The decision by Toronto Masque Theatre to pair Purcell’s miniature opera, Dido and Aeneas, with James Rolfe and André Alexis’ piece on the lovers’ inner thoughts, Aeneas and Dido, paid off last night. It produced an evening of just the right length with two contrasting but complementary pieces working really well together.
Yesterday I finally managed to do something bike related in conjunction with Bicycle Opera Project’s current tour of Sweat. I got an early train out to Aldershot, biked to Hamilton and joined up with the bike tour of historic Hamilton organised by the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre to complement the opera, before seeing the afternoon performance of Sweat at WAHC. I’ll add some bikey/historical observations at the end but since this is an opera blog let’s cut to the chase.
Last night was the one of only two chances to see Bicycle Opera Project in Toronto this year. (The other is tonight). It was a show in collaboration with Toy Piano Composers’ Collective called Travelogue and featuring four new works around the broad them of travel. The show was run without an interval but with each composer introducing their own work by reading, e.g., post cards from their travels or, hilariously, in the case of the absent Tobin Stokes, recordings of the voicemails he left apologising for not having finished the piece yet. Staging was, in the BOP way, minimalist but effective.
I met with Adam Scime and Amanda Smith of FAWN Chamber Creative today to talk about chamber opera in general and their upcoming show L’Homme et le Ciel in particular. There are several questions that are exercising the minds of many people in the opera community as they try to create in and for the space that lies between the COC and an out of tune piano in a pub and that has value beyond providing performance opportunities for the participants.
There’s probably a rough consensus that the answer lies in “chamber opera” but less unanimity on what that means either in terms of forces employed or repertoire. Equally, there are differing views on where the potential audience is to be found. So where does FAWN sit on these issues?
Selfie is a work in progress by Chris Thornborrow and Julie Tepperman. It’s still incomplete and the performances over the last couple of days were workshops designed to elicit audience feedback. It had its genesis at the 2013 LibLab and it’s come a long way. The original sketch of two teenagers texting each other is turning into an hour long piece about cyberbullying. It’s a rather disturbing exploration of how technology allows teenagers to do all those things which teenagers do with even less “supervision” than ever. In this case a manipulative girl (Cindy played by Larissa Koniuk) tries to make up for her split from her rather feckless boyfriend (Devon played by Asitha Tennekoon) by engineering a split between her friend Mindy (Meher Pavri) and her bloke Tyler (Giovanni Spanu). The result is a massive on-line slut shaming campaign against the fifth character Heather who has no real identity or agency until the very last scene. Adults encountered along the way are portrayed as clueless, ineffective or bureaucratically indifferent.
I was back last night to see Bicycle Opera Project’s Shadowbox again. This time it was in the more intimate, and highly appropriate, setting of a bicycle shop; Curbside Cycle on Bloor Street. Minus the high roof of the Davenport-Perth Community Centre it was much easier to understand the sung text which is pretty important with this show. The show is an interesting concept. It’s still a series of scenes by different composers and librettists but they are linked thematically by the common idea of memory and dramatically by the auction of objects that set up each scene The auctioneer is rather brilliantly played by Chris Enns who, curiously, seemed quite sinister at Davenport-Perth (like something out of a German Expressionist movie perhaps) but seemed quite avuncular close up.
Last night’s late, late concert at the Conservatory was basically a preview of Bicycle Opera Project’s 2015 season. It’s a bit hard to say what the final show will be like as we got mainly excerpts last night and it just feels really different to be in a formal concert hall compared with the usual venues for BOP.