Bandits in the Valley opened yesterday at Todmorden Mills. It’s a site specific comic opera with words by Julie Tepperman and music by Benton Roark. The time is 1880. Sir George Taylor is the owner of the most productive paper mill in the British Empire but he wants more. Specifically he wants to convert the entire Don Valley to paper thus depriving the pesky bandits thereof of cover. He also wants Lily Pollard, the comely soprano lead of the travelling company he has engaged to stage The Pirates of Penzance as part of the mill’s 25th anniversary celebrations. He’s not the only one after Lily. She’s also the target of the female head of the troupe, Henri, and of Jeremiah, the bandit chief who is trying to obtain his inheritance. He in turn is pursued by the house maid (and his cousin) Birgitta and, in a purely brotherly way of course, another bandit, Freddy. In proper comic opera fashion a birthmark, naturally enough on Jeremiah’s buttock, is involved. Mayhem ensues.
Naomi’s Road; music by Ramona Luengen, lbretto by Anne Hodges,has been around as an opera for ten years or so and it got its Toronto premier last night at St. David’s Anglican Church in a production directed by Michael Mori for Tapestry Opera. It’s based on Joy Kogawa’s novel for children of the same name which tells the story of Naomi and her brother Stephen; Japanese-Canadian children torn from a comfortable middle class Vancouver home by the WW2 era Canadian government’s policy of interning Canadians of Japanese descent as “enemy aliens”. It’s a shameful story and one that Canadians need to know about in an era when fear of the “other” is being stoked on all sides. Perhaps we like to look down our noses at the antics of our neighbours to the south but our own history has its dark side and we need to remember.
Rocking Horse Winner; music by Gareth Williams and libretto by Anna Chatterton, opened last night at the Berkeley Street Theatre. It’s based on the short story by DH Lawrence and is a co-commission of Tapestry Opera and Scottish Opera. There are some changes from the original story. Here Paul is a developmentally challenged adult (on the autism spectrum) rather than a child. The gardener is replaced by his personal care worker who moonlights as a caller at the local racetrack. This has a couple of advantages. It provides something of a rationale for Paul hearing the “voice” of the house and for his apparently inexplicable intuition about race winners and it also means that Paul can be cast as a tenor rather than having to make an awkward choice between a boy soprano or a pants role. As Paul is one of, perhaps the main, character, this simplifies casting considerably. The work is also gently updated. So gently in fact that it’s barely perceptible.
Tapestry Opera’s upcoming show is a new opera based on DH Lawrence’s short story Rocking Horse Winner. The music is by Gareth Williams and the libretto by Anna Chatterton. It’s co-commissioned with Scottish Opera but this time, unlike The Devil Inside, seen earlier this season, it’s a Canadian production with a Canadian cast. I spoke with director Michael Mori and librettist Anna Chatterton to find out what it was all about.
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!
The AGO has a new initiative; AGO Friday Nights. For the price of admission to the gallery one also gets to hear a one hour concert of music programmed by Tapestry’s Michael Mori to reflect something going on at the the gallery. Right now the big exhibition is JMW Turner: Painting Set Free. It’s a decent sized exhibition of works mainly drawn from the later stages of Turner’s career and it’s well worth seeing. The music; half piano, half works for mezzo and piano reflects aspects of the exhibition.
Tap:Ex METALLURGY is the second experiment by Tapestry Artistic Director Michael Mori in engineering a collaboration between opera people and an alien musical form; in this case punk experimentalists Fucked Up. The program consistec of two pieces. Metallurgy A was written by Fucked Up’s Jonah Falco to a dense libretto by Mike Haliechuk and David James Brock. In half an hour it tells the story of a mother and father trying, unsuccessfully, to come to terms with the death of their young daughter. Dramatically it’s quite clever. There’s dialogue and then the performers (the musicians are on stage with the singers) leave one by one until only the mother (Krisztina Szabó) and the violinist (Yoobin Ahn), representing the ghost of the daughter, are left on stage to play out a final duet.