Tap:Ex METALLURGY is the second experiment by Tapestry Artistic Director Michael Mori in engineering a collaboration between opera people and an alien musical form; in this case punk experimentalists Fucked Up. The program consistec of two pieces. Metallurgy A was written by Fucked Up’s Jonah Falco to a dense libretto by Mike Haliechuk and David James Brock. In half an hour it tells the story of a mother and father trying, unsuccessfully, to come to terms with the death of their young daughter. Dramatically it’s quite clever. There’s dialogue and then the performers (the musicians are on stage with the singers) leave one by one until only the mother (Krisztina Szabó) and the violinist (Yoobin Ahn), representing the ghost of the daughter, are left on stage to play out a final duet.
The music is really not what I was expecting (in so far as I had expectations). There are electronic elements but it’s basically in an idiom very much in the mainstream of contemporary Canadian art music. It was like attending any one of a number of “staged” versions of new art songs. The punk element was essentially non-existent. Was Falco “intimidated” by writing an “opera”? We even speculated at the interval that perhaps the deal had been that Falco would write a “classical” piece and Ivor Barbotin, whose work formed the second half of the program, would be challenged to write in a punk idiom. (ETA: Apparently so. An odd decision I think)
That actually turned out to be not far from the truth. Barbotin’s fifteen minute piece, to a libretto by David James Brock, deals with the ups and downs of a couple over years of marriage. He mixes a sort of cheesy Lloyd-Webberish vibe for the good times to a variety of rock idioms (accompanied at one point by the cheesiest possible disco lighting effects) for the rougher patches. Perhaps symptomatic of how the evening didn’t quite fire was that the most exciting part of the show, and the one that had the audience rocking, was when David Pomeroy let loose with an angry salvo of electric guitar.
An odd evening really. It’s a great idea. Fucked Up clearly have the musical chops to do this kind of collaboration. The instrumentalists were great. And Szabó and Pomeroy are two of Toronto’s finest singers. Yet it didn’t quite fire. It had me contrasting it with the way Peter Maxwell Davies uses punk in Resurrection (there’s a full review of the CD recording in the new Opera Canada). Maxwell Davies catches the energy, the anger and the subversiveness of punk in a way that just wasn’t there last night.
There are three more shows; tonight at 8pm and Saturday at 7pm and 10pm at the Ernest Balmer Studio.
Photo credits: Dahlia Katz