Hook Up is a 95 minute musical theatre piece from composer Chris Thornborrow and librettist Julie Tepperman. It’s been a while coming. I saw the first inklings of it at Tapestry Briefs in September 2013. That morphed into Selfieseen in workshop in October 2015. Now it’s morphed again. The basic characters are still there and some of the plot elements but the focus has shifted from cyber-bullying to sexual consent and the context from high school to first year university.
Tapestry’s 2018/19 season has been announced. There are two new operas plus Tapestry Briefs and Songbook IX. So here’s the lineup:
Tapestry Briefs: Tasting Shorts runs September 13th to 16th 2018. Four singers perform short works plus drinks and tapas.
Hook Up, which runs January 29th to February 10th 2019 at Theatre Passe Muraille is a partnership with that company. The libretto is by Julie Teppermann with music by Chris Thornborrow. It looks like a sort of “coming of age” piece about starting university. The singers are Alicia Ault, Nathan Carroll, and Jeff Lillico. None of them are known to me but a quick Google suggests actors-who-sing/musical theatre rather than opera.
Songbook IX is scheduled for March 2019. No further details at this stage.
Finally, and of most interest to me, is a new work co-produced with Opera on the Avalon. It’s called Shanawdithit and tells the story of the last recorded surviving member of the Beothuk Nation in Newfoundland, and the extinction and erasure of her people. The libretto is by Yvette Nolan with music by Dean Burry and it will be performed by an indigenous cast headed by Marion Newman. This will run on yet to be announced dates in May 2019. I’m excited about this one.
Selfie is a work in progress by Chris Thornborrow and Julie Tepperman. It’s still incomplete and the performances over the last couple of days were workshops designed to elicit audience feedback. It had its genesis at the 2013 LibLab and it’s come a long way. The original sketch of two teenagers texting each other is turning into an hour long piece about cyberbullying. It’s a rather disturbing exploration of how technology allows teenagers to do all those things which teenagers do with even less “supervision” than ever. In this case a manipulative girl (Cindy played by Larissa Koniuk) tries to make up for her split from her rather feckless boyfriend (Devon played by Asitha Tennekoon) by engineering a split between her friend Mindy (Meher Pavri) and her bloke Tyler (Giovanni Spanu). The result is a massive on-line slut shaming campaign against the fifth character Heather who has no real identity or agency until the very last scene. Adults encountered along the way are portrayed as clueless, ineffective or bureaucratically indifferent.
There are a couple of biggies coming up next week. On October 7th and 8th the amazingly talented and apparently fearless Barbara Hannigan is singing with and conducting the TSO. For all I know she’ll be tap dancing and doing hand stands as well. It’s her conducting debut with this orchestra. The programme features works by Nono, Haydn, Mozart, Ligeti and Stravinsky. 8pm Roy Thomson Hall.
The competition to be the most interesting and innovative indie opera company in Toronto is fierce and Tapestry Opera’s season announcement definitely places them as one of the leading contenders. As well as the usual interesting line up of workshops etc there are two brand new fully staged works and a collaboration with a punk band. Details under the cut.
This year’s Tap:Ex is titled Metallurgy and features experimental punk band Fucked Up together with COC regulars Krisztina Szabó and David Pomeroy. This one runs November 19th to 21st at the Ernest Balmer Studio. Details here.
Last night’s late, late concert at the Conservatory was basically a preview of Bicycle Opera Project’s 2015 season. It’s a bit hard to say what the final show will be like as we got mainly excerpts last night and it just feels really different to be in a formal concert hall compared with the usual venues for BOP.
Last night I saw the second performance of Tapestry’s latest compilation of short works. As before it was a mix of excerpts from works in progress and potential projects plus stand alone short scenes developed during the LibLab. This year there was an additional refinement. The works were staged in different parts of the building (part of the Distillery complex) and samples of the local goodies were provided at strategic points along the way.
Yesterday saw the 21st and final performance for this season for the Bicycle Opera Project; the conclusion of a five week, fourteen city trip around Ontario. Fittingly for an eco-opera venture it took place at the Evergreen Brickworks in a bare brick and sheet metal industrial setting.The programme consisted of seven pieces; short works or excerpts from longer ones, all by contemporary Canadian composers and scored or rescored by them for the unusual ensemble of keyboards, flute and clarinet that accompanied the singers.
First up was an excerpt from Brian Current’s Airline Icarus. They played the scene where the passengers and stewardess are expressing their hopes and, more vehemently, fears. It’s an uncomfortably funny scene and it was played here in a more broadly comedic manner than in Tim Albery’s original staging. That proved very effective as a stand alone especially with most of the audience up so close. Fine performances from all four singers with Chris Enns as an extremely angsty academic, Stephanie Tritchew flirtatiously displaying her considerable charms and some neat eye rolling from Larissa Koniuk and all anchored by Geoffrey Sirett reprising the role of the Businessman. I was reminded too what a fine score this is, even in the reduced arrangement used here. Continue reading →
Tapestry’s LibLab is a collaborative that brings together composers and librettists to create new work. It provides participants with the opportunity to work with several partners in a short period of time. Throughout the week-long program, writers and composers are partnered with one another for one day each. With input from music and stage directors, each pair writes a short piece of music theatre and investigates the collaborative process. Their work is performed at the end of each day by a resident ensemble of singers and repetiteurs, and then constructively critiqued by the group. The best of the works are polished up for a show later in the year (review of last year’s show) and some go on for further development.