I met with Michael Mori of Tapestry Opera on Friday ostensibly to talk about their upcoming season but, as these things tend to, we covered a lot more ground than that. As far as the season goes I have only a little to add to the previous piece I wrote on this subject. I can confirm that there will be no LibLab or Tapestry Shorts in 2015/16. Michael feels that the process has already produced enough composer/librettist connections to allow it to be scaled back to every other year which frees up more time/funds for other projects. This is clear from this season’s exciting line up with two fully staged chamber operas.
We talked about the relationship with Scottish Opera and what it’s producing. There are intriguing parallels between Mori and Scottish Opera boss Alex Reedijk. Both are passionately committed to new work and neither are fans of Regietheater. Both prefer to work on a chamber scale and want to take work to new audiences via touring, something we shall see next spring when Scottish Opera bring The Devil Inside to Toronto. I asked whether we might see Tapestry touring in Scotland and it seems a possibility if the Canada Council for the Arts ever use the money they have for that purpose for anything other than school tours. New work is, of course, bang on mission for Mori and Tapestry but the changed emphasis at Scottish Opera perhaps goes some way to explaining the heavy criticism of Reedjik for not giving the good burghers of Glasgow and Edinburgh as many Traviatas and Don Giovannis as they have become accustomed to.
Mori is something of an iconoclast in other ways too. He believes passionately that new opera, and with it new audiences, will only come from new kinds of creative collaboration. One senses that he feels a certain frustration about the inward looking nature of the opera establishment (And, therefore the ultimate sterility of the debate about Regietheater versus traditional productions; it doesn’t matter whether it’s Sher or Herheim directing Rigoletto, it’s still a museum piece). So he puts a lot of effort into facilitating new ways of collaborating and spends a lot of his own time outside the opera “bubble”. The most concrete expression of this is Tap:Ex, this season featuring an experimental punk rock band. Last year’s Tables Turned certainly brought in people new to opera. The big question is did they also come to M’dea Undone and, if so, will they come back for The Devil Inside?
I confess to not seeing clear lines from cross disciplinary collaboration through “progressive opera on a chamber scale”; unconventional venues, touring and all, to a revitalisation of the form and the creation/recreation of a wider audience. Michael is passionate about it though and has the energy and fearlessness of a thirty something. I hope he’s right and one can see why Wayne Strongman picked him as his successor.