Review: Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera (Opéra Concept MP)

Photo of actors in Another Brick in the Wall: The OperaOpéra Concept MP brings Another Brick in the Wall to Meridian Hall

As a Pink Floyd fan and an opera novice, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera, produced by Opéra Concept MP and playing at Meridian Hall (formerly the Sony Centre). This performance is adapted from the 1979 rock operaThe Wall” (and the movie of the same name), conceived and written by Pink Floyd’s bassist Roger Waters.

The story focuses on Pink, a depressed rock star with a drug addiction. When Pink ends up in the hospital, his life comes to him in flashbacks and this is what we see onstage. The audience learns about Pink’s father, who was killed fighting in World War II, his overbearing mother, his difficult childhood, his tumultuous marriage, and the metaphorical wall Pink builds around himself as an emotional barrier.

The two large moving walls on stage perfectly solidify the constant metaphor of Pink’s wall. As the story progresses and Pink builds the wall, the two pieces of the set’s wall move across the stage to emphasize what is playing out in Pink’s head.

The walls are also used as a projection screen for impressive videos that create visually engaging backdrops for each scene by video designer Johnny Ranger. I love this because it makes the opera feel like a high-budget rock concert which, initially, this is.

All the singers are fantastic. Nathan Keoughan plays Pink with gusto and I’m particularly blown away by France Bellemare as Pink’s mother. Her facial expressions, command of the stage, and powerful voice really convey the strong and complex emotions of her character.

As someone who has been intimidated to see opera in the past, I feel this is a very accessible production. I think the idea of transforming rock into opera is a great way of making opera more widespread. It’s interesting to observe the audience members, who range from an older crowd formally dressed to younger people wearing band t-shirts.

My guest (also a big Pink Floyd fan) says that this production is an engaging way of making the operatic tradition relevant and contemporary. However, instead of expanding on the original music, this seems to limit the very expansive range of the original to the somewhat rigid genre of opera.

Opera, I’ve learned, is all vowels, while rock is all consonants. It’s interesting to listen to these well-known lyrics delivered with completely different cadence. For me, the original music is more powerful. But the intention of this production is not to recreate the original music. Instead, composer Julien Bilodeau has used the lyrics and some of the original melody to compose a very different score.

This is not the rock opera version, and it isn’t meant to be. It is the drama, tragedy, and grandiosity of emotions that bridge the gap between these genres and help translate one of the most famous rock albums of all time into a (somewhat) traditional opera space.

Within the personal tragedies of Pink, there is the constant and overlying discussion of the horror of war. This plot line is a particularly strong one in the opera, emphasized by the absolutely incredible set by Stéphane Roy and costume design by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt. The scene of Pink’s hallucinated Neo-Nazi rally is visually stunning.

The second act is noticeably stronger than the first as it focuses on these larger themes. While some of the quiet moments and subtle personal reflections of the first act are lost in the loudness and theatricality of opera, the psychedelic and hallucinatory scenes of the second half lend themselves very well to the operatic tradition.

Overall, this production maintains the same excitement, tragedy, and emotional exploration as the original. When Pink asks “So ya thought you might like to go the show to feel the warm thrill of confusion that space cadet glow…” a rush of exhilaration fills the theatre. The stunning visuals, genre-crossing subject matter, and amazing voices of the singers makes Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera an excellent production.

Details

    • Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera is playing on November 23, 2019 at Meridian Hall (1 Front Street East) at 8:00 pm.
    • Ticket prices range from $52 – $201.
    • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416 368-6161, or in person at the box office.
    • Audience Advisory: Gunshot sounds and smoke machines are used in this production.

Photo provided by the company

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