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.
Best shot I could get. Most of the singers are visible.
And that wasn’t just the weather that went from balmy to barmy round about verse five of Fauré’s Dans le forêt de Septembre as a cold front hit Mazzoleni Hall with, literally, a bang. Meanwhile the sheltered audience was being treated to a skilfully curated program of art song on the theme of the four seasons sung by Erin Wall and Asitha Tennekoon with Rachel Andrist and Robert Kortgaard at the piano. There were French chansons, German lieder and English songs with a decent injection of CanCon, with Derek Holman, John Greer, Jean Coulthard and Matthew Emery all represented.
There are still tickets available for Erin Wall and Asitha Tennekoon at Mazzoleni on Sunday.
On Monday evening at 7.30pm in Walter Hall veteran Canadian mezzo Judith Forst is giving a free master class.
Thursday is the big day. At lunchtime in the RBA you can catch Simone Osborne and Gordon Bintner, currently headlining in L’elisir d’amore on the COC main stage, accompanied by Liz Upchurch (free of course). Later, at 8pm there’s A Tribute to Maureen Forrester at the Symphony. That program features, inter alia, Michael Schade and Susan Platts in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. The program will be repeated on Friday at 7.30pm. Last I checked there were still $25 tickets available.
Here’s a preview of things to see/listen to next week. It’s Met in HD season again and the next two Saturdays have broadcasts. On the 7th it’s Bellini’s Norma with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato. It’s a David McVicar production and no prizes for guessing what happens when you cross McVicar and druids. On the 14th it’s Die Zauberflöte with the Resident Groundhog conducting. It’s the Julie Taymor production but given in full in German rather than the abridged ‘for kids” version. The best thing about the cast is René Pape’s Sarastro.