Autocorrect Opera

trioLoose TEA Theatre’s new show Autocorrect Opera opened last night on the steamy outdoor patio of Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu.  It’s a double bill of one acters adapted for the age of the smartphone and the text message.  The first piece; Sravinsky’s Mavra was played fairly straight.  The young girl Parasha does open the piece with a lament about her boyfriend not texting her and the final denouement is brought on by a missed text but otherwise the plot isn’t much altered though we get a neat updating to the home of a contemporary, status conscious bourgeois with references to the price of Ferrari tyres etc.  Good performances all round with Morgan Strickland as a well sung, angsty Parasha, Greg Finney, with his characteristic power and comic timing, as the rich and rather obnoxious father.  Keenan Viau, coming in at short notice for an indisposed Daniel Wheeler, was the convincingly annoying neighbour and Justin Stolz was excellent as the extremely unconvincing cross dressing pizza boy, boyfriend, maid.  So, good fun but maybe not taking the theme of the evening as far as it might have gone.

That couldn’t be said of the second piece; Andrew and Andrea, based on Mozart’s Bastien et Bastienne.  Here the plot turns on a sext, intended for Andrew’s high tech executive sugar momma that he sends by mistake to his girlfriend Andrea.  Mayhem, not helped by the intervention of egocentric hacker Mark Z, ensues.  In the end, the lovers reconcile and learn to relate to each other as humans rather than via their smartphones.  The performances here were really very good.  Finney made a convincingly sinister hacker and Strickland and Viau managed to be convincingly clueless while singing the twelve year old Mozart’s music quite stylishly.  This really was a very clever reworking for the modern age that certainly resonated with me (smartphone addict!).

Alaina Viau directed and conducted and adapted MavraAndrew and Andrea was a collaboration between Viau and Loose TEA GM Marcus Kopp.  Jennifer Tung, on electronic keyboard, was the rather excellent “orchestra”.

So, another small Toronto company takes opera into a new place that asks us to question our assumptions about the form and performance practice.  The only thing I regret about this is that all the effort and originality put in by the likes of Loose TEA, Against the Grain, Opera 5 etc will be seen by a few hundred people and those mostly pretty hard core.  The challenge of how we get the tens of thousands who attend the COC or, perhaps more to the point, significant number of new people to such shows remains elusive.

There are further shows tonight and Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 2.30pm.  Performances are at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu, 198A Davenport Road.  Tickets are $30 ($25 with student ID) and are available here.

Photo Credit: In the spirit of the thing it was taken by me on my iPhone.  It’s the least crappy of the shots I took and shows Finney, Strickland and Viau in Andrew and Andrea.

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8 thoughts on “Autocorrect Opera

  1. These new frontier opera companies are likely going to build a following via word of mouth such as your blog (much like independent pop music festivals do) as times get tougher for big opera houses. If I were in Toronto I’d go to many of the shows you’re reviewing here. I’m slowly trying to open my mind about such events here in London but I haven’t run into a local blogger like you yet. Maybe s/he’s out there and I just don’t know.

    • I’m really intrigued by the question of whether there is any real audience relationship between these productions and what happens in larger houses. I have some thoughts but major gaps in my knowledge, such as the psychology of major donors and how that affects programming. I’m planning to write something on this but I need to do some research first. Ruth Elleson (@ruthelleson on Twitter) seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the London opera scene.

      • Thank you for the pointer. I’ll look her up. I can’t talk about anyone else but me, but in the extreme situation of, say, major opera houses closing doors, it’s not like I would just say “oh, too bad, I’m going to listen to my CDs and watch my DVDs now and call it a day”. Yet even before “operatic apocalypse” I am intrigued by these new explorations of the genre.

  2. Hello! John. Alaina here. Thank you for pointing out that I missed something rather important in my program! Could you please note in your review that I adapted Mavra and that A&A was by me and my GM Markus Kopp!
    Thank you!

  3. Saw this last night and was greatly entertained! I too am interested in your last paragraph and think that very soon someone needs to take stock of the future for all these emerging companies. What one normally reads about them in all manner of articles, blogs etc. is that they in some way represent opera’s future. But how might they be sustained? At this point, I’m Toronto at least and I would guess in most other cities, many of those involved are working for nothing or at least, lower fees. This might work for a few seasons but isn’t sustainable in the long run. Slightly more established new companies like AtG are starting to partner with the big guns (COC!) which is one way of increasing audience exposure. RE: your donor comment- intrigued to hear more on that. Not sure if you mean donors influencing choice of repertoire? Prestige of being associated with a major ( vs smaller) company? Lots to discuss!

    • Good points! I’m a skeptic about the “new audience” argument as what I see at these shows are either hard core opera goers or F&F of performers. Not that such shows aren’t valuable in themselves and as a means of getting exposure for emerging professionals but do they bring new peple to the opera? I doubt it? The donor question is me struggling with better understanding the constraints the larger companies operate under and therefore their freedom to experiment. There’s also a huge question about how do you bridge from productions that attract a few hundred people to ones that must attract tens of thousands.

  4. Pingback: That elusive new audience | operaramblings

  5. Pingback: Opera meet up | operaramblings

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