One of the most Canadian things that foreigners observe is our love of hockey. Though the Canadians failed to make it to the playoffs this year, and Leafs lost out to Boston on game seven of the first round of the post-season, we are to experience this hockey fanaticism, out of the arena and onto the Jane Mallet stage this week, as Continuum hosts ECM+, to bringing a brand new opera, Hockey Noir, to Toronto, set in middle of the intense rivalry between Montreal and Toronto, a la Film Noir.
It’s the second collaboration between André Ristic and Cecil Castellucci (their first opera project: Les Aventures de Madame Merveille, was a roaring success), and for Castellucci, the amalgamation of subjects for Hockey Noir was quite a simple one:
“I was thinking about other kinds of genres that had strong visual elements, and I’m a big Noir fan, so Noir just seemed like a natural next step […] it lends itself so well to imagery,” said Castellucci to the CBC. “Then I was at a hockey game, and I just started noticing how musical hockey is — when you’ve got the skaters on the ice, and the puck, and the slaps of the stick, and the crowd, and the music.”
From there, the two Montrealers went onto recruit a Torontonian creative mind, Kimberlyn Porter. Connected through Castellucci’s tweet call for a Canadian artist for the project, Porter created stunning visuals for the opera: around fifty images are projected to the stage, through stills layering and animation. Considering the parallels between the mediums of comic books and opera, the use of subtitles and dramatic visual presentation creates a surprising and successful combination.
Ryan Scott, director of Continuum, explains how this rivalry travelled from Montreal to Toronto:
“I spoke with André Ristic about the possibility of doing something larger in scale in 2015, and he told me about his opera Madame Merveille… and Veronique LaCroix at ECM+ told me about Hockey Noir and asked if Continuum would like to join forces. As co-producer, I said yes right away!”
Both Continuum and ECM+ planned to create a combined ensemble for the project: however, due to the logistical and financial costs of accommodating such a mixed ensemble, this time we will see ECM+ members on the stage for Hockey Noir.
Ryan Scott went on to score an additional partnership from Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which gave Hockey Noir another advantage:
Scott met with Chris Butcher and Miles Baker at TCAF in early 2016, and they loved the idea so much they made it their prime feature for the season.
“The idea going to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) just seemed like a great fit […] So far we’ve sold more tickets in advance than I think we have for every production we’ve done combined! There’s a lot of interest, and we hope the content of the work will resonate with many people from many different communities and cultures.”
The early review from Montreal is just in, and it seems that Hockey Noir is well set to become a major Canadian Contemporary Music milestone. Get your tickets now, and put on your hometown pride to greet the Montrealers.
Hockey Noir – The Opera, A bilingual Chamber Opera in 3 Periods. May 10–11, 2018, 8 pm at the Jane Mallet Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Details here.