Idomeneo who is supposed to be sacrificed to Neptune in return for saving Idomeneo. Again, a sustained and splendid performance.

The gorgeously voiced soprano Sabine Devieilhe sings the role of the “foreigner” Ilia. She is a Trojan princess, daughter of Priam, the defeated king of Troy. She is technically a prisoner of the Cretans and has every reason to hate them. On the contrary, she is deeply in love with Idamantes and comes to consider Idomeneo her second father. Dressed in a beautiful white gown and with a clarion voice she is a delight to watch and an aural feast to listen to.

© Copyright: Idomeneo, Re di Creta by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
– musical direction Raphaël Pichon – staging Satoshi Miyagi – 
Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2022 © Jean-Louis Fernandez

Soprano Nicole Chevalier sings the role of the unfortunate Electra. She is on the run from the avenging Furies because she and her brother Orestes killed their mother Clytemnestra. The latter killed their father Agamemnon on his return from the Trojan War. Nice family. Chevalier delivers an outstanding  performance and in the end her character who is also in love with Idamante is sent back to her hometown of Argos.

The Pygmalion Choir and the participating Choir of the Opera de Lyon deserve special credit for their extraordinary performances.

Conductor Raphael Pinchon conducted the Pygmalion Orchestra in a brilliant and luminous performance of Mozart’s glorious music.

Now for the staging and the production’s relationship with post-World War II Japan. The Director, Set Designer (Junpei Kiz), Costume Designer (Kayo Takahashi Deschene), Lighting Designer (Yukiko Yoshimoto) and Choreographer (Akiko Kitamura) are all Japanese.

Director Satoshi Miyagi must be credited or blamed for the overall design of the production. As indicated, he has the singers stand in one spot, usually on top of a movable stand.  They are stationary almost all of the time with almost no interaction with other cast members.

The benefit is that they are not bothered with movements or anything else. They sing with superb phrasing, amazing control and unsurpassable beauty but that makes it almost a concert performance. For example, Ilia tells Idomeneo that she loves him like a father but they are several meters apart and they are not singing to each other. The story, the emotions and the exchanges are related to the audience not to each other.

The principal singers, except for Ilya wear a type of Japanese costume, white and grey with huge sleeves. The chorus is made up of Japanese soldiers who looked pretty menacing. Unfortunately, I have no positive image of Japanese military personnel and lining them up across the stage did not evoke sympathetic vibrations.

Idomeneo has a “happy” ending. Idomeneo is absolved of the promise to sacrifice his son to Neptune. He resigns his post and the new happy couple, Idamante and Ilia get to rule Crete. Electra loses her bid to marry Idamante and she loses it as she heads back to Argos and the Furies.

Miyagi is not interested in that because his agenda is to present the fate of Japan, the defeated nation that was militarily devasted and suffered the consequences of two atomic bombs dropped on two of its cities.

The horrors cannot be comprehended or overestimated whether we read descriptions, see photographs or watch videos of the destruction and suffering. Miyagi does not pull any punches and in the final scene a gauze is lifted across the stage and hands are pierced through them it is as if the victims, the dead, the mutilated, are complaining to civilization about their fate.  

In Idomeneo, Crete is being devasted by a “monster” unleashed by Neptune because of the action of King Idomeneus. The Greek gods could be very capricious. The Japanese “monster” is the result of Japan’s Putinesque aggression against the United States because of the monsters who ran the country including Emperor Hirohito. The condemnation of the devastation of Crete and Japan rests on the actions of the leaders of those countries. You can blame the gods or the stupid, self-serving promise of Idomeneus for the fate of Crete. The Japanese had no one to blame but their leaders.

The audience applauded the singers, the chorus, and the orchestra with enthusiasm. Satoshi Miyagi received some applause but also a large dose of boos.  


Idomeneo, Re di Creta by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart opened on July 6 and will be performed seven times until July 22, 2022 at the Théâtre de l’Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence, France.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review apperas also in the newspaper 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

Everybody should see Everybody.

Everybody is a marvelous play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. It is about someone called Everybody who is summoned by God through his messenger Death to appear before him and give a report or presentation of what he did during his life on earth. Everybody, as the word clearly states, means EVERYBODY, all of us. Is that clear?

Let me digress. You may have heard of a medieval morality play called Everyman. It deals with the same subject and bears much similarity to Everybody.  Jacobs-Jenkins has brought forward and metamorphosed the 16th century play into a modern intriguing, funny and fascinating piece that is different and refreshing in many respects.

There are 10 actors in the production and six of them are listed in the cast list as Somebody. We are told that each of them has memorized 14 different roles and who plays whatever role is decided by a lottery during each performance. We “see” the names of the roles each actor is to play divvied up on the stage.

The play is about to begin, and an usher tells us to turn off our cell phones, take a cough drop, and unwrap our candy. She says a lot more including information about the play and its medieval predecessor as she walks nervously across the playing area of the Studio Theatre. She does a superb job and is hilarious. She is not an usher but the actor Deborah Hay. She will also play God and Understanding.

 Andrew Broderick as Love and Michael Man as Everybody in Everybody
 (Shaw Festival, 2022). Photo by David Cooper.

Everybody in the performance that I saw was played by Julie Lumsden. The other five Somebodies were Patrick Galligan, Michael Man, Kiera Sangster, Travis Seetoo and Donna Soares. Andrew Broderick played Love and Alana Randall played Girl and Time.

