DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINTY | Tapestry’s Rocking Horse A True Operatic Winner

By John Terauds on June 1, 2016

Tapestry Opera's The Rocking Horse Winner (Photo courtesy Tapestry Opera)
Tapestry Opera’s Rocking Horse Winner (Photo courtesy Tapestry Opera)

Tapestry Opera: Rocking Horse Winner; Libretto by Anna Chatterton, Music by Gareth Williams — at Berkeley St. Theatre through June 4. 

Even in an operatically well-endowed city like Toronto, it’s rare to experience a production where everything comes together as neatly and powerfully as in Rocking Horse Winner, a new hour-long work being premiered by Tapestry Opera at the Berkeley Street Theatre.

It all starts with a brilliant work co-commissioned by Tapestry and Scottish Opera: An adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s short story by Canadian librettist Anna Chatterton and set to music by Scottish composer Gareth Williams. Both have worked together to achieve maximum emotional impact with a minimum of material.

Chatterton’s spare, repetition-heavy text is a mere echo of Lawrence’s original, but that echo catches all the key points. It hooks our attention from the moment we are introduced to Paul, a developmentally challenged boy who wants to bring some luck to his self-obsessed Mom, Ava, who is as sour and unappealing as curdled milk. The men in their lives, Uncle Oscar and his caregiver, Bassett, decide to take advantage of Paul’s ability to guess horse race winners, and they run their young charge dry as their pockets, as well as Ava’s, soon begin to bulge.

Williams’ tidy, spare score packs a wallop in a minimum of material, as well. It, too, hooks us from the very beginning, an odd waltz that starts off limping before it becomes beguiling. Williams displays great skill at superimposing contrasting textures and themes to get his point across. Most of the music is tonal.

The singers are excellent vocally as well as dramatically. Soprano Carla Huhtanen is magnificently sad as Ava. Tenor Keith Klassen and baritone Peter McGillivray do not have huge parts, but they fulfill their roles perfectly. And tenor Asitha Tennekoon is a particular treat as Paul. Tenekoon is not a small man, but he somehow manages to heartbreakingly convey the earnest fragility of the doomed boy, who considers himself to be ever so lucky.

Williams cleverly uses a chorus of four voices (well sung) to not only augment the action but also the string quartet and piano that serve as orchestra. Conductor Jordan de Souza made a shapely whole out of the switchback-laden score.

Director Michael Mori, Tapestry’s artistic director, keeps everything tidy and meaningful on the clever, two-level set designed by Camellia Koo. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting is a kaleidoscopic treat.

These 60 minutes pass quickly, the opera packs an emotional wallop and is intelligently staged. The music is beautifully rendered. There isn’t a note or a word too many or missing. This is a remarkable feat for any company, even more so for a small one. It sings volumes about the level of talent available in Toronto, and is a very happy omen for the future of opera as a living art form.

Performances continue through June 4.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

LEBRECHT LISTENS | The Bamberg Symphony Returns To Bedrock Repertoire

By Norman Lebrecht on July 12, 2019

The Bamberg Symphony returns to its best with a new album of Brahms and Dvořák.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Nikos Skalkottas: A Jazz Meets Classical Curiosity

By Norman Lebrecht on July 5, 2019

If you’re into 20th-century piano music,  this new release of the music of Nikos Skalkottas should be high on your wishlist.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

SCRUTINY | Classical Music All-Stars Shine At Toronto Summer Music Opening Night

By Joseph So on July 12, 2019

Toronto Summer Music opened last evening to a sold-out Koerner Hall. Judging by the enthusiastic ovations at the end, it was a night to remember.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.