Against the Grain Theatre’s Orphée+; a burlesque inflected version of Gluck’s Orphée, opened a three show run last night at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront. There are many, many things I want to say about this show and the challenge is going to be to present them in some kind of orderly sequence. First off there are expectations for an AtG show in Toronto that probably weren’t present when it opened in Columbus (It’s a co-pro with Opera Columbus and the Banff Centre). We have come to associate AtG with various kinds of “doing differently”; transladaptations, site specific stagings, staged art song and so on. In that context this is a rather conservative show. It’s a production of a canonic opera in a conventional theatre. It’s not a traditional production and would likely shock at the Met or the Lyric but would probably raise only half an eyebrow in Berlin or Barcelona. So I’m inclined to treat it as if I had seen it in Europe.
Against the Grain Theatre have announced the line up for their 2017/18 season. First up is a workshop of a Handel mash up called BOUND. It’s a collaboration with composer Kevin Lau and will explore aspects of the refugee crisis through Handel’s music as well as contemporary real life stories. It’s the beginning of a three year concept to production cycle. The workshop cast will include soprano Danika Lorèn, tenor Asitha Tennekoon, counter-tenor David Trudgen, baritone Justin Welsh, bass Michael Uloth, mezzo-soprano Victoria Marshall and soprano Miriam Khalil. It will play at the COC’s Jackman Studio on December 14, 15, and 16, 2017.
Scottish Opera’s The Devil Inside, presented by Tapestry Opera opened last night at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Expectations were high I think. This was Scottish Opera’s North American debut and the Glasgow premier of the piece had received enthusiastic reviews in the British press. How would it cope with being translated from the relative sophistication of the 1200 seat Theatre Royal Glasgow to the rather spartan 250 seat Harbourfront Theatre? How would an updating of a short story with Scottish roots by a Scottish composer and librettist translate culturally? The short answer is very well indeed. It’s a fine piece and it was very well presented; musically and dramatically.
The competition to be the most interesting and innovative indie opera company in Toronto is fierce and Tapestry Opera’s season announcement definitely places them as one of the leading contenders. As well as the usual interesting line up of workshops etc there are two brand new fully staged works and a collaboration with a punk band. Details under the cut.
This year’s Tap:Ex is titled Metallurgy and features experimental punk band Fucked Up together with COC regulars Krisztina Szabó and David Pomeroy. This one runs November 19th to 21st at the Ernest Balmer Studio. Details here.
Tan Dun’s Marco Polo is hugely ambitious. He uses Marco Polo’s legendary journey as a metaphor for Space and Time. He fuses a range of Western musical styles with Chinese, Tibetan and Indian instruments and vocal styles. Although most of the work is sung in English there are sections in Italian and Chinese and other bits in a sort of random polyglot. The cast includes a range of real, allegorical and psychological figures. Marco and Polo are in fact two characters; one representing action and the external and the other the psychological and internal. Kublai Khan, Dante, Shakespeare, Sheherazada and Mahler put in appearances and much of the narrative is carried by a Chinese opera singer playing the part of Rustichello; “the questioner”. To be honest, despite having read the booklet, watched Reiner Moritz’s “Making of” documentary and studied the chart below, most of the time I had no idea what was actually happening. It’s really all too abstract and involved to really work as music drama.