How, 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.
The current Tapestry Briefs is one of the most satisfying I have attended. Briefs is the performance edition of the LibLab; an intense where composers collaborate with librettists to create new opera scenes. Some of these disappear and some go on to be the starting point for new operas. The current crop is strong. There were eleven scenes in the show; sung by various combinations of Teiya Kasahara, Stephanie Tritchew, Keith Klassen and Peter McGillivray with Jennifer Tung at the piano and other keyboards. As a bonus, at intervals Keith appeared to sing a parody of a famous aria describing the tasty little tapas which were offered around.
Tapestry Opera has announced participants for this year’s LIBLAB. This year’s librettists participants include playwright Colleen Murphy, Kanika Ambrose and Guildhall artist-fellows Lila Palmer and Daniel Solon. Composers joining the 2018 program are: Rene Orth, composer in residence at Opera Philadelphia, Benton Roark, composer of last season’s Dora-nominated Bandits in the Valley, Ian Cusson August Murphy-King. The 2018 LIBLAB ensemble will be led by musical directors Jennifer Tung and Andrea Grant and director Michael Hidetoshi Mori. Singers include soprano Teiya Kasahara, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Tritchew, tenor Keith Klassen, and baritone Peter McGillivray.
The results of LIBLAB will be presented September 13th-16th, in the Ernest Balmer Studio as Tapestry Briefs: Tasting Shorts, a program of opera vignettes, expected to range from poignant and topical to hilarious accompanied by a tasting flight of tapas. Continue reading
So you have sung the Queen of the Night exactly 2,327 times; high Fs and all, and you are sick to death of it and the Misogyny it rode in on. What do you do? Well, obvs you create a one woman show that teeters between mocking opera stereotypes of women and something much darker. At least that’s what Teiya Kasahara did as part of Tapestry Opera’s Tap This: A Quueerated Opera Series presented in conjunction with Pride.
So our favourite inked butch dyke coloratura comes on in a foofy dress complete with Dollarama coronet and wand and starts to sing the heck out of that aria – you know, the one they sing at weddings. But then it rapidly morphs into a diatribe; first in German, then in heavily accented English, about the role, how women are portrayed in opera, occasionally veering into how women; sopranos in particular, are seen/treated in the opera world(*) before switching up into dress pants and a wing collared shirt with studs (despite pianist David Eliakis’ increasingly frantic pleas of “no pants”). Along the way there are jokes, some killer singing and some very sharp reminders of what it’s like to be a strong, athletic, queer woman in a world that expects its sopranos to behave as if they are romantically dying of TB on-stage and off. It’s a very moving and rather disturbing 45 minutes that I really can’t do full justice to. It’s a very brave show and I hope Teiya puts it on again. More people need to see it.
(*)It’s odd that it should come just after I first encountered Kiri Te Kanawa live for surely few sopranos have been as sexually objectified. I don’t know how many people remember Bernard Levin’s Times column written after her ROH debut in 1971 but it’s probably the only time the Thunderer was printed using drool.
The basic format for Songbook is now well established. Tapestry hire an experienced singer and pianist (Natalya Gennadi and Topher Mokrzewski) who work for a week with a larger group of young singers and pianists to create a show of a dozen or so scenes from Tapestry’s 38 year history. There’s a distinct leaning toward more recent works; the oldest last night was created in 2003, probably because the LIBLAB is such a rich source of suitable material. Last night’s selection was also decidedly dark, with lots of death and angst, only a couple or three lighter pieces and nothing flat out comic.
Tapestry Opera is collaborating with Toronto Pride Week to put on a “queerated opera series” called Pride Toronto, Tap This. There are three shows:
- Cocktales with Maria showcases Drag Chanteuse / Contralto Profundo Maria Toilette (Joel Klein) and her small motley crew (the Gutter Opera Collective). They will present Isaiah Bell’s settings of Cocktales: rapacious and tender 1st person retellings of early sexual experiences. June 8th and 9th at 9pm.
- Queer of the Night features Soprano Teiya Kasahara subverting the tropes of women in opera with her trademark butch couture and powerful coloratura in cooperation with collaborative pianist, David Eliakis. June 7th at 9pm and June 9th at 4pm.
- Tap This: Queers Crash the Opera is a selection of queer-themed opera curated by David Eliakis. It features selections from the classics as well as Tapestry original works. June 7th and 8th at 8pm.
All shows are at the Ernest Balmer Studio. More info and tickets here.
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.