Carla Huhtanen, Peter McGillivray and Keith Klassen serve up sumptuous Shadow.
THE SHADOW by Alex Poch-Goldin and Omar Daniel (Tapestry). At the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). To May 30. $20-$49. 416-368-3110. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Complex characters, a suggestive score and a timely theme about unpaid debts make Alex Poch-Goldin and Omar Daniel's The Shadow a contemporary opera worth singing about.
It tells the tragicomic tale of Raoul (Peter McGillivray), a humble Spanish postman who falls in love with the bored Allegra (Carla Huhtanen), who's unresponsive until he disguises himself as the seemingly well-off Hernando. When Raoul/Hernando, up to his neck in debt from wooing his lady, escapes the loan shark (an underused Theodore Baerg), the sinister title character (Scott Belluz), a figure from Barcelona myth, closes in.
Although there are a few gaps - such as the sudden change in Allegra's character - Poch-Goldin's libretto is pointed and witty, especially in the lively prologue and a bravura set piece at an upscale restaurant. Tom Diamond's direction of this complicated latter scene is superb. He also makes good use of a revolving walkway in Camellia Koo's tiled, many-doored set and ensures that each appearance by the Shadow is suitably creepy.
Composer Daniel expertly uses music to underscore the differences in characters' public and private selves, weaving in Spanish motifs suggestively and using percussion effectively for a thrilling climax. Conductor Wayne Strongman brings out a rich palette of colours from the orchestra.
The singers, especially Huhtanen and McGillivray, are as good vocally as they are dramatically. There's no shadow of a doubt that this production, in development for seven years, was worth the time and effort.