Soundstreams Electric Messiah 3 opened last night at the Drake Underground. Some things have changed from last year. There’s no chorus, the soloists are new, the instrumentation has changed. There’s now a harpsichord (Christopher Bagan) and an electric organ (Jeff McLeod) for instance. Some things are the same. There’s still extensive use of electric guitar (John Gzowski). Dancer Lybido and DJ SlowPitchSound are still there, as is Adam Scime as music director and electro-acoustical wizard. There’s still a mobile phone schtick. It feels both familiar and quite different.
The four new soloists each bring something of themselves to the piece. A kilted Jonathan MacArthur (getting ready for Yaksmas perhaps?) sings partly, and very beautifully, in Scots Gaelic. Adanya Dunn brings a fresh sound and Bulgarian. Elizabeth Shepherd brings jazz, French and a really effective “lounge jazz” He was despised accompanying herself on organ. Justin Welsh adds some Afro-Canadian touches. Most of the numbers are shared between the singers; moving and singing from different parts of the small space. This is exemplified by the opening Comfort ye, begun by Jonathan in Gaelic with singer and language and location constantly shifting. With no chorus, there’s much more space (and it’s easier to see). The visual and aural textures seem cleaner. The unconventional combination of instruments and electronics works really well. There’s enough Handel there but also much else to think about and enjoy.
Opera 5’s double bill of Ethel Smyth one acters, Suffragette, opened last night at Theatre Passe Muraille in productions by Jessica Derventzis. The second piece, The Boatswain’s Mate, was in every way the more successful of the two. It’s a straightforward enough story. Mrs. Waters is a widow and landlord of The Outlaw (renamed in deference to the production’s beer sponsor). She is being very unsuccessfully courted by retired boatswain Harry Benn. Mrs. Waters doesn’t want or need a husband but Benn decides that by enlisting a casual acquaintance, the former soldier Ned Travers, as a fake burglar from whom he can “rescue” the hapless landlady. Much mayhem ensues but the upshot is that Mrs. Waters takes a shine to the hunky soldier and they, at least, live happily ever after.
As promised, I’m passing on the news I missed at FAWN the other night. Basically, in addition to the Anna Höstman project the news concerns the further development of the Synesthesia IV project which seeks to to find a composer to develop a ballet-lyrique with FAWN. So following on from Synesthesia IV part 1, three composers; David Storen, Joseph Glaser and Kit Van Soden, have been selected to join FAWN for the next stage of the project: a one week improvisation workshop, during which they will work with FAWN Artistic Director and Resident Stage Director Amanda Smith, FAWN Artistic Associate Jonathan MacArthur (tenor) and dancer/choreographer Jennifer Nichols. The purpose of the workshop will be to create material through improvisation, which the composers can then use as they each write one short opera for Synesthesia IV pt. II. FAWN will present these works during their 2017/18 season.
Last night in an aerialist loft in the grittier part of the west end FAWN presented Synesthesia IV part 1. Six short pieces by different composers were choreographed by Jenn Nichols and presented in an art installation by Kathryn Francis Warner. It was an interesting and enjoyable show but it left me wondering how it was going to help select a composer for a future opera. I may be old fashioned but I would want to hear how the composer wrote for voice before making that call and only two pieces last night did that.
This Saturday FAWN Chamber Creative are presenting the first part of Synesthesia IV. Yesterday I sat down with artistic director Amanda Smith and singer Jonathan MacArthur to find out what it’s all about. It’s basically a building block in a longer term project to create a contemporary ballet lyrique. Now normally, for me, this term summons up the ghost of Lully and has me running for the hills humming “diddly, diddly; diddly, twiddly” but Amanda explained that they were using it as shorthand for an extended piece combining vocal music and dance so I calmed down. Now one thing I’ve noticed about FAWN is that they don’t rush works to market. There’s usually an extensive process of workshopping and refining. This ballet lyrique project seems to take that one step further and Synesthesia is a first step along the way. Continue reading →
This concert was the culmination of several days of workshops involving Wallis Giunta, Jordan de Souza and eighteen emerging artists; both singers and pianists. It’s a comparatively unusual opportunity to focus on contemporary repertoire for a while and the results were fun. As usual with these multi-participant efforts I’m not going to attempt to be exhaustive but just concentrate on my personal highlights.
Great idea. Create a sort of spooky, short opera program in a funky location and use it as a fundraiser for your next major project. That was Darknet at Mây last night. Jennifer Krabbe, singing Berlioz, rounded us up in the bar and ushered us downstairs into an installation created by Alessia Naccarato and Noah Grove. It was dark. It was eerie. We were offered masks. Cairan Ryan sang The Cold Song from Purcell’s King Arthur while writhing on the floor. Jonathan MacArthur sort of emerged from some sort of primeval goo singing Aria by John Cage and Beth Hagerman gave us one of Lulu’s arias. Then we were rounded up and ejected into the light again. Loved it.