Tapestry and Pride

pride-art-with-logosTapestry Opera is collaborating with Toronto Pride Week to put on a “queerated opera series” called Pride Toronto, Tap This.  There are three shows:

  • Cocktales with Maria showcases Drag Chanteuse / Contralto Profundo Maria Toilette (Joel Klein) and her small motley crew (the Gutter Opera Collective).  They will present Isaiah Bell’s settings of Cocktales: rapacious and tender 1st person retellings of early sexual experiences.  June 8th and 9th at 9pm.
  • Queer of the Night features Soprano Teiya Kasahara subverting the tropes of women in opera with her trademark butch couture and powerful coloratura in cooperation with collaborative pianist, David Eliakis.  June 7th at 9pm and June 9th at 4pm.
  • Tap This: Queers Crash the Opera is a selection of queer-themed opera curated by David Eliakis. It features selections from the classics as well as Tapestry original works.  June 7th and 8th at 8pm.

All shows are at the Ernest Balmer Studio.  More info and tickets here.

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Seven Sins at the Symphony

Last night’s Decades series concert featured three works from the 1930s plus a sesqui.  The sesqui, Andrew Balfour’s Kiwetin-acahkos; Fanfare for the Peoples of the North was definitely one of the more interesting of these short pieces.  There were elements of minimalism combined with a nod to Cree/Métis fiddle music.  Quite complex and enjoyable.  It was followed by Barber’s rather bleak Adagio for Strings and the Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.  It’s familiar enough fare and was well played by the orchestra under Peter Oundjian.  I particularly enjoyed some of the weird percussion/celesta effects in the third movement of the Bartók.  But really I was there for the second half of the program.

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Like the 504 streetcar

Season announcements, it seems, are like the King Street streetcar(1).  You wait for ages then three come along at once.  This time it’s Opera Atelier announcing the 2017/18 season.  As ever there are two productions.  A remount of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro runs October 26th to November 4th. The cast icludes Douglas Williams, making his Opera Atelier debut, in the title role, with Mireille Asselin (Susanna), Stephen Hegedus (Count Almaviva), Peggy Kriha Dye (Countess Almaviva), Mireille Lebel (Cherubino), Laura Pudwell (Marcellina), Gustav Andreassen (Bartolo), Christopher Enns (Basilio/Don Curzio), Olivier Laquerre (Antonio), and Grace Lee (Barbarina).  This one will be sung in English.

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Patrick Jang, Carla Huhtanen and Phillip Addis in “The Marriage of Figaro” (2010).  Photo by Bruce Zinger.

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Addicted to purity and violence

In George Benjamin’s Written on Skin The Man, The Protector, is described as “addicted to purity and violence”.  One could perhaps say the same about the score.  Seeing it presented in a minimally staged version at Roy Thomson Hall last night perhaps emphasised those aspects compared to watching a fully staged version (review of Katie Mitchell’s production at the ROH here).  Being able to see the conductor and orchestra made the combination of a traditional orchestra with older instruments; viola da gamba, glass harmonica etc (and lots of percussion) more obvious.  The music can be very violent but it can also be incredibly quiet and it’s a measure of Benjamin’s skill as a conductor that through these extreme changes of dynamics he rarely, if ever, covered his singers.

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Bejun Mehta, Christopher Purves and Barbara Hannigan in the ROH production

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Colourful Vixen from Glyndebourne

Melly Still’s 2012 Glyndebourne production of Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen is straightforward and rather beautiful.  Certainly the staging matches the magic of this extraordinary score.  There are really two ideas underpinning the designs.  The animals are very human rather than the furries sometimes seen.  Their specific nature is hinted at rather than made terribly explicit.  They are differentiated from the humans by being very boldly coloured.  In contrast, the human world is a sort of monochrome 1920’s Moravia; all greys and browns.  Within this framework there are some neat touches.  The foxes carry their tales and use them to great demonstrative effect.  The chickens are portrayed as sex workers with the cockerel as, sort of, their pimp.  It’s not overdone and it’s very effective.  The sets are centred round a stylized tree with other structures as needed being erected on the fly with flats so the action never really stops.

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AtG’s Messiah

Expectations could hardly have been higher for last night’s first performance of Against the Grain’s new production of Handel’s Messiah.  By and large they were met.  It’s become quite the thing to stage Handel’s oratorios and, for the most part, that’s fine.  They are really operas in disguise and work well when liberated from the concert setting.  Messiah is trickier.  Rather than a linear narrative there are a series of Biblical texts selected by librettist Charles Jennens to promote a literal and conservative evangelical Christianity.  There is no obvious staging solution.  One possibility is to invent a narrative and spin the story around it as Claus Guth did at Theater an der Wien in 2009.  AtG’s Joel Ivany’s solution is to stage it as a choreographed performance and use movement to bring depth to the words.  Here he is aided and abetted by choreographer Jennifer Nichols who has created a movement language tailored to the abilities and limitations of the singers.

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