I met with Laurie Rubin today to talk about her upcoming show with Liz Upchurch and Amplified Opera; The Way I See It. Laurie is a mezzo-soprano and she’s been blind since birth. All she can perceive visually is dark and light. We talked about her life growing up and as a professional singer and the upcoming show.
The bio is interesting going from a fairly toxic high school environment in Los Angeles where music was pretty much her salvation, to Oberlin where she first appeared on stage in actual opera to Yale Opera, which took her on the strength of her voice and then didn’t cast her in anything in her two years there (which clearly still hurts), and on to a professional career based in New York. She’s done a lot of new music including creating the role of the voice/witch in Lisa Bielawa’s episodic opera, Vireo, written for broadcast which aired in June 2017 on KCET Los Angeles and creating, with her wife Jenny Taira, an arts program in Hawaii; Ohana Arts, which in turn led to the creation of a musical Peace on Your Wings, about the life of a young Japanese girl who suffered from the Hiroshima bomb, which toured the Hawaiian islands and the US west coast. If all this, and performances too numerous to list, weren’t enough she wrote a book, Do You Dream in Color? Insights From a Girl Without Sight, which in turn became a one woman show. She has also recently become a mother.
Last evening I attended a session with Barbara Hannigan under the auspices of the IRCPA. The format was an interview with William Littler followed by audience Q & A. In many ways it was typical Hannigan. She came across as smart, incredibly driven, analytical and with quite a wicked sense of humour. This I have seen before and there wasn’t much about her work methods that added to the information in I’m a Creative Animal.
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.
The header is a line from Yvette Nolan’s libretto for Shanawdithit; the work she is creating with composer Dean Burry for Tapestry Opera and Opera on the Avalon, which tells the story of the last survivor of the Beothuk people. I sat down with them on Friday to talk about how the work has progressed since I saw an incomplete version in workshop last October. The line really does get to the heart of the creative process that addresses the issues I raised in my review of the workshop (i.e. how we remember and tell stories) and this line, and it’s accompanying music, have become a kind of leitmotiv for the emerging work.
I’m always a bit intrigued when someone comes up with a new technology solution for an old problem. If that solution is riding a particular technology trend I’m even more intrigued so when I saw PR material that a start up was creating a “platform” for linking agents, singers and casting personnel in the classical music business I wanted to find out more. Yesterday I spent some time with Danish tenor and entrepreneur Sune Hjerrild to find out what truelinked.com was all about.
I sat down yesterday with Danielle MacMillan who will sing Agni in Against the Grain’s upcoming production of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus. Kopernikus is subtitled A Ritual Opera for the Dead and concerns the experience of transitioning from life to death as experienced by Agni. I had many questions:
- What was the music like? After all Vivier is not your “typical” composer.
- What’s the nature of the production?
- What does it feel like to play a dead person?
And a few more things that bubbled up as we talked. So here’s a summary.
I sat down a couple of days ago with Joel Ivany to discuss his upcoming production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Conservatory. Here are some of the things we talked about.
What’s Die Zauberflöte “about”?
This opera has had whole books written about it but no-one seems to agree on what’s at the core of it. Is it a simple fairy tale? Is it an allegory of Reason versus The Church? Is it a Coming of Age story? Unsurprisingly we didn’t come to firm conclusions here but it’s clear that Joel wants to particularly explore some of the aspects of gender raised by the piece; especially the apparent misogyny of the piece. There’s potentially more to Pamina than being the bait to trap Tamino or, alternatively, his completion. What is her roles in the Trials? What happens to either of them if they fail? If Tamino needs to be “completed” what are we to make of the unpartnered Sarastro? But, if Pamina has strength what kind of agency does she have? The other female character are equally problematic. How does one humanize the Queen of the Night? Who, or what, is Papagena? Neither of us think there are easy answers here and I’m looking forward to seeing how Joel’s take pans out. What we could agree on is that even if the simple equation of male = good/rational and female = irrational/disposable worked in 1791 (if, indeed, it did), it won’t work in 2019.