Tapestry New Opera Works
Citron, Paula, Opera Canada
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.
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. …