Monday, February 18, 2008

Does This Challenge Your Idea of Opera???

Baritone Calvin Powell in The Shaman’s Tale, part of Opera to Go 2008 presented by Tapestry New Opera Works, February 14 to 23, 2008. Photo Credit: Bruce Zinger.

What--you don't think a spliff-smoking shaman is operatic? Well, shake up your idea of what opera is by getting down to Tapestry New Opera's Opera To Go at Harbourfront's Enwave Theatre (streetcar from Union stops right outside). If you don't believe me, take it from The Star's John Terauds, who says Tapestry is "...where the future of Canadian opera is being made today", and coming from that authority, that's high praise indeed. I've covered them before, but Tapestry is so hot, I have to keep the recoms coming. I love my COC, I drool over Opera Atelier's productions, but these folks are fearless and always successful (never mind what the Globe says...). This company is innovative, fearless and consistent in their musical and professional integrity. I applaud their vision and approach: they never shy away from new things or risky stories or stretching their artistic talents. The only criticism, if I can call it that, is that I found their surtitles superfluous--the singers' enunciation needs no crutch. Best of all, they always manage to push the boundaries: if they can have my 17 year old daughter going regularly, they must be doing something right.

(left to right) Mezzo-soprano Jessica Lloyd, tenor Keith Klassen and soprano Carla Huhtanen in See Saw, part of Opera to Go 2008 presented by Tapestry New Opera Works, February 14 to 23, 2008. Photo Credit: Bruce Zinger.

Okay, so we know that I love them, love them, love them. Here's why. The librettists and composers from the annual Lib Lab (opera pseudo-boot camp: read up on it here) are versatile. The story lines are always fresh and surprising. The designers are resourceful so that one never notices they aren't working with a zillion dollar budget. Best of all, they do cool new things---thank you, God! It was exciting to see film, paper theatre, large-scale puppetry, and laptop media being incorporated into this medium. I've talked before about enjoying their sense of humour. But this time I was also taken by their multi-tasking, if you will: Carla Huhtanen and Keith Klassen not only singing and manoeuvering over-scale puppets, but simultaneously acting as if they weren't also contending with the third mode of expression. I also appreciated their fearless interpretation of a political plotline.

So kudos, Tapestry! We look forward to Sanctuary Song in May. And to the rest of you new opera virgins: hustle down to the remaining performances on Feb 20-23. See their website info about tickets, times etc.

Book Recoms

I recently read Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, which may be of interest to those who are into non-fiction. It's a little heavy on the cranial stuff, but it's a very readable explanation of why we are or are not happy. I am scientifically challenged but the psychological stuff was accessible, and the author kept me reading and laughing, which is something these days. Check out more about the book here. It's available in the library too.

I am presently reading Steven Pinker's book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, for future review here, courtesy of the publisher. More about it at a later date.

ECVA has a new call for artists on self-portraiture which you might want to consider if you are a Christian artist. Although based in the US, they are very welcoming to others farther afield (i.e. Canadians and others). Also, check out their current online exhibit (I'm plugging it again!) Feasts for the Eyes. Good people there: please support them.

HM at work

Don't miss the next four Sundays on CBC from 8-10pm for a unique look at the Queen and the many obligations she fulfills. Good for dispelling any myths about a rich, cushy lifestyle! Monarchy: the Royal Family at Work is a sympathetic look at Her Majesty and her family in situations beyond the sound bites and photo ops. While you're at it, why not check out the Monarchist League's website to learn more about the function of the monarchy in Canada. She is our Queen, too!


Ck out this amazing Christian arts project called Bibelots. I love organic movements with a purpose! This one is a ministry which touches people on many levels. Info courtesy of CIVA.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Opera to Go Recom

"Everyday tales of passion and pathos…with just a touch of paranoia
Toronto, ON…Tapestry explores the passion and peril of contemporary relationships in Opera to Go 2008, presented in
association with Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2008 at The Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Opera to
Go 2008 previews February 14 and runs February 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22 and 23, 2008. All performances begin at 8 pm
with the exception of the February 17 matinee at 2 pm.
Opera to Go 2008 showcases seven world premieres of six 15‐minute chamber operas and a Bravo!FACT film by composer‐writer teams who have graduated from Tapestry’s Composer‐Librettist Laboratory, an annual opera “boot camp” that brings together artists of various disciplines to collaborate on new opera creation."
Tapestry New Opera is the coolest company going. You may recognize their director Tom Diamond from Bathroom Divas. Ck out the Tapestry website for more details.


In my continuing study of art about the Prodigal Son, I found out that Tissot had done an etching on this subject, part of an exhibit now on at MOBIA in NYC. Also cool are the versions by Timothy Vermeulen and Mary McCleary. Check them out.

Even more exciting was my discovery of a fellow exhibitor in the ECVA Feasts for the Eyes, Rev. Paul Fromberg, and his work, such as Good Friday: Lebanon Bombing:
Another artist's work I will save for Maundy Thursday. Although Fromberg's is for Good Friday, I couldn't wait til then to post it!

compline with a side of organ

Christ Church Deer Park has a Lenten program for the next several Sundays which sees various organists playing recitals followed by the BCP service of compline with Gregorian chant. This evening office begins at 7:30pm. Even chiller than Jazz Vespers!

jazz vespers

Next two dates are Feb 17th and March 2nd at 4:30pm, at CCDP. Visit the link for details about the musicians and other goings-on there.

Film Recoms

A neat film I saw recently was Last Orders (Fred Schepisi, 2001) starring Michael Caine and Helen Mirren. This movie had sensitive direction about life and grief, and was particularly astute about the English. All you WASPs out there will feel emotionally at home....Worth a watch. Also finally saw American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999); I think I'm the last person in North America to see it. For an accurate portrait of the realization that life is not as it always appears--especially in the American dream--put aside a few hours for a watch. And buy the soundtrack.