I managed to catch the end of the run of York University’s production of The Beggars Opera this afternoon. It’s a hugely ambitious concept with a couple of hundred people involved. The basic concept is that John Gay’s piece is being performed by inmates in a prison as part of their rehabilitation. Layered onto this is an obnoxious talk show host who is commenting on the proceedings from a sort of gutter conservative perspective. Add to this interpolations based on Lady Gaga, blues harmonica, ukulele and even a bit of Britten. Fights break out between the cast and have to be dealt with by the prison warden and staff. Equally, they intervene in over enthusiastic sexual encounters. It’s brave but it rather tends to overwhelm the piece at the centre. Continue reading
It’s a curious thing how some works get over recorded and others are almost entirely neglected. For example, there’s only one video recording of Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper and that a 1931 film that omits huge chunks of the stage work. It’s inspiration fares little better. There’s only one video recording of The Beggar’s Opera by Johann Pepusch and John Gay. It’s a 1963 BBC TV production of Benjamin Britten’s reworking of the piece for the English Opera Group based on a stage production by Colin Graham. [ETA: There are actually two other versions; a 1953 movie version with Lawrence Olivier and a 1980s version with Roger Daltrey and John Eliot Gardiner].
I had mixed feelings about attending something billed as a “children’s opera” but Laura’s Cow turned out to be quite a lot of fun. The piece was created for the Canadian Children’s Opera Company by composer Errol Gay and librettist Michael Patrick Albano. It’s a 70 minute long, somewhat wry take on Laura Secord and the War of 1812. It manages not to be too sentimental and pokes fun at the Tea Party, coyotes and Americans; which is a bit harsh on coyotes. Writing for a children’s opera company obviously places some constraints on the composer. There have to be simple choruses for the younger children. There have to be not too demanding short solos for promising older singers and so on. Within those limits Mr. Gay managed to create a score with quite a lot of musical interest especially in the orchestral writing. The sets and stage direction were effective too especially given the logistics of handling a large cast in a fairly restricted stage area. Continue reading
Considering the opera season in Toronto usually pretty much wraps up in May there’s a lot on over the next few days. I guess the big ticket Is Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach which is running tonight, tomorrow night and Sunday afternoon/evening. Unfortunately it’s extremely long and I have early reffing gigs both Saturday and Sunday so that pretty much rules it out. It’s also at one of my least favourite performance spaces; the Sony Centre. Also on this weekend is the Canadian Children’s Opera Company performance of a new work by Errol Gay called Laura’s Cow. based on events in the War of 1812 That’s on at the Enwave and I managed to score a couple of comps so I shall be going to that. Then on Monday and Tuesday evenings Tapestry New Opera are workshopping Aaron Gervais’ The Enslavement and Liberation of Oksana G. at the Distillery. Most all opera in Toronto happens within walking distance of the Kitten Kondo but that one is scarcely five minutes away. The lemur is rehearsing so I’ll be on my own at that one. Busy times!