It’s not much of a secret that I’m a bit fanatical about new opera. This year Tapestry has two really exciting looking premieres in Toronto. Later in the year there’s Brian Current’s Gould’s Wall which, as an ex climber, I just have to see but first, in fact coming up next month, is RUR: A Torrent of Light by Nicholas Billon and Nicole Lizée. It’s about robots and it’s a collaboration with OCAD U who are developing some way cool technology for the show. There’s now loads of really good preview material about the show on Tapestry’s Youtube channel. So I have two suggestions to make:
Last night the first of three concerts at Lutheran Redeemer Church in the West End Micro Music Festival took place. It was an exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of the string quartet and proved most interesting in that regard. The use of extended technique has long been part of the string quartet repertoire but in the first part of last night’s programme two works by Nicole Lizée explored much further than that using additional “instruments”; whirly/whizzy things, strange blue/purple contraptions that made their own sounds and were also used as bows and sheets of paper rustled in front of fans. Norma Beecroft’s Amplified Quartet with Tape augmented the four instruments with recorded electronics. Whether this was all pre-recorded or processed as the performance proceeded (or both) I couldn’t say. One has to admire the versatility of the interro quartet (Steve Sang Koh and Eric Kim-Fujita – vilolins, Maxime Despax -viola and Sebastian Ostertag – cello) in handling all the requirements. It also really made me glad to be back listening “live”. This kind of music demands a kind of distraction free attention that’s really hard to conjure up in one’s own living room.
I think last night’s virtual conference with Michael Mori and Jaime Martino of Tapestry marks the first real announcement of intention for the 2021/22 season by any Canadian company and it offers insight into what may and may not be possible in the next year to eighteen months. Tapestry adapted quickly and creatively to COVID conditions and so I think their read on the future is important. So here’s my take on what was said.
They are planning for live performances with an audience from January 2022. That sounds about right to me. In their case they are looking at two site specific works. Gould’s Wall by Brian Current; libretto by Lisa Balkan, is to be performed at the Royal Conservatory. I thought this was a great idea when I first heard about it from Brian four years ago and I’m really looking forward to it. The other piece, to be performed at OCAD, is Nicole Lizée’s Rossum’s Universal Robots with libretto by Nicolas Billon. I think this originated in the LibLab in November of 2014. There are a number of other new works in the pipeline for future seasons.
The second half of January kicks off with the COC’s revival production f Rossini’s Barber of Seville, this time starring Emily D’Angelo as Rosina. There are eight performances running to February 7th.
. Sunday 26th at 2pm there’s a concert in the Mazzoleni Songmasters series. It’s called Sirens and features Leslie Ann Bradley, Allyson McHardy and Rachel Andrist in a suitably watery and alluring program.
Opera America recently awarded a series of grants to opera companies for audience development. Most of these grants went to mainstream opera companies; usually “the big guy in town”. $35000 though went to Toronto’s Tapestry Opera. Yesterday I met with artistic director Michael Mori to find out what it was all about.
Last night’s Tap:Ex Tables Turned lived up to the hype. It was a pretty incredible experience but extremely difficult to describe. The first half consisted of Nicole Lizée’s reprocessed clips from classic films (The Shining, The Man Who Knew Too Much,The Birds, The Graduate and, of course, The Sound of Music but there were others). It was mostly short loop stuff; for example, the ball bouncing scene from TSoM over and over again. Beside the sound from the film there was live accompaniment from Ben Reimer on a variety of tuned percussion instruments and Carla Huhtanen with a variety of vocal effects and weirdly disturbing acting, helped along by the fact that she does look a bit like Julie Andrews, especially exploding Julie Andrews. I think there may have been more electronics from Nicole in the mix too. It was weird and fascinating and very enjoyable.
More details have been announced on Tapestry Opera’s season. This week sees Tapestry Briefs: Booster Shots; previously previewed here. January 24th, 2015 sees Tapestry Songbook V with baritone Peter McGillivray and young Canadian singers in concert performing the beautiful and absurd repertoire from Tapestry’s 35 year old Canadian collection.
Tapestry’s LibLab is a collaborative that brings together composers and librettists to create new work. It provides participants with the opportunity to work with several partners in a short period of time. Throughout the week-long program, writers and composers are partnered with one another for one day each. With input from music and stage directors, each pair writes a short piece of music theatre and investigates the collaborative process. Their work is performed at the end of each day by a resident ensemble of singers and repetiteurs, and then constructively critiqued by the group. The best of the works are polished up for a show later in the year (review of last year’s show) and some go on for further development.