Ho Ka Kei’s take on the last canonical part of the story of the House of Atreus; Iphigenia and the Furies (on Taurian Land) opened last night at the Aki Studio in a production directed by Jonathan Seinen. It’s a very funny and very thought provoking take on the story that will likely be best known to opera goers as the plot of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride. I want to start with the three questions that the playwright set out to answer:
What does it mean for mainly POC’s and marginalized folks to be taking this tale on?
What do we gain/ what do we lose/ what may feel erased/ what is truly universal about this tale or is that an assumption due to its status in the canon?
When we end a cycle, say a cycle of vengeance, what other cycles emerge?
This interests me especially because I’m not in any real sense a marginalized person. Indeed I’m almost “archetypically” of the group that has made the classical canon its own; i.e a white male with a traditional classical education(1).
Back to see Bicycle Opera Project’s production of Sweat last night as it opened a run of four performances in Toronto on a suitably diaphoretic Toronto evening. This time we were at the Aki Studio in the Daniels Spectrum complex. It’s quite a small theatre but has the proper complement of lighting and so on to permit a richer staging than when I saw it in Hamilton. Other than to note that proper lighting definitely helps the atmospherics I haven’t got much to add to my review of the show at WAHC. I guess with three weeks touring the show has got a little more polished but it’s fine detail stuff. So, to summarise, it’s an excellent piece with a well crafted libretto and a sophisticated score which is realized expertly despite the significant amount of movement that has to be synched with the music. It’s a real step up in ambition and execution for BOP. You should see it if you can.
Even by the standards of Rossini comedies The Italian Girl in Algiers is a bit daft. Mustafà, bey of Algiers, is tired of his wife and plans to get rid of her by marrying her off to his Italian servant Lindoro. He wants an Italian girl because well squire, nudge nudge. He instructs his sidekick and commander of the galleys Haly to procure one or be impaled (a somewhat pointed joke that runs through the piece). He shows up with Isabella and her sidekick Taddeo. Isabella just happens to be Lindoro’s squeeze. She immediately starts to plot their escape and persuades Mustafà that to succeed with Italian girls he must become a Pappatacci which involves eating enormous amounts of food and not getting upset when his beloved gets off with other men. With Mustafà in a pasta induced near coma the lovers escape and Mustafà reconciles with his wife. Got that?
Over 200,000 women from across Asia were conscripted into sexual slavery by the Japanese army in WW2. They were euphemistically described as “comfort women”. In 2009 playwright Diana Tso met some of the survivors, heard their stories and wrote a play based on their testimony. The result was Comfort, currently playing at the Aki Studio in a production directed by William Yong with music by Constantin Caravassilis.
Anna Theodosakis’ production of Britten’s Rape of Lucretia for MYOpera updates the piece from proto-historical Rome to somewhere in the mid 20th century which is fine but doesn’t seem, of itself, to add any layers of meaning to the narrative. There are neat visual touches in a simple but effective set design and the nature of and relationships between the characters are deftly drawn. The rape scene manages to be disturbing without being gratuitously graphic. It’s skilful theatre. But is that enough?