FAWN Chamber Creative and its artistic director Amanda Smith see themselves as pioneers. They champion inter-disciplinary works that don’t fit easily into any taxonomy of music, theatre or dance styles. Their latest venture; Pandora, an “opera/ballet” on a classical theme, might seem straight from the court of Louis XIV but Lully likely wouldn’t have scored it for drums, a piano, an electric guitar, a cello, a bassoon and electronics. The Sun King would likely also be somewhat taken aback by Jenn Nichol’s choreography; her long association with Opera Atelier notwithstanding.
To be honest though when I sat down yesterday to talk to Amanda and partners-in-crime Jonathan MacArthur and Aaron Durand we talked as much about process as outcome. Pandora is being developed as a “Devised Opera”. It started with a workshop where the audience got to vote for the three composers FAWN would use for the project. That was three years ago and since then it’s evolved into a collaborative process involving librettist, director, the three composers, choreographer and some of the performers. The pieces are developed in multiple workshops with a slightly different method being used by each composer. The common element is the librettist who has to ensure that the narrative, as a whole, makes sense. Right now the piece is in rehearsal with the full performing cast as the instrumentalists are worked into the stage action.
So what can we expect from the finished piece? It’s going to be an an exploration of evil in the world, from death and sickness to flat tires and gluten, seen through the eyes of librettist David James Brock and composers; David Storen, Joseph Glaser and Kit Soden as a modern character revisits the infamous box. The three “pieces” will be linked by musical interludes but there will be three distinct musical styles; which could mean something for everybody or not! The total piece comes in at around 75 minutes and is intended as a continuous immersive experience. It will play in a roughly one hundred seat rather grungy sounding space in that not-quite-industrial part of the inner west end probably not much frequented by the COC’s audience.
Amanda describes the piece as intended for a “new audience” which I interpret as meaning one drawn from a variety of aesthetic backgrounds; music, dance, visual arts etc (and half my age). Based on my (dim) memories of the music of the three composers I’m expecting something quite challenging though Amanda promises that some sections will be more accessible than others. There are fine singers; Teiya Kasahara, as well as Jonathan and Aaron and equally fine dancers with Tyler Gledhill joining Jenn in abandoning glam-baroque for something more contemporary. I’m looking forward to it.
Pandora plays at Geary Lane (360 Geary Avenue) on May 23rd, 24th and 25th. More details and tickets here.