The Nightingale is musical and visual storytelling at its finest in COC revival

Johannes Debus
Toronto Star

Although The Nightingale and Other Short Fables has all of the ingredients of opera — and then some — it might be best to think of it as a week’s worth of bedtime stories rolled into one evening.

The opening performance of the Canadian Opera Company’s revival of Robert Lepage’s 2009 brainchild on Friday night showed that this theatrical showcase has aged well. It was as charming as nearly a decade ago. The forces at work on the stage were strong and the music was compelling.

But aside from The Nightingale (Le Rossignol), which stands alone as a cohesive 45-minute opera, this production is about showcasing the mechanics of how theatre and entertainment happen rather than presenting a unified story. The glue that holds everything together is Lepage’s vision and the music of Igor Stravinsky, all of it written between 1911 and 1919.

In a winking jab to the ribs of operatic convention, the audience arrives in the theatre to find a pool of water in the orchestra pit and the orchestra onstage. Clearly this isn’t going to be a regular night at the opera.

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