So you have sung the Queen of the Night exactly 2,327 times; high Fs and all, and you are sick to death of it and the Misogyny it rode in on. What do you do? Well, obvs you create a one woman show that teeters between mocking opera stereotypes of women and something much darker. At least that’s what Teiya Kasahara did as part of Tapestry Opera’s Tap This: A Quueerated Opera Series presented in conjunction with Pride.
So our favourite inked butch dyke coloratura comes on in a foofy dress complete with Dollarama coronet and wand and starts to sing the heck out of that aria – you know, the one they sing at weddings. But then it rapidly morphs into a diatribe; first in German, then in heavily accented English, about the role, how women are portrayed in opera, occasionally veering into how women; sopranos in particular, are seen/treated in the opera world(*) before switching up into dress pants and a wing collared shirt with studs (despite pianist David Eliakis’ increasingly frantic pleas of “no pants”). Along the way there are jokes, some killer singing and some very sharp reminders of what it’s like to be a strong, athletic, queer woman in a world that expects its sopranos to behave as if they are romantically dying of TB on-stage and off. It’s a very moving and rather disturbing 45 minutes that I really can’t do full justice to. It’s a very brave show and I hope Teiya puts it on again. More people need to see it.
(*)It’s odd that it should come just after I first encountered Kiri Te Kanawa live for surely few sopranos have been as sexually objectified. I don’t know how many people remember Bernard Levin’s Times column written after her ROH debut in 1971 but it’s probably the only time the Thunderer was printed using drool.
The basic format for Songbook is now well established. Tapestry hire an experienced singer and pianist (Natalya Gennadi and Topher Mokrzewski) who work for a week with a larger group of young singers and pianists to create a show of a dozen or so scenes from Tapestry’s 38 year history. There’s a distinct leaning toward more recent works; the oldest last night was created in 2003, probably because the LIBLAB is such a rich source of suitable material. Last night’s selection was also decidedly dark, with lots of death and angst, only a couple or three lighter pieces and nothing flat out comic.
Tapestry Opera is collaborating with Toronto Pride Week to put on a “queerated opera series” called Pride Toronto, Tap This. There are three shows:
Cocktales with Maria showcases Drag Chanteuse / Contralto Profundo Maria Toilette (Joel Klein) and her small motley crew (the Gutter Opera Collective). They will present Isaiah Bell’s settings of Cocktales: rapacious and tender 1st person retellings of early sexual experiences. June 8th and 9th at 9pm.
Queer of the Night features Soprano Teiya Kasahara subverting the tropes of women in opera with her trademark butch couture and powerful coloratura in cooperation with collaborative pianist, David Eliakis. June 7th at 9pm and June 9th at 4pm.
Tap This: Queers Crash the Opera is a selection of queer-themed opera curated by David Eliakis. It features selections from the classics as well as Tapestry original works. June 7th and 8th at 8pm.
All shows are at the Ernest Balmer Studio. More info and tickets here.
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.