Tapestry’s upcoming show TapEx: Forbidden features music by Iranian-born composer Afarin Mansouri with a libretto by Afro-Caribbean hip hop artist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. Four vocalists are featured; Neema Bickersteth, soprano; Shirin Eskandani, mezzo-soprano; Alexander Hajek, baritone; and Saye Sky, Farsi rapper and spoken-word artist. I have a long standing interest in blending western classical music with other cultures and genres, partly at least because I get to hear a lot of North Indian music, and I’ve been intrigued by other “fusion”projects such as Alice Ping Yee Ho’s The Lesson of Da Ji and some of the cross-cultural experimentations in dance such as Esmerelda Enrique and Joanna Das’ collaborations. All of this is a long intro to saying that before Christmas I got the chance to put some questions to Afarin Mansouri about the upcoming show. Her responses are enlightening and intriguing. So here’s the exchange: Continue reading →
The current Tapestry Briefs show presents work from the 2016 LibLab. It’s all new and, inevitably, very mixed. It started very strongly with a scene, The Call of the Light (Imam Habibi/Bobby Theodore) based on the 1984 attack on the Quebec National Assembly. The combination of an assault rifle carrying camo clad Alex Dobson , the rest of the cast (Jacquie Woodley, Keith Klassen, Erica Iris) writhing on the floor and dissonant extended piano from Michael Shannon was genuinely disturbing. Having a gun pointed straight at you from a few feet away doesn’t happen often at the opera.
Yesterday saw the first of this season’s free concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. As has become the norm it featured the singers of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. This year it was dedicated to the memory of the late Lotfi Mansouri and included a couple of short tributes to him.
Six of the Ensemble’s singers are new this year, as is the sole pianist, so these were mostly singers I haven’t heard a lot of. I’ve also observed how much members of the Ensemble Studio develop in the programme and last year we had a solid group of third years with a few new entrants. The balance has shifted to the other extreme and so no surprise that yesterday we heard more potential than polish.
Front (l – r): Clarence Frazer, Sasha Djihanian, Danielle MacMillan, Michael Shannon Middle (l – r): Gordon Bintner, Aviva Fortunata, Claire de Sévigné, Cameron McPhail Back (l – r): Andrew Haji, Charlotte Burrage, Owen McCausland Photographer: Karen Reeves
So two “obituaries” on the trot. Now Lotfi Mansouri is gone. He was an interesting, larger than life, character. Arguably he was born in the wrong age. He would have been perfect in the days of entrepreneurial opera company owner/directors. 17th century Venice, London in Handel’s day or the US of the turn of the century would all have been natural homes. His ability to cut a deal, to charm money out of the rich, to persuade legendary singers to perform in opera backwaters and to create spectacle while counting the pennies were amazing. Was he so well suited for an age of complex artistic cultural politics and changing trends in opera production? Perhaps not.
Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine was a huge hit in Paris, London and New York when it premiered in 1865. I’m not sure why. It has all of the things that make Meyerbeer seem very dated and not as much of the good stuff as Les Huguenots, or even Dinorah. It’s ostensibly about Vasco de Gama but that’s just a peg to pin a love triangle and a bunch of exoticism on. Are we actually supposed to believe that the Portugese wanted to find a way around the Cape to find out what was there? It would have been a lot easier to get hold of a copy of Herodotus. It’s also long. Even with cuts it runs well over three hours in the version recorded at San Francisco Opera in 1988.
It’s 1990 and Dame Joan Sutherland is retiring. Australian Opera decide to stage Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots as a farewell gala. In some ways it’s an odd choice as the Sutherland character, Marguerite de Valois, only appears in two of the five acts of an opera that’s rather long despite cuts. Still, as a vehicle for an ageing coloratura it’s not a bad choice. The production is by Lotfi Mansouri so there is nothing to get in the way of the plot and, by the same token, nothing much to think about. It’s also, equally characteristically, quite dark in places. Everything then rests on the performances. Continue reading →
A while back I reviewed the train wreck that is the CBC recording of Joan Sutherland in Norma. Three years later the Canadian Opera Company and the CBC tried again with a recording of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. As a recording and a production it has its limitations but it’s not a disaster and is enjoyable in many ways.