New comic operas are rare. New comic operas that are actually funny are vanishingly rare. The Overcoat: A Musical Tailoring is such a beast. It’s a new piece with music by James Rolfe and a libretto by Morris Panych derived from his twenty year old stage adaptation of Gogol’s short story. Originally commissioned by Tapestry Opera, the Toronto staging was under the joint auspices of that company and Canadian Stage with the work also to be staged by co-producer Vancouver Opera as part of their summer festival.
Geoff Sirett will sing the main role of Akakiy in the upcoming Tapestry/CanStage premiere of James Rolfe and Morris Panych’s The Overcoat: A Musical Tailoring based on the absurdist short story by Gogol. I put some questions to Geoff about him, the piece and his role in it.
Casting has now been announced for The Overcoat: A Musical Tailoring; an opera by Morris Panych and James Rolfe based on Gogol’s short story by way of Panych’s 1990s theatrical version. The opera is a co-production of Vancouver Opera, Tapestry Opera and Canadian Stage and will premiere in Toronto’s Bluma Appel Theatre (March 29th to April 14th) before heading to the Vancouver Playhouse (April 28th to May 12th).
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’s Decades series concert featured three works from the 1930s plus a sesqui. The sesqui, Andrew Balfour’s Kiwetin-acahkos; Fanfare for the Peoples of the North was definitely one of the more interesting of these short pieces. There were elements of minimalism combined with a nod to Cree/Métis fiddle music. Quite complex and enjoyable. It was followed by Barber’s rather bleak Adagio for Strings and the Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. It’s familiar enough fare and was well played by the orchestra under Peter Oundjian. I particularly enjoyed some of the weird percussion/celesta effects in the third movement of the Bartók. But really I was there for the second half of the program.
The Killing Flower is an opera by Salvatore Sciarrino. Both Italian and English versions exist and it was the latter that was given, in semistaged form, at Walter Hall as part of the Toronto New Music Festival last night. It’s a very distinctive work and not easy to form a full appreciation of on a single hearing. The plot is straightforward enough. There’s a duke and duchess. She falls in love with a guest. They are betrayed by a servant. He kills the guest and then her. But all this happens in a highly abstracted way (made even more abstract by not being fully staged). As the composer puts it:
My theatre is ‘post cinema’ theatre, beginning with the way the scenes are laid out – they proceed by dry blocks that ‘subtract’ in order to get the point across.
Got that? Nor me but what I saw was a succession of scenes in which two characters exchanged fragments of text repeated multiple times. This was actually quite useful as there were no surtitles and it made it easier to grasp what the (very few) words actually were.
We are moving into busy season for the next two or three weeks. Next week, Tuesday sees a lunchtime recital in the RBA by Phillip Addis with song cycles by Maurice Ravel and Erik Ross. Wednesday sees a concert staging of Salvatore Sciarrino’s The Killing Flower (Luci mie traditrici). It tells the story of Carlos Gesualdo’s murder of his wife and lover. Performers include Shannon Mercer, Geoffrey Sirett, Scott Belluz and Keith Klassen. It’s at Walter Hall at 7.30pm with a pre-show with the composer at 6.30pm. Sciarrino is involved in other events connected with the New Music Festival all week. Thursday is opening night for the COC’s Götterdämmerung at the Four Seasons Centre with an early kick off time of 6pm. Alternatively the TSO are doing the Fauré Requiem with Karina Gauvin and Russell Braun on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
Music Theatre Wales’s touring production of The Killing Flower at Buxton Festival. Photograph: Clive Barda
Toronto Masque Theatre have announced their 2016/17 season. There are two main stage productions and three salon concerts. First of the main stage shows is a double bill of Handel’s dramatic cantata Apollo and Daphne with Jacqueline Woodley and Geoffrey Sirett and dancer Stéphaie Brochard, directed and choreographed by Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière paired with Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden based on the epic poem by Tennyson, performed by actor Derek Boyes and pianist Angela Park. This one is at 8:00 pm on November 17th, 18th and 19th with a pre-show event at 7:15 pm each evening at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse.
UoT Faculty of Music have just announced their 2016/17 season. It’s the usual broad range of performances so I’ll highlight the opera and vocal music contributions.
UoT Opera is offering four shows. The fall main production is Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld with new English dialogue and stage direction by Michael Patrick Albano. Choreography i by Anna Theodosakis and Russell Braun makes his podium debut. There are four performances November 24th to 27th. Spring sees a Handel rarity; Imeneo. Tim Albery directs and Daniel Taylor is in charge of the music. This one runs March 16th to 19th. Both shows are in the MacMillan Theatre.
Last year’s student composed opera; The Machine Stops
Coleman, Lemieux et Compagnie’s Against Nature presented last night at The Citadel, is another show combining vocal music and dance. It combines two baritones; Geoff Sirett and Alexander Dobson with a dancer, Laurence Lemieux, playing a female servant. Funny how things tend to coevolve in the arts world. Combining vocal music with dance, once not so common, is now almost ubiquitous with productions from the likes of CASP, Against the Grain and FAWN among others.