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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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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Virtual – new and upcoming

Things I’ve seen recently or plan to see include:

Seen recently:

  • Two more spooky shorts from Tapestry Opera and Red Truck productions.  If you had any lingering doubts about Keith Klassen’s sanity these should take care of them!  That said, the technical quality of these is amazing. (Tapestry Youtube channel).
  • A COVID flavoured Halloween special from Opera Revue.  (Opera Revue’s Youtube channel)
  • A recording and video presentation by the Kingston Symphony of Dean Burry’s Nijmegen Bridge 1944.  It’s a homage to the Canadians who died liberating the Netherlands and it’s well worth hearing.  There are also more Harmon in Space episodes.  (Kingston Symphony Youtube channel)

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Carmen #YesAllWomen

Loose Tea Music Theatre’s Carmen #YesAllWomen has been in the works for three years.  It went “live” this week with a production at Heliconian Hall.  It’s an intriguing show.  Dramatically and musically it’s recognisably based on Bizet’s Carmen but only just.  In Alaina Viau and Monica Pearce’s version the principal male character is one John Anderson, an Afghanistan vet with PTSD, his rival for Carmen is a rapper, Maximillian aka Hot God, and Michaela is Anderson’s estranged wife.

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Tapestry Briefs: Tasting Shorts

The current Tapestry Briefs is one of the most satisfying I have attended.  Briefs is the performance edition of the LibLab; an intense where composers collaborate with librettists to create new opera scenes.  Some of these disappear and some go on to be the starting point for new operas.  The current crop is strong.  There were eleven scenes in the show; sung by various combinations of Teiya Kasahara, Stephanie Tritchew, Keith Klassen and Peter McGillivray with Jennifer Tung at the piano and other keyboards.  As a bonus, at intervals Keith appeared to sing a parody of a famous aria describing the tasty little tapas which were offered around.

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September

princess2It’s September and the long, slow awakening after the annual aestivation begins.  There’s not a lot on yet but what there is is interesting.  The middle of the month sees Native Earth’s production of I Call myself Princess at the Aki Studio; previews from 9th to 12th September with official opening on the 13th and then shows until the end of the month.  My interview with playwright Jani Lauzon is here.  Also opening on the 13th is Tapestry Briefs at the Ernest Balmer Studio.  Hear the product of the LibLab, hear Stephanie Tritchew, Teiya Kasahara, Peter McGillivray and Keith Klassen and eat tapas.  It runs until the 16th.

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Trying on The Overcoat

New comic operas are rare.  New comic operas that are actually funny are vanishingly rare.  The Overcoat: A Musical Tailoring is such a beast.  It’s a new piece with music by James Rolfe and a libretto by Morris Panych derived from his twenty year old stage adaptation of Gogol’s short story.  Originally commissioned by Tapestry Opera, the Toronto staging was under the joint auspices of that company and Canadian Stage with the work also to be staged by co-producer Vancouver Opera as part of their summer festival.

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Tapestry Briefs: Winter Shorts

The current Tapestry Briefs show presents work from the 2016 LibLab.  It’s all new and, inevitably, very mixed.  It started very strongly with a scene, The Call of the Light (Imam Habibi/Bobby Theodore) based on the 1984 attack on the Quebec National Assembly.  The combination of an assault rifle carrying camo clad Alex Dobson , the rest of the cast (Jacquie Woodley, Keith Klassen, Erica Iris) writhing on the floor and dissonant extended piano from Michael Shannon was genuinely disturbing.  Having a gun pointed straight at you from a few feet away doesn’t happen often at the opera.

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Keith Klassen and Jacqueline Woodley

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Bandits in the Valley

Bandits in the Valley opened yesterday at Todmorden Mills.  It’s a site specific comic opera with words by Julie Tepperman and music by Benton Roark.  The time is 1880.  Sir George Taylor is the owner of the most productive paper mill in the British Empire but he wants more.  Specifically he wants to convert the entire Don Valley to paper thus depriving the pesky bandits thereof of cover.  He also wants Lily Pollard, the comely soprano lead of the travelling company he has engaged to stage The Pirates of Penzance as part of the mill’s 25th anniversary celebrations.  He’s not the only one after Lily.  She’s also the target of the female head of the troupe, Henri, and of Jeremiah, the bandit chief who is trying to obtain his inheritance.  He in turn is pursued by the house maid (and his cousin) Birgitta and, in a purely brotherly way of course, another bandit, Freddy.  In proper comic opera fashion a birthmark, naturally enough on Jeremiah’s buttock, is involved.  Mayhem ensues.

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