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.
So back to Walter Hall at 4pm for the last of the Regen concerts featuring song. This time Renee Fajardo and Jinhee Park kicked things off with a very fine set starting with Herr Schumann’s sinister Die Soldat and Frau Schumann’s Die Lorelei. This was all smoothly and elegantly sung bar a slight tendency to push high notes. There was some very impressive pianism here too. The set concluded with Schoenberg’s Galathea; a bold and interesting choice, where Renee managed to create an almost cabaret timbre without ever sacrificing accuracy. Nicely done!
So it was back to Walter Hall at 7.30pm for Saturday’s second instalment. This time the programme kicked off with the Schumann Piano Quartet in E flat Major Op. 47 before the singers. The first singer up was mezzo Danielle Vaillancourt with pianist Jing Lee Park. They gave us just two songs. The first was Fauré’s Il pleure dans mon coeur followed by Duparc’s Au pays où se fait la guerre. Vaillancourt has excellent French diction, a really interesting timbre and plenty of power. This was pretty fine singing. Jing Lee Park made the most of her chance to shine in the rather lovely piano part in the Duparc. Continue reading
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.
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).
The first performance of Against the Grain Theatre’s Bound took place at the Jackman Studio at the COC. It’s the first public airing of the piece in piano score, as a workshop, so it’s not the finished product. The performance was followed by a lively discussion about the work’s potential and future avenues to explore.
I think it’s fair to say that Bound ventures into more serious territory than we have yet seen from this company, dealing as it does with the fraught relationship between the state and the individual in an age when the state, egged on by the right wing media, uses fear of terrorism to suppress “dissidents”.
The space where the audience assembles before the show is liberally decorated with propaganda for The State of the “fear anything that looks different” variety. In the performance venue itself the audience is ranked either side of a space that contains the piano and, at intervals around the large empty floor, seven chairs; one for each detainee. The detainees are all being held for things which aren’t actually crimes but bring them under suspicion; wearing a hijab, having a Nazi great-uncle, wanting to emigrate to Sri Lanka, converting to Islam, having a terrorist brother, protesting immigration restrictions, being transgendered. They are posed essentially unanswerable Kafkaesque questions by the State interrogator (Martha Burns) sitting off in one corner with a microphone. The only answer is to express frustration and despair and, occasionally, defiance and hope in arias using Handel’s music and words by either Handel’s librettist or Joel Ivany. Some of the music has been somewhat reshaped by Kevin Lau who also wrote/arranged the final ensemble number.
Last night saw the culminating concert of the IRCPA’s Encounter program. It wasn’t exactly a competition as the winner of the Career Blueprint Award had already been decided but not announced. Still, it had the air of a competition with ten singers each offering an aria accompanied by the ubiquitous Rachel Andrist. It was also being broadcast live on 96.3FM so we got the full on Zoomerplex treatment which is not far short of having flashing signs that say “Applaud Now!!” It’s the price one pays for getting young singers media exposure I guess.