The Boor

boor_web_194_300_95 by Dominick Argento

Libretto by John Olon-Scrimgeour



The Boor (baritone) - James Medeiros

The Widow (soprano) - Sonja Gustafson

The Servant (tenor) - Eric Neaves

 with Tanya Ellis, pianist


A young widow receives an unwelcome visit from a landowner to whom her late husband was in debt. Their social pleasantries quickly descend into a fierce quarrel, and before he knows it, the widow has challenged him to a duel!



Production Photos 



Photos courtesy of David B. Comfort Photography; poster courtesy of Eric Neaves


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Reviews & Articles

Reaney's Pick: The Boor, October 13, 2010

Free Press entertainment reporter James Reaney looks at upcoming events of interest in the world of London A&E. This week: Diva Lounge Productions' "The Boor"  More...

- James Reaney, London Free Press


From Beat Magazine, June 21, 2010

*** ½ / 4

You gotta love a musical play that begins with a female crying and a servant that consoles her with, "Let's be done with winter."

Although this is my kind of sense of humour, I sat there wondering whether this was a questionable choice for Fringe fare for the London masses.

Pretty soon the crier, The Widow (Sonja Gustafson), is talking about entering a convent. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that line in real life...well, let's just say so far so good...

Soon enough The Boor (James Medeiros) shows up to lighten the mood. Okay, actually he darkens hers (if that's possible, being recently widowed and all) but lightens ours! The Boor shakes things up in The Widow's prissy world – thank God!

Medeiros brings a wonderful earthy quality to the role. His voice is fricken amazing – matching Gustafson's substantial vocal chops all the way. When the duo became a trio (the servant is Eric Neaves, a wonderful tenor), it was magic.

I loved the clarity of diction. Yeah, an opera where you can understand what they're singing. You have to check this one out! Not only that, because of the staging, acting styles, etc., you could be hearing impaired and still follow the plot. (At some shows this Fringe I've needed a translator!)

Watching The Boor, an audience craves comic relief. And it happens. For example, when the line, "I'll bring her down like a duck" was delivered, I lost it! It helps that Medeiros has a very cartoonish way of moving. I mean that as a compliment. It reminded me of that old Bugs Bunny cartoon, The Barber of Seville, a personal favourite. It's interesting that he also performs other scenes like he is wearing a straight his arms are not attached.

I must say on an odd note I thought The Boor unintentionally made a better pitch as an anti-war statement than another show appearing in Fringe which attempted to. (Read: Love is the answer. May I just say Gustafson is so gorgeous, the plot is completely believable!).

I liked this Diva Lounge production more than their Impresario Fringe entry last year. I highly recommend.

- Donald D'Haene, editor of


From Beat Magazine, June 26, 2010


Singer Sonja Gustafson founded Diva Lounge Productions in 2007 in part to create accessible operas for the public. The Boor achieves this in spades. The lyrics are in English and therefore, once you get used to the singers' particular rhythm, easy to follow. The plot, based on Chekhov's play of the same name, is bare bones. The only musical accompaniment is a single piano. The set is simple rather than opulent, the performances toned down a notch or two from the usual operatic excess.

The story is character driven and takes place in one afternoon. A wealthy widow is mourning the death of her husband a year before. Part of her grief is that even though he was a less than perfect husband who had cheated on her during their marriage, she still loves and misses him desperately. In her anguish, the widow has withdrawn from society, accompanied only by a caring manservant. Into this sequestered world struts a neighbour, a boorish man who demands payment for a debt the husband owed. The widow agrees to pay the boor in a couple of days but he insists on the money right away, as he will go bankrupt otherwise. When the widow is unable to comply, he refuses to leave the house until she pays him. Fed up with his churlish presence, the widow is so enraged that she challenges the boor to a duel. As he obligingly shows her how to shoot, their physical proximity ignites an unexpected passion in both of them. Whether the boor's love for the widow is spurred on by his own loneliness or his impending bankruptcy is open to question. But for the widow, he offers a way out of isolation and grief.

That Gustafson (the widow), baritone James Medeiros (the boor), and tenor Eric Neaves (the servant) have excellent voices goes without saying. All are professionals and have considerable experience under their belts. They each, however, also breathe life into their characters and make this mini-drama seem real. The turn-of-the century costumes are perfect, as is the tasteful set, which, even though it is minimal, provides enough ornate furniture to convey the sense of wealth and privilege. The accompaniment of Tanya Ellis is supportive but never intrusive. The only disappointment, perhaps, is that while the music is serviceable, there is never one moment that sets the heart aflutter or the soul on fire.

The Boor is a wonderful operatic set piece. Unfortunately, it did not have the audience it warranted in its last concert. While the audience was enthusiastic and appreciative, the numbers were just not there. Gustafson, Medeiros, and Neaves deserved more and one can only hope they received it in their earlier performances.

-Susan Scott, contributor for

From Beat Magazine, June 20, 2010

*** / 4

Opera Buffa brings to mind Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia perhaps, or even Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, but an opera entitled The Boor? Well yes, a one act opera with music by Dominick Argento and libretto by John Olon is playing at the Wolf Performance Hall as part of London's 2010 Fringe Festival. Based on a farce by Anton Chekhov, the nineteenth century Russian playwright, the Boor starts in medias res as the Widow (Sonja Gustafson) is clothed in her black weeds intoning melancholically and mourning the recent death of her 'dear' husband whose photograph as a set piece stares at us during the entire performance underlying the irony of his wife's present position. As we listen to the histrionic sensibility of the Widow as she fills us in with the details of a conventional bourgeois marriage we are left with very little genuine sympathy for either husband or wife. The action is interrupted (and there isn't much of it) by the Servant (Eric Neaves) as he ushers in, all the while uttering religious and moral shibboleths, the Boor, played by James Medeiros. This character has appeared to retrieve money he is owed. Emotion and desire of the romantic genre manifest themselves in simple recitatives, duets and trios as each character tries to add musical heft to an otherwise uninteresting score. Duelling pistols are brought out on stage (Freudian symbols maybe) for comic relief as well as for dramatic purpose as the Boor enumerates gun parts and the like. Matters of honour, differences between the classes, social propriety, feminist ideology, soon are liquescent as anger gives way to passion and seduction, and the Widow is literally swept off her feet by guess who? Is suffering redemptive? It would appear so.

This piece is not to be taken seriously. Its plot is transparent supported by a musical score that is for the most part derivative. At times the music is lyrically evocative as tonality and atonality bounce off each other. There are perfunctory attempts of echoing Britten and satirizing other musical styles, yet neither character nor musical idiom gets a chance to really develop itself. This is a 'chamber' opera without, however, the musical integrity of the likes of Menotti's The Consul or The Medium. All three singers should be praised for their strong and pleasant voices and also for taking the time to learn this often uninspiring music. Gustafson's acting skills were the strongest of the three characters. At times one singer seemed to out-sing the other at which point the general narrative of the text was lost. The set was simple and it worked well for what was to be achieved. For future performances one might want to tone down both the hurricane lamp and the Servant's make-up. Tanya Ellis provided consummate playing at the piano, itself an important component in this operatic piece.

It is often averred that what is important in Chekhov is often left out or not said: Russian Realism replete with pathos and absurdity not always easily communicated in words. The opera, of course, works on different levels. Argento's The Boor is not under-girded by subtlety. There is quite a lot of declamation in a short space of time. Even Chekhov might have given a nod of cautionary approval.

-Iain Paterson, musical theatre performer and founder of The Broadway Singers.

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