Runs to May 30th only
There must be something in the water here: Canada turns out a lot of outstanding opera productions and stars, and thank God for that. Last night I had the pleasure of seeing another homegrown operatic world premiere: The Shadow presented by Tapestry New Opera Works. Part thriller, part cautionary tale, this strong piece was composed by Omar Daniel and written by Alex Poch-Goldin (see details in last week's post, below). I say strong because the work itself really doesn't need any propping up by external elements--although the very fine cast and well-appointed visuals certainly heightened the dramatic effects.
Might as well accuse me now of partiality because this is yet another rave review of a Tapestry project. This is a consummately professional company whose studio members always deliver: there's never Over The Top acting or bad props or distracting shortcuts. These touches allow us to focus on the music, the libretto and the art as a whole. No sympathetic cringing here.
Tapestry always throws in something innovative, too. This piece introduces the main character, Raoul the Postman, with him delivering letters (bills?) to audience and orchestra members alike before proceeding onstage. In the past they have employed unexpected but refreshing visuals such as puppetry and video; here, the overbearing father (Theodore Baerg) of Allegra (Carla Huhtanen) menacingly beckons her from offstage via a backlit silhouette through their villa door. They also know how to work with humour--despite the overall dark tone, the entertaining waiter (Keith Klassen) is spot-on, but the laughs never dip into sillyville--another indication of the company's acumen and good creative production leadership.
As for the story itself, The Shadow (Scott Belluz) provokes many questions. The themes of guile, covetousness and social status & power are overtly addressed in this moral tale. However, I suspect these are the kinds of issues from which we excuse ourselves; easy to point out in others but oh so hard to admit in ourselves! I think this piece is about being exposed for what we really are and whether we can accept that reality. We are a deceptive society (to ourselves and others), and much of our psychic energy is spent hiding our fraudulent lives and lifestyles. [More about this thought in my interview with the engaging Scott Belluz, to be posted in a few hours]. But if you like to fool yourself and hide behind your carefully constructed persona, don't go to see The Shadow--it'll unnerve you mercilessly. Just ask Señor Cartero....
Carla Huhtanen (soprano) as Allegra, Peter McGillivray (baritone) as Raoul (as his alter ego Hernando), Keith Klassen (tenor) as the Waiter; photo © Michael Cooper, CooperShoots