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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Tapestry Opera Gets a Punk Rock Twist

By Michael Vincent on November 20, 2015

Jordan de Souza in TAP-EX METALLURGY (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
Jordan de Souza in TAP-EX METALLURGY (Photo: Dahlia Katz)

Tapestry Opera: Tap:Ex Metallurgy with members of Fucked Up and Tenor David Pomeroy and Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó. Ernest Balmer Studio, 9 Trinity St, Studio 315. Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Toronto’s Tapestry Opera have been leading the way down the path towards new opera through both experimentation and innovation. Their most adventurous endeavour is the annual Tap:Ex series, which explores new models through which opera might become a 21st century vision. Now in its third year, last night marked the opening of Tapestry Opera’s Tap:Ex Metallurgy. This round is all about collaboration between two unlikely sources – Punk Rock and bel canto.

It was Fucked Up, and by that I mean the Canadian hardcore punk band from Toronto. They aren’t just any hardcore punk band either. They won the 2009 Polaris Music Prize for the album “The Chemistry of Common Life”, and have a devout following. Three members of the band (Jonah Falco, Mike Haliechuk, and Josh Zuker) have spent recent weeks collaborating with Tapestry, to see if their music can sit with crossed legs in front of music stands for an audience that politely claps at the end of movements. (No stage diving, but there was a moment where I thought about it.)

The room, painted white, was filled with 50 odd chairs and left those at the rear end with a view of the performers from the neck up. The audience wasn’t your typical Fucked Up crowd – no Doc Martins, or studded leather belts – just lots of hoodies and mall scarves. The familiar span of local opera-bloggerati were out in their full glory. (Opera bloggers always do the double cheek air kiss, which I was schooled on after an awkward exchange that had me pressed into the side of a beehive up-do, and a ruthless hoop earring.)

Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is the Editor-in-chief Ludwig Van and CEO of Museland Media. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor for over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
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Metallurgy A

The night opened with a collaboration of co-Librettists Mike Haliechuk (lead guitarist of Fucked Up) and David James Brock, and Jonah Falco as composer (Mr. Jo as he is also known). The half-hour long work featured a small ensemble of strings, piano, electric guitar and analog Moog Synthesizer, which was a beautiful touch.

The story was about a couple, played by tenor David Pomeroy and mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, who were coming to terms with the tragic death of their young daughter. Like a John Cassavetes film, things metaphorically fall apart as each member of the ensemble left the stage, one at a time. The last to remain was the violinist (Yoobin Ahn) who closed with a solemn dirge. The work was skillfully sung by Szabó, whose voice cleared a path through the music full of loose ends, and sometimes rocky intonation in the strings, which struggled throughout with unidiomatic writing. Music Director and Tapestry conductor-in-residence, Jordan de Souza did a fine job keeping the train on track and despite some faults, it was an engaging and worthwhile work by composer Jonah Falco.

Metallurgy B

The highlight of the night was by David James Brock and composer Ivan Barbotin. Described in a single sentence, “Love at first sight to a lifetime of ups and downs in 15 minutes,” the mini-opera was well worth the night out. Again David Pomeroy and Krisztina Szabó carried the scenes, which included a lifelong relationship from the first date to old age.

The libretto was well-defined and full of room for the actors to live out their roles. It included an impromptu scene, where Pomeroy picked up a flying V electric guitar and plays 1980’s metal to drown out the marital spat. Hilarious.

Both works featured notable lighting by production designer David DeGrow, which made for extra pizazz on the Distillery boarding house turned Tapestry HQ.

While many of Toronto’s indie opera companies continue to push the corners out of traditional square opera into new shapes, last night was an entirely new shape. While there were a few rough edges, these were quickly overlooked in the spirit of exploration, and in the case of Barbotin’s contribution, darn right fun.

Tap:Ex Metallurgy runs through November 21st, at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery District. For details and tickets see here.

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Michael Vincent
Follow me

Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is the Editor-in-chief Ludwig Van and CEO of Museland Media. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor for over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
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