Wish Opera moves to downtown Toronto

Wish Opera moves to downtown Toronto

Wish Opera injects elements of modern industrial design and edgy Canadian fashion into the age-old classical art form.

The Wish Opera company kicks off its second season tomorrow at the John Bassett Theatre in Toronto’s Convention Centre with the Broadway operetta Rose Marie.  A move from the organization’s previous York University home to the downtown core provides more room to breathe in a setting that boasts 1,330 seats, an orchestra pit and a multitude of reception rooms.

Christie Lites supplied the lighting gobos, which bathe the stage in ceiling-projected light that creates the effect of black and white damask wallpaper in the ballroom scene. To create more of an ambience, the stage is furnished with Yuill McGregor’s ethically harvested reindeer chandelier, Arturo Álvarez’s intricately layered polypropylene floor lights and Missoni Home’s chic floral-patterned fabric drum lamps – all courtesy of Toronto retailer Eurolite.

For the lounge and dress boutique scenes, Chairsource loaned over a dozen pieces, including white acrylic dining chairs, low silver cocktail tables, candelabras and a modern black quilted and damask take on the Louis XVI chair. Off-stage, the VIP lounge is kitted with a sleek Canal sofa from Canada’s Scot Laughton, and black leather Branden chairs designed by Austrian firm EOOS and made by Keilhauer.

As homage to Rose Marie’s French-Canadian love story, the production features costumes by Montreal’s Denis Gagnon and Marie Saint Pierre, two designers who clearly favour the androgynous aesthetic. In the dress boutique scene, costumier-cum-fashion-designer Gagnon showcases dark, avant-garde pieces comprised of leather layered with mesh, lace, and heavy metal embellishments; while Saint Pierre’s black dresses with vibrant strips of red, white and gold appear to take geometric cues from Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian style.

Rose Marie originally premiered on Broadway in the 1920s, became one of London’s most successful post-war performances and ran for an unprecedented 1,250 shows in Paris.  The operetta is based on a story with lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and music composed by Rudolf Friml and Herbert Stothart, best known for his score for The Wizard of Oz. The 2011 production will be conducted by Kerry Stratton of the Toronto Concert Orchestra and Grand Salon Orchestra and directed by Lesley Ballantyne. Montreal natives mezzo soprano Maude Brunet, baritone Todd Delaney and bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre perform the lead roles.

Rose Marie runs April 15 and 16 at the John Bassett Theatre in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. A portion of ticket proceeds will be donated to SickKids Foundation.

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