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Tapestry New Opera Works.

It was a grand way to celebrate a 30th anniversary. Tapestry New Opera Works reached back into its repertoire of 15-minute operas from the Opera to Go program to present five favorites in the huge Fementing Cellar of Toronto's Distillery History District (Mar. 24-26). The eight-member orchestra, conducted by Artistic Director Wayne Strongman, remained static while the audience rotated between the five different stages. The common denominator was Julia Tribe's set design: a series of plastic draperies that surrounded each stage and reflected the many different moods of lighting designer Kimberly Purtell. Tom Diamond directed all five operas. The expressive singers were also a constant.

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The Colony (2008), with a libretto by Lisa Codrington and music by Kevin Morse, was a laugh-out-loud farce. Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabo played the Queen of the Amazon Ants, in need of a lover to propagate the race, and she sets her sights on tenor Keith Klassen, who is an exterminator. Tribe's costumes were hilarious, and the mating dance was a hoot (with its echo of Carmen). The libretto is whimsical with its cute rhyme schemes, while the tuneful music moves from cheeky to melodramatic and back again.

The Laurels (2002), by librettist Michael Lewis MacLennan and composer Jeffrey Ryan, is very dark. A blood-spattered woman (soprano Xin Wang) roams a park at night, hunted by a mysterious Stranger (baritone Peter McGillivray). The clever title is the giveaway. The woman, Laurel, and the Stranger are both sides of the same troubled psyche haunted by guilt. The softness of the soprano is contrasted with the fierceness of the baritone. The score at first is rushing and restless with interesting musical accents, but there are also moments of rapture and ecstasy as Laurel seeks an end to her despair.

Librettist Mark Brownell and composer Chan Ka Nin chose humor for Ice Time as a coach/mother (Szabo) tries to relive her dreams through her reluctant figure-skater daughter (Wang). Nin's music is very visual; it makes fun of itself, for example, going against the sentiment of the text, such as the sly sensibility it gives to the mother remembering her glory days as Queen of the Rink. Gypsy violins, Viennese waltzes and all manner of musical echoes permeate the clever score.

Ashlike on the Cradle of the Wind (2006), by librettist Jill Battson and composer Andrew Staniland, concerns the memories of an older man (McGillivray) about his young lover (Klassen), who died of AIDs. Battson's highly poetic text of word fragments is rendered in music by shifting, pulsating drums, dark cords, sliding notes, crashing woodwinds, growls and croaks, and heavy piano arpeggios. The shirtless Klassen and his seductive dance, the graphic sex scenes, the older man's poignant longing all contribute to a very sophisticated opera.

Librettist Camyar Chai and composer James Rolf also opted for the dark side in Rosa (2004). Isabelle (Wang) is a prostitute. Klassen is her husband, who has come to find her. The Rosa of the title is their dead child. The music reflects their angst, from screeching to the ominous ticking of clocks, drum accents and strident piano, to finally a sweet and tender violin obbligato as the couple find some peace together.

The bonus of the evening was a showing of the delightful animated film The Perfect Match (2008), starring two love-sick socks (courtesy of McGregor), featuring the voices of McGillivray and Klassen, with a libretto by Krista Dalby and composer Anthony Young.
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Author:Citron, Paula
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Jun 22, 2010
Words:572
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