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.
No, it’s not an opera about how Toronto city council and staff and their contractors managed to turn a minor realignment of a cycle path into a multi-year, multi-million dollar project. That one is still to be written. This one is a Tapestry production at Todmorden Mills. A local bandit group that strangely doesn’t include John Tory, aided by a troupe of travelling Gilbert & Sullivan players attempt to steal a mysterious object from a wealthy citizen’s home in the Don Valley. The cast is much more talented and better looking than Mr. Tory and includes Keith Klassen, Jennifer Taverner, Jacques Arsenault, Alex Dobson, Sara Schabas, and (monkey girl) Stephanie Tritchew. It plays weekends in September at various lunch to afternoonish times and tickets are free but must be booked in advance here.
If you are planning to bike to the show you can either take the city’s official lethal Lower Don bypass or the actual Lower Don Trail ignoring the “closed” signs. A friend tells me it’s perfectly feasible.
Aaron Gervais’ and Colleen Murphy’s Oksana G. finally made it to the stage last night after a most convoluted journey. It’s being produced by Tapestry at the Imperial Oil Theatre with Tom Diamond directing. The wait, I think has been worth it. The story, set in 1997, of a naive country girl from the Ukraine who gets caught up in sex trafficking is dramatic and the it convincingly depicts the sleazy underworld of southern and eastern Europe created by the collapse of the USSR, the civil wars in the Balkans and the pervasive official corruption in countries like Ukraine, Greece and Italy. It’s gritty and, at times, not at all easy to watch.
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.
Things are really starting to slow down so this will be the last “upcoming” post before the summer lull when this feature will go on hiatus. Next week there’s the final vocal concert of the season in the RBA. It’s on Tuesday at noon when Karine Boucher will perform Ravel’s Shéhérazade with Charles Sy joining in with Britten’s Les Illuminations. On Sunday 21st at 5pm in Mazzoleni Hall, Christina Campsall has a recital of 20th century works including the challenging Messiaen piece, Poèmes pour Mi. It’s free.