Rocking Horse Winner – the recording

rhwTapestry Opera’s original 2019/20 season was to have included a remount of Gareth Williams’ and Anna Chatterton’s Rocking Horse Winner which premiered to positive reviews in May 2016. This is quite unusual as all too often, new Canadian operas, even the successful ones pretty much disappear after an initial run. Needless to say the staged show didn’t happen but, happily, Tapestry decided to make an audio recording instead.

Three of the four principals from 2016; Asitha Tennekoon, Keith Klassen and Peter McGillivray reprise their original roles while Lucia Cesaroni replaces Carla Huhtanen as Ava.  This time around the house is represented by Midori Marsh, Alex Hetherington, Stephen Bell and Korin Thomas-Smith.

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Opera Canada at 60

OC-60th-Anniversary-Issue2020 marks the 60th anniversary of Opera Canada magazine; though it wasn’t always called that and it’s had incarnations as the “newsletter” of the Canadian Opera Guild and the house organ of the COC before becoming the independent publication it is today.  To mark the anniversary there is a glossy 60th anniversary special edition of the mag.  It’s 94 pages long and printed on much better paper than the regular mag.  It’s really quite classy despite lacking any content at all from me!

The content is quite different from the regular quarterly publication.  There are no reviews of either live shows or recordings for example.  Rather, it features some historical essays; Christopher Holle on the story of opera in Canada, Wayne Gooding on the history of the magazine, Natasha Gautier on the troubled history of Black Opera and various OC regulars on their “greatest moment” in Canadian opera history.  There are also some interesting cross-generational features.  There are six extended conversations between  a young opera professional and an older member of the same specialty.  For example Jordan da Souza talks to Timothy Vernon while Wallis Giunta and Judith Forst converse.  In another feature ten singers of the younger generation explain who their Canadian icons are and why.  Finally there’s a light hearted series of predictions for the next sixty years from luminaries ranging from Alexander Neef to Topher Mokrzewski  (Topher is funnier).

It’s one of those publications that’s kind of interesting to read between the lines because buried in there is the diversity of Canada and how it reacts to opera as well as some very clear generational divides.  The 60th anniversary edition should be on sale until March at the usual Opera Canada retailoutlets (though which of them are actually functioning right now is anybody’s guess).  Or you can contact

Electric Messiah 2020

The sixth iteration of Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah unsurprisingly morphed from a live show in the intimate setting of the Drake Underground to a streamed video recorded on location in various places in Toronto.  There is much that was the same as previously and some interesting differences.  The selection of arias and choruses is very similar to previous years starting with “Comfort Ye”; arranged for all four singers and finishing up with “Hallelujah”.


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This and that

Next Monday, December 21st, Essential Opera is streaming a new one act opera for three singers and string quartet by Monica Pearce called December.  Julia and Natasha are newly in a relationship and are visiting Julia’s parents for the first time for the holidays.  We are promised a light hearted piece about travel, holiday stress, family and relationships. It premieres at 8pm (Nova Scotia time I think) and it’s ticketed.  Cast, crew and ticketing information is here.


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Against the Grain’s Messiah/Complex is a rewarding, actually quite fascinating, piece of work.  It’s condensed to around 80 minutes but most of the well known numbers feature in some form.  Each takes the form of a filmed vignette filmed somewhere in Canada.  Some locations are urban, some are very much not; from David Pecaut Square to the high Arctic.  Twelve soloists and a number of different choirs are used.  Some pieces are sung in the original English but five other languages are also used.  The non-English pieces are not translations in fact they subvert Charles Jennens’ theology in some really interesting ways.  The TSO (or at least a bit of it) conducted by Johannes Debus provides the accompaniment.  The performances are good, the filming is excellent and the technical quality is first rate.  You can watch it for yourself at this link.


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Something Rich and Strange

Opera Atelier’s fall show Something Rich and Strange was originally conceived as a show that could be given before a (limited) live audience as well as via web stream. That’s obviously constraining compared to a show that is created without a fourth wall and can include location filming. All the other constraints of these strange times had also to be observed. Despite this there was much to like in a show that presented a number of scenes from the 17th and 18th century repertoire plus a couple of “neo-baroque” pieces composed by Edwin Huizinga.


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SOS Sketch Opera Singers

Tapestry’s SOS Sketch Opera Singers does for the staid old world of opera what I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue did for the quiz show.  Five of Toronto’s finest artistes, in the guise of the cross-over group; Krossøver, are, in the immortal words of Humphrey Lyttleton, “given silly things to do”.


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