It’s that time of year when it’s traditional to do best of the year lists. Fortunately this is all about music because in most other respects 2016 was a bit of a horror show. So here goes. As far as opera proper was concerned it was a pretty good year. There were no real howlers in the COC’s season. It was solid and, at its best, better than that, For me, Ariodante was the standout; an intelligent, thought provoking production backed up by extremely good acting and singing. I was really expecting to like the Claus Guth Marriage of Figaro more than I did. I enjoyed it but I was a bit perplexed by the lightening up that had taken place since Salzburg in 2006. Opera Atelier had their best show in quite a while with Lucio Silla but even Wallis Giunta couldn’t save a misconceived Dido and Aeneas.
Rocking Horse Winner; music by Gareth Williams and libretto by Anna Chatterton, opened last night at the Berkeley Street Theatre. It’s based on the short story by DH Lawrence and is a co-commission of Tapestry Opera and Scottish Opera. There are some changes from the original story. Here Paul is a developmentally challenged adult (on the autism spectrum) rather than a child. The gardener is replaced by his personal care worker who moonlights as a caller at the local racetrack. This has a couple of advantages. It provides something of a rationale for Paul hearing the “voice” of the house and for his apparently inexplicable intuition about race winners and it also means that Paul can be cast as a tenor rather than having to make an awkward choice between a boy soprano or a pants role. As Paul is one of, perhaps the main, character, this simplifies casting considerably. The work is also gently updated. So gently in fact that it’s barely perceptible.
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.
It’s getting a bit busier again. This afternoon there are a couple of concerts. At 2pm in Mazzoleni Hall you can catch Mireille Asselin and Brett Polegato with Peter Tiefenbach and Rachel Andrist in a painting themed program of lieder, artsongs and chansons called Le travail du peintre. At 4.30pm at Metropolitan United Church Bach’s Mass in B Minor meets German film maker Bastian Clevé’s film The Sound of Eternity. The soloists are Marjorie Maltais, Geoff Sirett, Jennifer Krabbe and Charles Sy plus the Orpheus Choir, Chorus Niagara and the Talisker Players. I suppose it would just about be possible to do both…
I met with Tapestry Artistic Director Michael Mori earlier today to talk about the upcoming co-production with Scottish Opera of Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh’s new opera The Devil Inside. I’m not familiar with the work of either composer or librettist but each are well regarded in their own spheres; Welsh having made a name for herself with a number of psychological crime novels. And that seems like a good background for adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Bottle Imp on which the opera is loosely based. The story itself is extremely creepy. Right up there in fact with, say, James’ The Turn of the Screw, which got turned into a pretty decent opera!
I met with Michael Mori of Tapestry Opera on Friday ostensibly to talk about their upcoming season but, as these things tend to, we covered a lot more ground than that. As far as the season goes I have only a little to add to the previous piece I wrote on this subject. I can confirm that there will be no LibLab or Tapestry Shorts in 2015/16. Michael feels that the process has already produced enough composer/librettist connections to allow it to be scaled back to every other year which frees up more time/funds for other projects. This is clear from this season’s exciting line up with two fully staged chamber operas.
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.