Last night I saw the second performance of Tapestry’s latest compilation of short works. As before it was a mix of excerpts from works in progress and potential projects plus stand alone short scenes developed during the LibLab. This year there was an additional refinement. The works were staged in different parts of the building (part of the Distillery complex) and samples of the local goodies were provided at strategic points along the way.
Of the twelve scenes perhaps the most substantial were three excerpts from a work in progress called (provisionally I guess (The Whisky Opera (no “e”, oddly). The music is by Benton Roark, the book by Hannah Moscovitch and it’s the story of a female led criminal gang that operated in Toronto’s east end in the 1860s. The extracts were raunchy, very funny and hinted at enough dramatically and musically to suggest that there is a full length piece here waiting to get out. In the same vein we saw another instalment in Nicolas Billon and Chris Thornborrow’s 1984. This time it’s a scene where Julia slips a love note to a frightened abut ecstatic Winston. Coupled with the other scenes from this piece I’ve seen, again, I’d say there is a real opera here.
There was much to enjoy in the shorter pieces too. These tended towards the comic. Odd isn’t it? Comic operas are quite rare but give librettists and composers limited time to develop a piece and they mostly seem to turn to comedy.. Anyway, I particularly liked the three numbers that closed the show. The first was Morris Panych and James Rolfe’s adaptation of Gogol’s The Overcoat where a hapless customer is beaten into submission by his tailors. This was followed by David Yee and Ivan Barbotin’s The Fetishist; a funny but uncomfortable piece about a guy who only dates Asian women and his girlfriend’s “eye rounding” surgery. And last, a piece I loved; Nicolas Billon and Dean Burry’s You and Meme in which a tongue tied conversation is turned into a night of passion by the internet “braying goat” meme.
The program was expertly performed by the excellent quartet of soprano Carla Huhtanen, mezzo Krisztina Szabó, tenor Keith Klassen and baritone Alexander Dobson supported by Chris Foley and Jennifer Tung on piano. The stagings, simple but effective (neat use of an elevator in one of the Whisky Opera pieces) were by Michael Mori and I think a special word is due to Joanne Barrotta whose stage management team not only managed multiple venues but efficiently moved the audience between them.
All in all, an excellent show. There are two more chances to see this show; tonight and tomorrow at 8pm. And yes, they are not kidding when they mention “mature themes including sexual content, coarse language:. This show probably contains more instances of the F-word than any other one night in opera history; Anna Nicole included.