The second of three projected iterations of Against the Grain Theatre’s Bound opened last night at The Great Hall. Version one was staged but in piano score. Last night’s version was sung off music stands but with a chamber ensemble and major changes to the music. It’s going to be interesting to see how the production version, due this time next year shapes up.
Against the Grain Theatre have announced an ambitious 2018/19 season. There are two main stage shows. The first is Bound, which had a first workshop outing in December 2017. It’s still a work-in-progress but there have been significant developments. Kevin Lau has been commissioned to inject his contemporary themes, music and ideas into the original music by Handel. Instead of piano there will be a chamber orchestra led by AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski with digital sound artist Acote. The cast will include soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji, and baritone Justin Welsh. This workshop will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West) on November 19th, 20th and 21st, 2018. For me, the acid test will be whether the dramaturgy and the text has been tightened up.
This review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.
Alice Ping Yee Ho’s The Lesson of Da Ji, to an English libretto by Marjorie Chan, is an ambitious piece. It tells the story of the concubine Da Ji who is having an affair with the son of a local lord, Bo Yi, who is masquerading as her music teacher. The king covets the young man’s father’s land and finds out about the affair when Da Ji’s maid betrays her. He invites Bo Yi and his parents to dine. Bo Yi doesn’t show because he’s been intercepted and killed by the king’s agents. The king, painted as a rather cartoonish villain, serves the boy up as a stew to Da Ji and his parents before killing them and presenting Da Ji with the boy’s heart. Thus is order restored and betrayal punished!
Last night Toronto Masque Theatre presented a double bill entitled The Lessons of Love. First up was John Blow’s 1683 masque Venus and Adonis and it was followed by the premier of The Lesson of Da Ji; a fusion of Western and traditional Chinese elements by composer Alice Ping Yee Ho and librettist Marjorie Chan.