I met with Tapestry Artistic Director Michael Mori earlier today to talk about the upcoming co-production with Scottish Opera of Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh’s new opera The Devil Inside. I’m not familiar with the work of either composer or librettist but each are well regarded in their own spheres; Welsh having made a name for herself with a number of psychological crime novels. And that seems like a good background for adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Bottle Imp on which the opera is loosely based. The story itself is extremely creepy. Right up there in fact with, say, James’ The Turn of the Screw, which got turned into a pretty decent opera!
Michael has the advantage of me in having seen the opera at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. (review from the Guardian here.) He described it as a tight psychological drama “closer to The Twilight Zone than a horror film” with music to match. The music, apparently fuses elements of minimalism with some post-romanticism and supports the drama by making the text extremely intelligible and maintaining psychological tension rather than going for bold romantic gestures. It’s also a full two act piece with fourteen piece chamber ensemble so plenty of scope for both dramatic and musical development.
The team bringing it to Toronto is pretty impressive. Matthew Richardson directs. Besides directing credits at Scottish Opera he has a long list of lighting credits working with directors like Pierre Audi and Tim Albery in many, many major opera houses. The conductor is Michael Rafferty who has an impressive list of contemporary opera credits including Greek and Eight Songs for a Mad King. The singing will be in the hands of Nicholas Sharratt, Rachel Kelly (a graduate of the Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artist Programme), Ben McAteer and Steven Page with members of the Scottish Opera orchestra in the pit.
I think it’s going to be an interesting challenge to transplant this piece from the 1500 seat Theatre Royal with its proper orchestra pit, fly loft etc to the rather more confined spaces of the 350 seat Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Provided it comes off it should be a very intimate and intense experience.
The Devil Inside runs at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre on March 10th and 12th (8pm) and 13th (4pm) and tickets are a very reasonable $29 to $55, available here. It’s been a while since a major out of town company performed in Toronto.