Stage Door News

Toronto: Toronto Operetta Theatre presents the zarzuela “La Verbena de la paloma” May 5-7

Friday, April 21, 2023

Toronto Operetta Theatre closes its first post-pandemic season with the Canadian Premiere of Tomás Bretón’s La Verbena de la Paloma or The Festival of the Dove. Performances at the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts on May 5, 6, & 7 (mat), 2023.

"We are thrilled to close our year with the most popular Spanish musical ever", says TOT's General Director Guillermo Silva-Marin. "If you love Operetta, Broadway Musicals or G & S, this Zarzuela is for you! We are doubly excited that His Excellency, Juan Sáenz de Heredia, Consul General of Spain in Toronto will be attending the opening night performance."

La Verbena de la Paloma - The Festival of the Dove, is one of the most beloved works of the Spanish operetta world and is the undoubted masterpiece of Tomás Bretón (1850-1923) with a libretto by Ricardo de la Vega. It premiered in Madrid at Teatro Apolo in 1894 and took the Spanish-speaking world, both old and new, by storm! Bretón wrote the Zarzuela in just 19 days, noting that he "com­posed in the cafes, the taverns, even on benches in the street." Along with its great tunes, such phrases as "Donde vas con manton de Manila (Where are you going in a Manila shawl?)" and "Tiene razon Don Sebastian (You're right Don Sebastian)" have become as much a part of popular parlance as G & S's "What never ... well, hardly ever!"

La Verbena de la Paloma is just the latest production of Zarzuela by TOT and will cement the company's place as a presenter of music theatre from diverse cultures around the world. The verbena or religious celebration of the Virgin of Paloma Street in Madrid quickly spills over into a street carnival with dancing, flirting, tall tales, jealou­sy, and much revelry. The music is unusually sophisticated and shows Bretón's appreciation for the works of Wagner and Verdi though his material is purely Spanish in feeling and form. A honky-tonk Mazurka bumps elbows with an unforgettable Habanera and Don Hilarion's little Coplas leads into a breathtaking Nocturno. Scores are settled, lovers are reunited, and the festival ends with sublime Seguidillas. Our live orchestra will become a street band onstage with our cast and can only add to the excitement of The Festival of the Dove.

TOT patrons are in for a treat. Breton's brilliant score will be sung in Spanish with English surtitles and English spoken dialogue.

"The music will soar as it was intend­ed and the comedy will sizzle," says our leading man Tonatiuh Abrego with roots in San Salvador. His leading lady will be Margie Bernal, whose family came from Columbia. Baritone Cesar Bello, making his TOT Debut, hails from Mexico and Olivia Maldo­nado, also of Mexican parents, com­pletes our superb Latin cast.

Baritone Stuart Graham lives in Central America as much as he can and of course, Guillermo learned Spanish in Puerto Rico. They will co-star with Canucks including Sean Curran and Karen Bojti. The orches­tra, cast and chorus will be led by Kate Carver, newly appointed Opera Music Director, and Assistant Conduc­tor at Wilfrid Laurier University. Myra Malley is the stage manager.

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Illustration: Poster for the film of La Verbena de la paloma. © 1963 Producciones Benito Perojo.