So finally to see a show I’ve been thinking about a lot; TapEX:Augmented. It’s simultaneously a show about technology and about using technology in the opera house. The plot concerns the product launch of Elysium; a cloud based afterlife using machine learning to curate (and augment) the customer’s best memories and create their ideal eternity.
I sat down today with Michael Mori and Debi Wong; the co-directors of Tapestry’s upcoming show TapEX: Augmented Opera to talk about the show and issues around it. The TapEX series is all about low cost, low risk experimentation. Previous shows have combined opera with punk, turntables and Persian rapping. This time it’s about exploring ways of using digital technology to enhance opera performance and enable the creation of new kinds of opera. It’s also about how can technology be incorporated in an affordable way. Conventional studio produced VR comes in around $30,000 per minute which might be OK for the Royal Shakespeare Company but is way out of reach of an indie company. And, of course, it can’t be about the technology itself. It needs to be about how we create art with it.
It was the last concert of Confluence’s inaugural season last night. The theme was “At the River” and the venue the rather splendid (if somewhat popish) St. Thomas’ Anglican on Huron Street. It rather epitomized what I have come to expect, and love, from this series. The musical styles on display were eclectic; classical, folk song, pop/rock, jazz with East and South Indian, Middle Eastern and Indigenous elements all well to the fore. There was also some poetry including an unintentionally hilarious piece in praise of the idyllic Don River. There was also a large and accomplished ensemble and a lot of joy and sheer fun.
Rocking Horse Winner; music by Gareth Williams and libretto by Anna Chatterton, opened last night at the Berkeley Street Theatre. It’s based on the short story by DH Lawrence and is a co-commission of Tapestry Opera and Scottish Opera. There are some changes from the original story. Here Paul is a developmentally challenged adult (on the autism spectrum) rather than a child. The gardener is replaced by his personal care worker who moonlights as a caller at the local racetrack. This has a couple of advantages. It provides something of a rationale for Paul hearing the “voice” of the house and for his apparently inexplicable intuition about race winners and it also means that Paul can be cast as a tenor rather than having to make an awkward choice between a boy soprano or a pants role. As Paul is one of, perhaps the main, character, this simplifies casting considerably. The work is also gently updated. So gently in fact that it’s barely perceptible.
I really wasn’t at all familiar with Berlioz’ Béatrice at Bénédict before last night’s opening of a production by Metro Youth Opera at the Daniels Spectrum. All I knew was that it had something to so with Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and a reputation for being rather tedious. For the record it’s basically the Shakespeare play shorn of all the darker elements; no Don John, no fake funeral, resulting in a RomCom in which the title characters, after much verbal sparring, are finally brought to admit that they are in love and get married along with Claudio and Héro. Further compressed a little (Somarone is axed) for this production it runs a pleasingly untedious two hours or so.
Here’s another listing I missed in the chaos of moving back into the Kitten Kondo. Metro Youth Opera have a run of three performances of Berlioz’s Béatrice and Bénédict at the Daniels Spectrum (Aki Studio). The shows are on April 24th and 25th at 7.30pm and the 26th at 2.30pm. Alison Wong directs with Natasha Fransblow as Music Director. The cast includes Simone McIntosh as Béatrice and Asitha Tennekoon (Paris in the recent GGS La belle Hélène) as Bénédict. Full details and tickets are available here.