East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon
Based on a Norwegian folktale, East O' The Sun And West O' The Moon tells the story of a brave girl named Rose (played, at the performance I saw, by Mara Bowman) who agrees to be carried away by a polar bear (Sebastian Gayowsky) to help out her impoverished family. Of course the bear, who's actually a prince (Iori Lewis), has been cursed by a witch (Georgia Poletes), and Rose must figure out how to break the spell.
There are shades of Beauty And The Beast in the opera, and composer Norbert Palej and librettist K.T. Bryski use lots of imagination in evoking the feel of a storm, a raucous family meal and the majesty of the Northern Lights. They're aided by the fine design work of Jason Hand (lighting) and Laura Gardner (costumes and sets).
The mechanics of the witch's plot are a tad confusing, however, and director Joel Ivany doesn't always make the best use of the stage. Dozens of tykes often crowd the main playing area and two balconies above it, but at times it's unclear who or what they represent.
The minor-key motif that gives the opera its title continues is haunting, but Bryski's libretto is at times banal.
But what a treat to see so many talented young singers tackle such demanding roles. Lewis's Prince has a beautiful tone, and as Rose's mother, Robin Moir is characterful and shows off a strong, clear voice.
The structure of the piece is odd, too, especially since it ends in the trolls' hall and not back at Rose's family's home, where we spend so much time at the beginning. And although the opera has a great feminist message, it's odd that Rose's test involves doing laundry.
See more at canadianchildrensopera.com.
The first East End Performance Crawl wrapped up on the weekend, and it accomplished all it set out to do. Created to help spread the word about Crow's Theatre's upcoming new space (at Dundas and Carlaw), the festival introduced audiences to the east end and introduced residents and businesses to the idea of indie theatre.
We reviewed shows here and here, but wanted to talk about the festival in general. What a terrific way to learn about a neighbourhood by seeing works in specific sites like the YOGAthletix studio, the knitting studio the Purple Purl or the basement of the Ralph Thornton Centre.
The most intriguing setting, however, was Jilly's Strip Club, in which Tease, featuring one-on-one encounters with four "strippers" and one maintenance person, with two security guards warning you and leading you to various areas, played out.
The experimental show has huge potential to expand; perhaps before the club closes (word of the building's sale broke right before the show began) the talented people involved can develop it even further, using dressing rooms and planted customers to create an even more evocative experience.
And kudos to Crow's for adding last-minute events like a late-night dramatization of an article about Rob Ford at the festival's hub, the Hitch.