The Book of My Shames

headshot-isaiah-bell-2017-websizedThis is what would happen if the opera singing love child of Noel Coward and Sylvia Plath was encouraged by his therapist to perform on “Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids”. – Isaiah Bell

Isaiah Bell’s The Book of My Shames has something in common with Teiya Kasahara’s Queer of the Night.  Both are one queer shows dealing very directly and honestly with aspects of being queer and both are very impressive singers.  There perhaps the comparison pretty much ends for while Teiya’s show was about the tribulations of being gay in the opera world Isaiah’s piece is about growing up gay in a seriously dysfunctional environment.

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How can I sing to descendants I will never have?

The header is a line from Yvette Nolan’s libretto for Shanawdithit; the work she is creating with composer Dean Burry for Tapestry Opera and Opera on the Avalon, which tells the story of the last survivor of the Beothuk people.  I sat down with them on Friday to talk about how the work has progressed since I saw an incomplete version in workshop last October.  The line really does get to the heart of the creative process that addresses the issues I raised in my review of the workshop (i.e. how we remember and tell stories) and this line, and it’s accompanying music, have become a kind of leitmotiv for the emerging work.

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Something old, something new

tap40There are familiar elements and some less familiar ones in Tapestry’s announcement of their 40th anniversary season.  Tap:Ex, Songbook and the LibLab are all there and there are also four new commissions.  The innovation lies in the fact that the LibLab will be a bilingual collaboration with Opéra de Montréal and in the return of two previously performed works which, I think, is a first for the company.

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Songbook IX

Jacquenline-Woodley-600x218The ninth edition of Tapestry’s celebration of their back catalogue happened last night in the Ernest Balmer Studio.  This year’s mentors are Jacqueline Woodley and Andrea Grant.  The emerging artists are Elisabeth Boudreault, Lindsay Connolly, Brianna DeSantis, Ryan Downey, Gabrielle French, Rebecca Gray, Lauren Halász, Rachel Krehm, Brittany Rae, Anne-Marie Ramos and Jennifer Routier with pianists Qiao Yi Miao Mu and Ryoko Hou.

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Musique 3 Femmes

This just in… Musique 3 Femmes and Tapestry Opera present Canada’s first opera workshop to feature exclusively all-female creative teams in the development of five new operas by women in collaboration with directors Anna Theodosakis, Aria Umezawa, Jessica Derventzis, Alaina Viau, and Amanda Smith. The workshop sees a preview performance on March 19th at Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre as part of the Noon Hour Concert Series, and culminates in a staged evening performance in the Ernest Balmer Studio on March 23rd at 7.30pm. The performance features Musique 3 Femmes artists soprano Suzanne Rigden, mezzo-soprano Kristin Hoff, pianist Jennifer Szeto, and the participation of mentors JUNO-Award nominee composer James Rolfe and two-time Governor General award-winning playwright and librettist Colleen Murphy.

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Act of Remembrance?

hand-graphic-on-blackHow, collectively, we remember is a cultural act defined by both choices and the general milieu in which the remembering takes place(*).  Sometimes this results in stories being distorted and “misremembered”.  The story of Shanawdithit, the last survivor of the Beothuk people is, perhaps, one such story.  Her life and death, the final act in the campaign of genocide against her people is still “remembered” in Newfoundland culture but how much do we really know?  The “evidence” boils down to a handful of sketches by Shanawdithit, annotated by one William Cormack; pretty much the only white person to show her any kindness or to display any interest in her people.  Dean Burry and Yvette Nolan’s new opera; a co-production of Tapestry Opera and Opera on the Avalon asks what we know and how we know it.  I attended a workshop presentation of the incomplete work yesterday.

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