Unpacking Pandora

We went to see the opening performance of FAWN Chamber Creative’s new show Pandora at Geary Lane last night.  There’s a lot to like but it’s a dense and in some ways confusing show so I’d suggest that if you plan to go you do your homework.  So, don’t expect anything closely related to any of the many versions of the Greek legend.  That’s just a jumping off point to explain how both evil/malice and hope came into the world.  A very brief prologue in which a character discovers Pandora’s box (or jar or whatever) after centuries and releases Hope into the world sets up three scenes which each, in their own way, reflect the duality of Good/Evil, Despair/Hope or however you want to characterise it.  I strongly suggest reading the Director’s Notes and the Libretto before the show to understand what the three scenes are and where the transitions are.  There are no surtitles (money!) and not many of us can read a printed libretto in the dark.  Also, cast members change character sometimes without change of costume.  It’s helpful to know when that’s happening!  While there’s only one librettist, David James Brock, there are three composers but stylistic differences between them aren’t so obvious that one realises there has been a transition.

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Pandora; an “out of the box” opera/ballet

FAWN_spring_INSTA_v003FAWN Chamber Creative and its artistic director Amanda Smith see themselves as pioneers.  They champion inter-disciplinary works that don’t fit easily into any taxonomy of music, theatre or dance styles.  Their latest venture; Pandora, an “opera/ballet” on a classical theme, might seem straight from the court of Louis XIV but Lully likely wouldn’t have scored it for drums, a piano, an electric guitar, a cello, a bassoon and electronics.  The Sun King would likely also be somewhat taken aback by Jenn Nichol’s choreography; her long association with Opera Atelier notwithstanding.

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The Next Wave workshop

Last night, at the Ernest Balmer Studio, we got to see somewhat more developed versions of the works presented earlier in the week in the RBA but this time in staged format.  I’m not sure my opinions changed much as a result though I think I’m even more convinced that here we have five pieces of substance that deserve to be seen in fully realised form.  So, some brief thoughts on each.  Note that, except for Book of Faces we only saw extracts from pieces that are still WIP. Continue reading

Nozze at Toronto City Opera

Toronto City Opera has been around for a while but its previous performance location at the Bickford Centre was quite sufficient to keep me away.  The Miles Nadal JCC is quite another matter.  The basic idea of TCO is that the chorus is open to, essentially, anybody and that their subscriptions, plus fund raising, allow the company to do a couple of staged shows each year with young professional soloists, director, conductor and pianist.  So, in theory it’s a chorus centric endeavour so the choice of Le Nozze di Figaro seems a bit odd since it has less than ten minutes of chorus and that is usually covered by a small group of eight or so ladies.  That said, Nozze is their first of two productions this season and I saw the last show in the run this afternoon.

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L’Histoire du Soldat

Most music lovers have probably heard the music from Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat in either orchestral or chamber arrangement but it’s rare for the work to be given in its full staged form but that’s how it was presented (more or less) last night at Koerner Hall by the Toronto Summer Music Festival in association with LooseTEA Music Theatre.  That form includes a narrator, an actor (originally three actors, nowadays usually just a single actor/narrator) and dancer.  Plus, of course, the band; violin and bass, clarinet and bassoon, cornet and trombone, piano.

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Belladonna

belladonnaFAWN Chamber Creative presented a new piece last night at Kensington Hall.  It was called Belladonna and was billed as a “queer, techno opera” to a libretto by Gareth Mattey who apparently specialises in this genre.  “”Queer, techno pastoral” might have been nearer the mark.  Basically, sheep tending person of uncertain gender/orientation meets another such.  A supernatural being of some sort intervenes.  There are hallucinogenic berries (“tripping hither, tripping thither?”).  “Exploration” ensues.  I was unclear on whether or not it had a happy ending.  I’m not sure it matters.

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Belladonna

Jonathan-event-placeholder-crop-300x176FAWN Chamber Creative have just announced their latest project, Belladonna.  It’s a queer chamber work blending techno and opera.  The libretto and dramaturgy are by UK LGBT specialist Gareth Mattey.  Music composition, arrangement and performance will feature modular synth artist Acote, mezzo-soprano Camille Rogers, tenor Jonathan MacArthur, pianist Darren Creech and composer/double-bassist Adam Scime.  Contemporary dancer Mary-Dora Bloch-Hansen also features. Stage direction, musical dramaturgy and set design will be provided by Amanda Smith.

There’s one performance on March 22nd at 8:30pm at Kensington Hall, 56 Kensington Ave.  It’s a 19+ venue.  More details, tickets etc here.