OPERA TO GO six new chamber operas, directed by Tom Diamond, conducted by Wayne Strongman. Presented by Tapestry New Opera Works at the Young Centre (55 Mill). March 9, 11 and 16-17. $39-$49, stu discounts. See Continuing, page 89, for details. 416-866-8666. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Opera too conservative for you? Check out Tapestry 's latest series of bite-sized opera hors d'oeuvres, Opera To Go, six 15-minute pieces that have nothing to do with stereotypical stand-and-deliver performances.
Each segment is a mini-drama, sung rather than spoken, and while the dramas don't all have the same theatrical bite, there are lots of worthwhile ideas in the evening, directed by Tom Diamond with a chamber ensemble led by Tapestry's Wayne Strongman .
Five of the six deal directly or indirectly with sex. The Enslavement And Liberation Of Oksana G , by librettist Colleen Murphy and composer Aaron Gervais , looks at the multilayered relationship between a priest and a woman in his care, the victim of sex slavery. Joseph Maviglia 's and Richard Payne 's Binoculars contrasts two female friends who are having trouble with straying husbands.
Jill Battson and Andrew Staniland 's Ashlike On The Cradle Of The Wind is a memory piece about a gay activist who confronts the shadow of AIDS, while Dave Deveau and Darren Fung 's Unfamiliar , about a university student who feels isolated from his former friends, has a gay subtext.
Librettist Battson also collaborates with Rose Bolton on Netsuke , in which an American businesswoman, bedding a Japanese lover, compares life and art.
Rounding out the evening is Betty Jane Wylie 's and Fung's Gotcha! , about the initially happy but soon troubled meeting between a birth mother and the child she put up for adoption.
Dramatically the strongest of the pieces, Battson's works marry a poet's sensibility to the often sparse scores, setting off little explosions of imagery and inviting viewers to connect them. Baritone Calvin Powell and tenor Keith Klassen bring power and tenderness to their roles in Ashlike; narrator Powell and mezzo Jessica Lloyd give richness to Netsuke, with Klassen as the lover who has, we discover, unspoken tales to tell.
Though Gotcha! pushes familiar buttons, most of the other works offer unexpected turns. Even though Enslavement has a predictable narrative, Klassen and soprano Carla Huhtanen bring such intensity to their work that their characters seem fresh.
There's nice comic relief in Binoculars , with Huhtanen and Lloyd - the former stylishly Yorkville, the latter a Mountain Equipment Co-op kind of gal - milking the laughs in the material and Payne's tongue-in-cheek, often bluesy score nicely complementing the action, set in an art gallery.
Though the text of most works is more memorable than the music, sometimes - in the nervous, jittery score for Enslavement, or Ashlike's sometimes percussive, harsh one - the orchestra sets a supportive emotional tone for the characters' relationships.