So finally to see a show I’ve been thinking about a lot; TapEX:Augmented. It’s simultaneously a show about technology and about using technology in the opera house. The plot concerns the product launch of Elysium; a cloud based afterlife using machine learning to curate (and augment) the customer’s best memories and create their ideal eternity.
Last night various bits of the early music side of the UoT Faculty of Music, plus guests, put on a performance of Purcell’s King Arthur at Trinity St. Paul’s. I’m pretty familiar with the piece from both audio and video recordings (though this was my first time live) but it was clear last night that most people really don’t know the work and I suspect that the way the work was presented was not especially helpful for them.
The program contains detailed notes by director Erik Thor about his thoughts on presenting a “problem piece” without really explaining why King Arthur is a problem or why he made the choices he made. We are told it’s about conquest and erasure but not how and why it differs from what most people seem to expect when they see the title King Arthur. In short, it’s a highly fictionalised version of the very old Welsh stories about the resistance of the (Christian) Britons to the (Pagan) Saxons. Forget Geoffrey of Monmouth, Tennyson, TE White and Monty Python. Oddly, Merlin, perhaps the one character anyone would recognise, is cut here. The work itself is also a bit incoherent largely because Dryden (the librettist) tried to recast what was originally a court spectacular to the glory of Charles II as something that would work in the theatre and pass the censorship under William and Mary!
Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera, which is currently playing at Meridian Hall, takes Roger Waters’ words from the original album The Wall and sets them to music by Julien Bilodeau which is new but based on the original melodic lines. The stage production, conceived and directed by Dominic Champagne, is flashy (often literally) and makes extensive use of projections. There’s a decent cast of Canadian singers (including Nathan Keoughan, France Bellemare, Caroline Bleau, and Jean-Michel Richer), a rather good chorus and a symphony sized orchestra all conducted by Alain Trudel. It’s loud, expensive looking and in your face. On paper all the elements of a sort of cross-over opera spectacular are there but they simply don’t come together.
Theatre Gargantua’s production of Michael Gordon Spence’s The Wager, which opened last night at Theatre Passe Muraille takes as its starting point Alfred Russell Wallace’s (the other natural selection guy) bet with a Flat Earther to prove that the Earth is round. He does do, of course. Or at least to the satisfaction of any reasonable person but merely succeeds in provoking a storm of personal abuse and insults from the Flat Earther. All of which tends to prove the old adage that arguing with a crackpot is like wrestling with a pig. You get covered in s**t and the pig enjoys it.
Soundstreams last night presented an intriguing double bill of works in Indigenous languages on Indigenous themes at, appropriately, the Daniels Spectrum. First up was Pimoteewin; music by Melissa Hui, words by Tomson Highway. This piece uses English narration with the singing in Cree. It tells the story of the Trickster and the Eagle going to find out where people go when they die. To quote him “Why are my people always disappearing like this?” The Trickster’ tries unsuccessfully to bring the spirits back to the land of the living and finally realises that that’s not such a good idea. Musically it had almost a liturgical or meditative quality with a lot of fairly hushed choral singing behind strong solo performances by Bud Roach and Melody Courage.
Monica Whicher has the happy knack of being able to put together interesting and appropriate programmes. Last night’s Remembrance Day concert at Walter hall, with co-conspirators Steven Philcox and Marie Bérard was no exception. It ran about an hour and a quarter without intermission or interruption which created a kind of hushed intensity appropriate to the occasion.
Eight drinkers singing. Or vice versa. I forget. Anyway, last night’s extravaganza from Tongue in Cheek Productions and Opera5 at Gallery 345 was a blast. The schtick was that eight people got to choose a cocktail and a related song set while the audience could purchase their choice(s) of the said beverages. There was a lot of clowning around and some very good singing all backed up by a very serious looking Trevor Chartrand at the piano. Continue reading →