I sat down today with Michael Mori and Debi Wong; the co-directors of Tapestry’s upcoming show TapEX: Augmented Opera to talk about the show and issues around it. The TapEX series is all about low cost, low risk experimentation. Previous shows have combined opera with punk, turntables and Persian rapping. This time it’s about exploring ways of using digital technology to enhance opera performance and enable the creation of new kinds of opera. It’s also about how can technology be incorporated in an affordable way. Conventional studio produced VR comes in around $30,000 per minute which might be OK for the Royal Shakespeare Company but is way out of reach of an indie company. And, of course, it can’t be about the technology itself. It needs to be about how we create art with it.
Soundstreams last night presented an intriguing double bill of works in Indigenous languages on Indigenous themes at, appropriately, the Daniels Spectrum. First up was Pimoteewin; music by Melissa Hui, words by Tomson Highway. This piece uses English narration with the singing in Cree. It tells the story of the Trickster and the Eagle going to find out where people go when they die. To quote him “Why are my people always disappearing like this?” The Trickster’ tries unsuccessfully to bring the spirits back to the land of the living and finally realises that that’s not such a good idea. Musically it had almost a liturgical or meditative quality with a lot of fairly hushed choral singing behind strong solo performances by Bud Roach and Melody Courage.
Olivier Py’s production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, filmed at the Theater an der Wien in 2015, is quite unusual. Usually opera productions either play the story more or less straight or work with a concept of the director’s that is not obviously contained in the libretto. Py doesn’t rally do either of these. What he does is present the narrative as Wagner wrote it but with visuals that act as a sort of commentary on, rather than a literal depiction of, the action being described. One of the things this does is make the viewer realise just how much Wagner is describing! There is much more tell than show.
Monica Whicher has the happy knack of being able to put together interesting and appropriate programmes. Last night’s Remembrance Day concert at Walter hall, with co-conspirators Steven Philcox and Marie Bérard was no exception. It ran about an hour and a quarter without intermission or interruption which created a kind of hushed intensity appropriate to the occasion.
Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame is a rather odd opera. It’s not just that the main plot turns on a pretty bizarre tale of the supernatural but that it also contains a significant number of big set piece numbers that don’t advance the plot at all; the “military children” in Act 1, the Pastoral in Act 2 and the bizarre “Glory to Catherine” chorus in Act 3 aren’t the only ones. One assumes that they are there so that the composer could interpolate some suitably “Russian” bits because without them it’s just any other opera that happens to be in Russian.
Eight drinkers singing. Or vice versa. I forget. Anyway, last night’s extravaganza from Tongue in Cheek Productions and Opera5 at Gallery 345 was a blast. The schtick was that eight people got to choose a cocktail and a related song set while the audience could purchase their choice(s) of the said beverages. There was a lot of clowning around and some very good singing all backed up by a very serious looking Trevor Chartrand at the piano. Continue reading →
Tapestry and the COC collaborated for yesterday’s concert in the RBA. The performers were members of the Ensemble Studio. The material was a mix of numbers from the Tapestry back catalogue plus a couple of songs by COC composer in residence Ian Cusson.