There’s an interesting new project on Youtube from Natalya Gennadi and Catherine Carew. It’s called HBD! Project and the idea is to produce a short themed video each month featuring composers whose birthdays fall in that month. The February pilot is online and it’s a bit different from other “shows” in similar vein that I’ve come across. This one features a song by Alban Berg sung by Natalya with a fluffy puppy, music for cello and piano by Jean Coulthard played by Alice Kim and Hye Won Cecilia Lee and Rodney Sharman’s Tobacco Road sung by Catherine. So what’s new you ask (apart from the puppy)? It’s the graphics with Mozart in a party hat, animated Emily Carr paintings and a look for the Sharman that could double as the witches’ scene in Macbeth. Yes it’s a bit weird but oddly compelling.
On a completely different track there’s a very interesting interview on the Confluence Youtube channel where Marion Newman interviews Teiya Kasahara about the Butterfly Project; an upcoming de/reconstruction of the Puccini piece. I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know about Madama Butterfly. Marion and Teiya also feature in a group interview along with Amplified Opera’s other members; Asitha Tennekoon and Aria Umezawa being interviewed by Jenna Simeonov on Opera Canada’s channel This was ostensibly about tackling racial stereotypes in legacy rep and I have to say that I found it very disappointing. Everybody was so busy being apologetic about how much they loved canonical works that most of the tough questions that might have been asked weren’t. Asitha got closest to the heart of the matter asking how new stories could be told within existing opera power structures but Jenna quickly steered things back onto safer ground. The issue, I think, is not can you tweak problem works to ameliorate their faults and maybe make them into something like real drama. Up to a point you can but the surely the real issue is why do we let these tired old warhorses dominate the opera stage? If we want to tell relevant stories to new potential audiences we can’t afford to jam up the production pipeline and consume virtually all the scarce resources recycling a handful of “classics”. Sure, you can tell me that that’s what subscribers and donors want but I’ve met far more people who have not resubscribed to an opera company because half its programming was productions they’d seen before than people who have cancelled because the programming is too bold. It’s not even as if the current approach is working particularly well. Despite population growth and aging the opera audience is steadily shrinking. Something has to change or we will just see an endless progression of large companies cutting back and small ones going bust. At which point no-one is going to care what shade of lipstick we put on the pig!