I attended the second of two performances of Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs at Roy Thomson Hall on November 9th, 2019. The performance was by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, led by their Conductor Laureate, and Interm Artistic Director, Sir Andrew Davis. The performance also featured Erin Wall (Thaïs), Joshua Hopkins (Athanaël), Andrew Staples (Nicias), Nathan Berg (Palémon), Liv Redpath (Crobyle), Andrea Ludwig (Myrtale), Emilia Boteva (Albine), and Stacey Tappan (La charmeusa). The Toronto Mendelsson Choir also performed.
The TSO was very moving under Sir Andrew’s leadership. They never seemed too slow or too fast but consistently told the story. They were gentle and quiet when required but could perfectly switch over to a party scene on a dime. But they always played with a very rich colour throughout the entire evening and never seem to tire.
The Meditation was heartfelt and warming, and concertmaster Jonathon Crow excelled with the violin solo.
Sir Andrew was very enthuisastic – and very actively conducted the orchestra – I hope I have his energy level when I am in my mid-70s.
The singers, led by Erin Wall and Joshua Hopkins were all excellent and in good form. Both Ms. Wall and Mr. Hopkins put in moving portayals of their characters. One could feel Ms. Wall’s Thaïs change from a follower of Venus to a pious follower of Christ. At the same time, one could truly feel Athanaël’s sincere beliefs and that he could save Thaïs. It’s too late when he finds out that he really does love her, and Mr. Hopkins’ performance made me feel sorry for his character’s situation.
Mr. Staples’ Nicias was happy to see his friend Athanaël back in town, and was willing to help them to escape – but he was also all about having fun and living the good life. He just wanted everyone to be happy.
The rest of the cast were all excellent, and it’s a shame that they were not given more opportunities to shine in the performance.
Thaïs is an opera that isn’t really performed often enough, and despite the limitations of a concert performance (i.e. no sets or real action on stage), this was a brilliant performance of the opera and makes me wish that Thaïs was performed more often in a fully staged production.
The TSO was recording the performance for a future release on CD. It will be worth getting a CD of the perforamance for your collection.