New comic operas are rare. New comic operas that are actually funny are vanishingly rare. The Overcoat: A Musical Tailoring is such a beast. It’s a new piece with music by James Rolfe and a libretto by Morris Panych derived from his twenty year old stage adaptation of Gogol’s short story. Originally commissioned by Tapestry Opera, the Toronto staging was under the joint auspices of that company and Canadian Stage with the work also to be staged by co-producer Vancouver Opera as part of their summer festival.
Casting has now been announced for The Overcoat: A Musical Tailoring; an opera by Morris Panych and James Rolfe based on Gogol’s short story by way of Panych’s 1990s theatrical version. The opera is a co-production of Vancouver Opera, Tapestry Opera and Canadian Stage and will premiere in Toronto’s Bluma Appel Theatre (March 29th to April 14th) before heading to the Vancouver Playhouse (April 28th to May 12th).
News just in that Tapestry Opera have acquired a 9.5-foot Imperial Bösendorfer 290 Concert Grand Piano, courtesy of a gift from Clarence Byrd and Ida Chen. This beast is valued at $225,000 so it’s quite a gift. One could buy an apartment for that, though in the Distillery it might be smaller than the piano. To inaugurate the instrument and celebrate its public debut, Tapestry Opera will present two concerts on the evening of October 25th to benefit disaster relief efforts around the world, specifically those underway in Puerto Rico, Dominica, Mexico and India. All proceeds will be donated to Medecins san Frontieres (Operaramblings’ charity of choice) and Global Medic, who are working to rescue, support and rebuild the lives of millions affected by recent extreme weather events.
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.