I Will Fly Like a Bird is a chamber opera for two voices and six instruments composed by John Plant to a libretto by J. A. Wainwright. It deals with the story of Robert Dziekanski, a young Pole who was fatally tasered by police at Vancouver Airport in 2007. It’s not dramatic or angry. It’s more of an elegy recounting the hopes and aspirations of Robert and his mother who waits for him in Kamloops. It’s often very beautiful and very, very sad,
The two characters; Robert and his mother, are sung by baritone and soprano with support from string quartet, piano and clarinet. The music is tonal but quite modern in feel. There are certainly no concessions to musical theatre but it does have a few “songs” notably a drinking song. The music really feels apt for the story and is geared more to allowing the singers to convey the text than show off.
I finally got to see Rufus Wainwright’s new opera Hadrian, to a libretto by Daniel Macivor, at the Four Seasons Centre last night. There’s been a lot of hype around it and I was interested; the few bits of music from it that I had heard intrigued me but I’m no fan of his earlier work Prima Donna. One thing was certain. The piece does not lack ambition. There are four acts totalling something like 160 minutes. There’s a large cast, a large orchestra, a large chorus and an epic storyline. It’s clearly an attempt to produce a “grand opera” for our times. Does it succeed?
Things are starting to liven up again in the Toronto scene. Here’s a look ahead to the balance of September and the first half of October. This week sees a performance of Weill’s Little Mahagonny by VOICEBOX at Gallery 345. That’s on Tuesday 25th at 7.30pm and will be followed by a wine and cheese reception. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.
The COC season opens on the 30th with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin featuring Gordon Bintner, Joseph Kaiser and Joyce El-Khoury. There are eight performances ending on 3rd Novemeber. The companion work is the premier run of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian which opens on October 13th. It’s a starry cast including Thomas Hampson and Karita Matilla. There are seven performances ending October 27th.
So I got my hands on the DVD documentary about Rufus Wainwright and the genesis of Prima Donna. There’s not all that much of the music on the disk but there’s enough to get a general impression. There’s also plenty of material for helping one judge where Wainwright is coming from and how he might approach a second opera.
So today’s Globe and Mail carries the news that the Canadian Opera Company has commissioned its first new work since 1999. A piece based on the life of the emperor Hadrian will headline the company’s 2018 season. Now Hadrian may be best known for a chunk of masonry in the north of England but he’s also almost as well known for deifying his lover Antinous. Since the music and book for the new work are to be by Rufus Wainwright and Daniel McIvor I think we can safely say that that side of things will feature more prominently than fortification construction. Continue reading →
Last night saw the latest evolution of the COC’s Ensemble Studio competition; a competition for cash prizes functioning as well as final auditions for next year’s Ensemble Studio. This year, for the first time, it was packaged as Centre Stage; a gala event featuring a cocktail reception and black tie dinner as well as the competition itself. Added to that, the singers got to perform with the COC orchestra under Johannes Debus on the main stage rather than in the RBA with piano accompaniment.