Sanctuary Song

Bass Alvin Crawford as James, soprano Xin Wang (centre) as Sydney and actor Sharmila Dey (right) as Penny in the world premiere production of Sanctuary Song by Abigail Richardson & Marjorie Chan, presented by Tapestry & Theatre Direct in partnership with Luminato, June 7 – 14, 2008 at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs. Photo Credit: John Lauener.

Okay. I have been called an ice queen, immovable, a WASP with a stiff upper lip. (None of these are true, btw; just ask my students). But last night's preview of Sanctuary Song by Tapestry New Opera Works was the first time I ever cried at the opera. In fact, I had to stop taking notes because I couldn't see through the tears. So fine, I am a sop. And this new opera is a hit.
This is the story of Sydney, an elephant reminiscing about her life on the cusp of a new one. As usual, Tapestry has employed innovation and this production, in association with Theatre Direct, uses dance and video to great effect. The choreography of the main character is done in a way that evokes the elephantine but does not parody it, which would detract from the story. The music, casting and costuming are also a propos, but I won't give that away--it's another nice subtlety I'll leave for you to discover. Perhaps most effective and often most poignant is the videography: sometimes creative, sometimes vintage circus footage, it echoes the libretto for the audience, and engages the younger audience members too.
Composed by Abigail Richardson and written by Marjorie Chan, this opera has grace and dignity, just like the animals it chronicles. It runs at the Berkeley Street Theatre during Luminato, from today until June 14th. Related documentary and background info is available through the websites of the real
Elephant Sanctuary, the NFB screening tomoorrow at 11am, and general asian elephant info. Tickets run from $15 to $70 (family pack) and school shows are available. While kid-friendly, I recommend this for ages 5+.


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