Everybody gets the message that he will not come back from wherever he goes to meet God but he is permitted to bring “someone” to go with him. Most of the play is taken up, hilariously and seriously, with Everybody trying to recruit someone to accompany him. Then he wakes up. Aha, he is having a bad dream. Or is he?  In the dark, he has a chat with voices listed as A, B, C and D. There are several scenes in the play that are done in the dark and who the first 4  letters of the alphabet are we know not.

He then approaches allegorical figures such as Friendship, Kinship, Stuff, Mind, Five Senses, and Understanding. None of them shows any enthusiasm for joining him to face God, whoever he may be. four skeletons appear doing the Dance Macabre. Everybody has done some Good Deeds and Love also appears. Understanding calls out four virtues, Strength, Beauty, Mind and Senses, They all agree to accompany Everybody until they realize what his destination is and then they fly in the opposite direction.

Everybody is the central and toughest character in the play and Lumsden performed it brilliantly. There are some long speeches, some funny and some serious and she did outstanding work throughout.

Sharry Flett is superb as Death, the obedient servant of God, the ironist with a sense of humour.

Director Lazlo Berczes handles the large and talented cast with care and discipline that adds up to excellent theatre.

The set by Balazs Cziegler represents “Everywhere” in the open stage of the theatre-in-the-round Studio. A dried out, curved tree trunk with some flowers on its branches could be the tree of life or death. Large rocks and greenery on the floor, a hole for the entry into the final resting place or the way to another world are some of the touches provided by Cziegler.  They are minimalist and effective. 

The story of Everyman captivated the imagination of medieval man and it became a play before the time of Shakespeare. The play has been produced ever since and Jacobs-Jenkins’ modern brilliant and imaginative rendering makes for delightful theatre and a marvelous production at the Shaw Festival.


Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins continues until October 8, 2022, at the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre as part of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review is published in the newspaper.

Friday, July 1, 2022


 Reviewed by James Karas

The Shaw Festival has tackled Oscar Wilde’s “perfect comedy” The Importance of Being Earnest for its 2022 season. For those lucky enough to have seen many productions of the great play, there is the problem of “rememberitis,” the recollection of previous performances and the odious impulse to compare. Avoid it.

Director Tim Carroll gives us his view of the play in a production that has many virtues and some infelicitous results. It is a traditional rendering without any directorial flights of fancy. That is a welcome virtue.

The cast is for the most part marvelous. Lady Bracknell is a theatrical marvel and has attracted numerous men and women to tackle the role. It is not the biggest role in the play but it does make the greatest impression and she does have some of the best lines. A gorgeously dressed and impressive Kate Hennig takes on the role. She is sharp-tongued without being imperious and attractive enough to be far removed from a gorgon. She displays her temper and temperament in the final act when she brings Miss Prism to heel and finds out what happened to her nephew. These are important events in the play for those who have never seen it.

(l to r): Jacqueline Thair as Miss Prism, Ric Reid as Reverend Canon Chasuble, D.D., Peter Fernandes as Algernon Moncrieff, Gabriella Sundar Singh as Cecily Cardew and Martin Happer as John Worthing, JP (Earnest).  Photo by Emily Cooper.

We have two young men and two young ladies to carry the bulk of the play. Peter Fernandes is the impecunious Algernon Moncrieff who must pretend to please his Aunt Augusta also known as Lady Bracknell, while pursuing other pleasures in the country. Fernandes does a good job except in the opening scene where he failed to project his voice. He was with the servant Lane  played by Neil Barclay who could be heard without any difficulty. 

Algernon finds his way under false pretenses to his friend Jack Worthing’s country house where he falls in love with the lovely Cecily. She is Jack’s ward, a young lady of 18 who admits to twenty. The petite Gabriella Sungar Singh gives us a perky and delightful Cecily. She is a girl who calls a spade a spade and stands up to the snooty Gwendolen. We love her.

The suave and debonair Jack Worthing a.k.a Ernest is played as such by Martin Happer. He is in love with Lady Bracknell’s daughter, the aristocratic Honourable Gwendolen and he is, of course, considered unsuitable material as a suitor striving much above his social position.

Julia Course as Gwendolen is beautiful and becomingly hoity-toity. Her reply to Cecily’s democratic stance of calling a spade by its name is that she has never seen a spade. They are from different floors of the social edifice.

Martin Happer as John Worthing, J.P. (Ernest) and Julia Course as the Honourable Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest (Shaw Festival, 2022). Photo by Emily Cooper

Ric Reid as Reverend Chasuble and Jacqueline Thair as Miss Prism make a fine pair and give very good performances. I praise Neil Barkley and Graeme Somerville as the servants Lane and Merriman.

The sets by Gillian Gallow are gorgeous. Algernon’s flat in Act I is tastefully decorated and very pleasant. The set of Act II, the garden of Worthing’s Manor House features a series of well-groomed hedges which look beautiful and provide a few laughs when people lose their way. The drawing room of the final act is more mundane but quite appropriate.

Christina Poddubiuk’s costumes are beautiful.

The infelicitous result that I mentioned came from the failure of the production to spark the laughter that the play and the performances deserve. Why was the audience so unresponsive? Did the production simply fail to get them to display their enjoyment of the performance or did they have a heavy meal beforehand and could not produce belly laughs. They gave it a half-hearted standing ovation but it was not enough.

Go see it and laugh to your heart’s content at one of the great comedies of all time.


The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde will run in repertory at at the Festival Theatre until October 9, 2022, as part of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Cutlure of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspapaer.