LSM Newswire

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tapestry New Opera Presents Opera Briefs

Tapestry announces Opera Briefs –
A showcase of bite-size, world premiere opera scenes
created through our opera speed-dating LibLab

TORONTO, ON – Tapestry New Opera is pleased to announce that four leading playwrights, including Toronto starlet Hannah Moscovitch, and four composers including American composer Lembit Beecher who was appointed for a three-year term as the first Composer In Residence of the Opera Company of Philadelphia, will be part of Opera Briefs 2012.  The 16th annual instalment of Opera Briefs, a performance of scenes resulting from its 16th annual Composer-Librettist Laboratory (LibLab), takes place September 21 and 22 at 7:30 pm and September 23 at 3pm at the Ernest Balmer Studio.

Opera Briefs is a unique opportunity to be the first to see freshly created opera scenes. A selection of some of Canada’s leading writers and composers will present their new collaborations publicly for the first time.

The elite writers selected for the 2012 Composer-Librettist Laboratory are Hannah Moscovitch, Liza Balkan, Katherine Koller, and Amy Lee Lavoie. Joining them will be local and international composers Ivan Barbotin, Lembit Beecher, Benjamin Pesetsky, and Benton Roark.

Tapestry has a long history of attracting the very best candidates to our creative dating laboratory.  This year, judged solely on the merit of the submissions, the LIBLAB was sexually polarized, admitting four female playwrights and four malecomposers.  The elite individuals who meet at our LIBLAB have often remained with one lifetime partner, following their final night out at Opera Briefs. Through Opera Briefs, you can see they have juggled multiple partners and in some cases have produced dramatic offspring with more than one partner.  This year’s artists hold great promise, bringing a wealth of diversity and specialization.

The love doctors that make the magic possible include director Michael Mori, artistic director Wayne Strongman and musical directors Dr. Christopher Foley and Jennifer Tung, two of Canada’s premiere collaborative pianists, working with the refined elements of tenor Keith Klassen and mezzo-soprano Andrea Ludwig, and fresh catalysts: soprano Allison Cecilia Arendsand baritone Geoffrey Sirett.

Since the very first LibLab in 1995, over 50 creative teams have continued to collaborate, many of whom currently have full length operas in development, including: Julie Salverson and Juliet Palmer (Shelter, world premiere November 2012 with Edmonton Opera) and Colleen Murphy and Aaron Gervais (The Enslavement and Liberation of Oksana G.). Creative artists who have premiered their works at Opera Briefs have also gone on to successfully premiere their new works.  Composer Chan Ka Nin and librettist Mark Brownell met at the inaugural 1995 LibLab. Their opera Iron Road had its world premiere in April 2001 at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. Linda Catlin Smith and Don Hannah also met at the 1995 LibLab and their Arctic drama, Facing South, premiered as part of the World Stage Festival in April of 2003. James Rolfe and Camyar Chai met at the 2003 LibLab and their opera Elijah’s Kite, which addresses bullying and children’s relationships, was developed by Tapestry in partnership with the Manhattan School of Music. It had its world premiere in April 2006 in New York City, its Canadian premiere at Rideau Hall in October 2006 and has toured to over 30,000 Ontario students in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons. Marjorie Chan and Abigail Richardson met at the 2003 LibLab and their opera for all ages, Sanctuary Song, premiered as part of the 2008 Luminato Festival after being developed in partnership by Tapestry and Theatre Direct. Alex Poch-Goldin and Omar Daniel met in the 2001 LibLab and premiered The Shadow with Tapestry in May 2009.

Ticket Details:
Subscriptions: 4 shows for only $125 / $110 Renewal Rate (includes HST)
Single Tickets: $29 (includes HST)
416.537.6066 x222 

Opera Briefs PERFORMANCE DETAILS:September 21, 22 at 7:30pm
 (doors open at 7pm) and September 23 at 3pm (doors open at 2:30pm)
*NEW TO TAPESTRY?: Try us out with a special Pay-What-You-Can show September 20 at 7:30pm (doors open at 7pm), seating first come first served
Studio location:
Ernest Balmer Studio, Distillery Historic District
9 Trinity Street, Studio 316

Writers: Liza Balkan, Katherine Koller, Amy Lee Lavoie, Hannah Moscovitch
Composers: Ivan Barbotin, Lembit Beecher, Benjamin Pesetsky, Benton Roark
Director: Michael Mori*
Musical Directors: Christopher Foley, Jennifer Tung
Cast: Keith Klassen, Andrea Ludwig, Allison Cecilia Arends and Geoffrey Sirett.

*Michael Mori’s Associate Artistic Director internship position at Tapestry is generously supported by the Metcalf Foundation
The Composer-Librettist Laboratory is generously supported by Mr. Roger D. Moore

Opera Briefs is not recommended for children under the age of 12 as there is strong language and suggested sexual content.

ABOUT THE LIBRETTISTSLiza Balkan is a director, actor, writer, former dancer, singer and arts educator/teacher who has spent over 30 years working in the theatre. Her association with Tapestry New Opera dates back to ’97 when she was involved in the creation of Theresa Tova’s Still The Night (Tapestry/Theatre Passe Muraille) which  subsequently toured the country.  She received a Dora Award for her performance as well as a nomination for Calgary’s Betty Mitchell Award. Liza also directed Tapestry’s Opera Briefs 6 and 7. She directed the site specific Opera on the Rocks (at Pauper’s Pub) created by many  alumnae from past Lib Labs .   Last year, working composer Glenn James, she wrote her first libretto, Dustings, an excerpt of which was shown at Canadian Stage’s Festival of Ideas and Creations. This past spring she directed her verbatim theatre project Out The Window which played to sold-out houses at The Theatre Centre.  Liza is one of the original members of Tapestry’s Studio Company and is thrilled to be participating in this season’s Lib Lab!

Katherine Koller lives in Edmonton, Alberta, and her one-act plays have been produced across Canada.  Of her full-length plays, Coal Valley: the Making of a Miner is included in The Alberta Advantage, published by Playwrights Canada Press. The Seed Savers premiered at Workshop West Theatre in Edmonton in 2009 and in Saskatchewan in 2010 and is included in her collection, Voices of the Land:  The Seed Savers and Other Plays (Athabasca University Press, 2012), with an introduction by Anne Nothof. Katherine also writes for radio, film, ballet and dance. Now in her third season as librettist for Edmonton’s Citie Ballet, she is working on a contemporary ballet, Ariadne’s Gate. Theatre Encounter in Calgary presents her dance drama adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness this fall. Katherine teaches in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta and her website is <>

Amy Lee Lavoie is a graduate of Drama at Bishop’s University and the Playwriting Program at the National Theatre School of Canada. Rabbit Rabbit, conceived in her first year at NTS was part of Infinitheatre's Pipeline series, CanStage's Ideas and Creation Festival, SummerWorks and the Edmonton Fringe. Rabbit Rabbit received its premiere production under the direction of Guy Sprung with Infinitheatre and earned Amy Lee two MECCA’s for Best Text and the Revelation Award. Her play, Tuning Venus also received the Best English Text award at the Montreal Fringe. She has recently completed a Playwriting Residency at Factory Theatre developing her play, Stopheart, which was part of the Factory Wired Festival. Amy Lee is currently a member of the Playwriting Forum at Citadel Theatre and Cahoots Playwright’s Hothouse.

Hannah Moscovitch’s past writing for the stage includes Little One, East of Berlin, The Russian Play, Essay, Mexico City, The Children’s Republic, The Huron Bride (a ghost story), and In This World (for young audiences). Hannah’s plays have been produced across the country, including at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto where she is currently playwright-in-residence, the Factory Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, Manitoba Theatre Centre, and the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. Hannah’s work has won multiple Dora Awards and she’s been nominated for the Governor General’s Award and the international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.  Hannah is a graduate of The National Theatre School of Canada and she attended the University of Toronto.

ABOUT THE COMPOSERSBorn in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ivan Barbotin began playing guitar at 10. At 13, he became lead guitarist of the rock group Sphinx which soon won the "Soviet Union's Best Youth Band" competition. At 16, he joined Russia's celebrated rock band Forum as lead guitarist, where he was half the age of the other musicians. With Forum he toured the country to sold-out audiences and became Laureate of the Song of the Year Festival in 1989, a career-launching annual TV event.  After moving to Canada in 1990, Ivan turned his attention away from music for almost a decade, during which time he earned a BA with distinction in Languages and Linguistics at the University of Toronto. He also worked as a video editor for Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. He eventually returned to music and began working as a full-time film and television composer. In 2000, Ivan wrote his first ballet score, The Velveteen Rabbit. Two more ballet commissions followed: The Emperor's New Clothes andAnastasia. He has since written numerous compositions for film and television. Ivan's music has been performed and recorded by The Russian Philharmonic, The Kitchener Waterloo Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, among many others. His Provence, a composition for soprano and chamber orchestra has recently been released on Harmonia Mundi. Ivan is currently pursuing a doctorate in composition at the University of Toronto.

In the fall of 2011, Lembit Beecher was appointed for a three-year term as the first Composer In Residence of the Opera Company of Philadelphia in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music Theatre Group of New York. Born of Estonian and American parents, he grew up under the redwoods in Santa Cruz, California, a few miles from the wild Pacific. Since then he has lived in Boston, Houston, Ann Arbor, Berlin and New York, earning degrees from Harvard, Rice and the University of Michigan. This varied background has made him particularly sensitive to place, ecology and the strong emotional relationships that people forge with patterns in nature. He is also interested in memory and the various ways we tell stories, from emotional personal narratives to crisp and clean documentaries. Recent pieces have focused on reflections of the immigrant experience and the integration of recorded interviews with music.  While a fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities (2008 – 2009), Lembit wrote And Then I Remember, a multi-media, documentary oratorio based on the World War II stories of his grandmother.  And Then I Remember won the 2010 Opera Vista competition leading to a fully staged production in March of 2011 in Houston, Texas. Active also as a pianist and conductor, his work has been performed at the Tanglewood, Aspen and Cabrillo Music Festivals and he has received awards and grants from the American Music Center, ASCAP, New York Youth Symphony, NewMusic@ECU, Society for New Music and Austin Peay State University. Lembit served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Denison University for the fall of 2009.

After studies at Oberlin Conservatory and three years working in a record store in New York City, Benton Roark moved west to pursue further studies in composition and a career as a multi-disciplinary artist.  Since then he has had work commissioned and performed throughout North America and Europe by a variety of ensembles, artists, and organizations, including the Bozzini Quartet, Redshift New Music, the Aventa Ensemble, Théatre Re, the Erasmus Foundation, and Mark Takeshi McGregor, as well as his own critically acclaimed rock outfit, Rollaway.   He has completed residencies and programs with the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, the Erasmus IP Project in Italy, the Fontainebleau Sessions in France, the Czech American Institute in the Czech Republic, and the Konservatorium Winterthur in Switzerland.  Mr. Roark is active as as President of the Pro Musica Society of Vancouver and will be beginning as co-Artistic Director with Redshift in the fall of 2012.

The music of Benjamin Pesetsky has been performed by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and WordSong, Inc.  Recent works include Triptych for Chamber Winds and Serpent, commissioned by the New England Conservatory Jordan Winds, and Lear's Shadow, a Shakespearian scene for three voices, viola, and piano premiered at the Morgan Library in New York City.  Mr. Pesetsky has been in residence at the Banff Centre and the Deer Valley Festival and will be a fellow at the Hambidge Center in September.  He began his composition studies in Boston with Howard Frazin and later studied with Joan Tower and George Tsontakis at Bard College Conservatory where he earned a Bachelor of Music in composition.  He also holds a degree in philosophy from Bard College.  Later this year From Winter, a new work for violin, cello, and electric guitar, will be premiered by the Cygnus Ensemble in New York.

ABOUT THE SINGERSTenor Keith Klassen has emerged to become one of Canada's busiest tenors, with engagements across Canada, Scotland, Germany, the United States, Ireland and the Czech Republic. This past season he was featured with the Pax Christi Chorale inElgar the Kingdom and as Prince Edwin in Gypsy Princess with Toronto Operetta Theatre. Appearing frequently with the latter, he has starred in Count of Luxembourg (Count Renee), Die Fledermaus (Alfred), The Bird Sellers (Count Stanislaus), Patience(Reginald Bunthorne), Gondoliers (Marco)and The Chocolate Soldier (Alexius)He has also been seen with the Canadian Opera Company as Nick (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Spoletta (Tosca), with Vancouver Opera as Jimmy (Lillian Alling), with Saskatoon Opera as Don Jose (Carmen), and as Alfred with Opera Hamilton (Die Fledermaus). 
Mezzo Soprano Andrea Ludwig is an artist of tremendous depth, musicality and scope. Andrea has had great success as a performer of contemporary opera, premiering new works as well as in the traditional mezzo soprano repertoire. Her charm and warmth, as well as her easy sense of humour are perfect for stage, and her vibrant musicality makes her a favorite to all her audiences. Her versatility and ability to interpret many styles is impeccable.  Very much in demand for contemporary opera, this June (2012) she was heard with Tapestry New Opera in Toronto in the new opera “The Enslavement and Liberation of Oksana G” (Gervais/Murphy). Also, as part of the multi Dora nominated Queen of Puddings production of Svadba - Wedding that premiered in Toronto in May 2011, she will be reprising that role in France and Serbia (October 2012), and then again with Edmonton Opera (2013). This coming November she will be heard in Edmonton premiering the opera Shelter (Juliet Palmer) which will be produced by Tapestry New Opera Works. With concert work, Andrea returns to Symphony Nova Scotia next season to premier Peter Lieberson’s songs Neruda Songs, after having been featured in the R. Murray Schafer’s Adieu Robert Schumann (cond. Gueller) for their Orchestral Currents series in 2011.

Western-Canadian soprano, Allison Cecilia Arends, is noted as having a “voice [that] is stunningly beautiful, [which] she uses… with intelligence and great sensitivity”. A recent graduate of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program, she completed a Masters at the University of Toronto Opera School and Bachelors at the University of Victoria Voice Performance Program. Allison enjoyed a busy 2011/12 season with appearances in La Bohème at the Arts and Letters Club and Colours of Music Festival, concerts at the Green Door Cabaret, and recitals for the Colours of Music Festival, the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg, and Saskatoon Opera. She also joined the Tallis Choir for Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, the Calgary Civic Symphony and Philharmonic Chorus for Carmina Burana, the Pax Christi Chorale for their Children’s Messiah, the Regina Philharmonic Chorus and Symphony Orchestra for Mozart’s Requiem and Mendelssohn’s Magnificat, the Toronto Classical Singers and Tallisker Players for Verdi’s Requiem, and the Toronto Concert Orchestra for a Viennese concertShe was selected to participate in the Joy in Singing masterclass series and competition as a semi-finalist in New York and the National Arts Centre’s masterclass with Benita Valente.

Baritone Geoffrey Sirett is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto where he completed a Master of Music degree in opera.  He has performed leading roles in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Bernstein’s Candide, Haydn’s Il Mondo della Luna, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Lehar’s The Merry Widow, Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Britten’s Albert Herring.  Previous AOTC credits include ‘Il Conte” in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (2010), ‘Snug’ in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2011).  Geoffrey was a winner in the Canadian Conservatory Competition, the Czech and Slovak International Competition, Ottawa Choral Society Competition, regional finalist of the MONC Auditions, and most recently received 2nd place and the “Best Performance of a Canadian Work” Award at the 2011 Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal Competition.  Geoffrey has received support from the Desmarais Foundation for young Canadian opera singers, Vancouver Opera Guild, and Canadian Opera Volunteer Committee.  As winner of the 2010 Norcop Song Prize, Geoffrey presented a recital with pianist Martin Katz.  Geoffrey’s debut album was released in December 2011, featuring Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, Butterworth’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’, and Britten’s Folksong Arrangements.
ABOUT THE CREATIVE TEAMWayne Strongman is one of Canada’s most distinguished music directors, and champion of Canadian writers and composers. As Managing Artistic Director of Tapestry New Opera, he has commissioned and premiered over 30 new Canadian operas including the Cantonese-English Iron Road in 2001 (Brownell/Chan), Facing South (Hannah/Smith), The Shadow (Poch-Goldin/Daniel), and Nigredo Hotel (MacDonald/Gotham) which is the most frequently produced Canadian opera in history.  Music Director/Dramaturge of Tapestry’s Composer-Librettist Laboratory, Mr. Strongman has created a truly collaborative environment for an international roster of composers and writers. His commitment to a contemporary practice within the operatic art form has made Strongman a mentor to many Canadian singers. In 2007 he established the Tapestry New Work Studio Company as a performing resource for the new work creation process which has become Tapestry’s unique calling.  For Tapestry’s 30th anniversary season in 2009-2010, Strongman conducted the world premiere of Dark Star Requiem (Battson/Staniland), his second premiere for Luminato, after Sanctuary Song (Chan/Richardson) in 2008; in 2009, he was named one of 50 Canadian Ambassadors for New Music by the Canadian Music Centre and on January 1, 2010 he was made a member of the Order of Canada, for his innovative leadership of Tapestry and his dedication to the children of Regent Park. In 2011, Strongman conducted the Toronto premiere of Pub Operas (Brock/Williams) and was guest conductor for Wilfred Laurier University’s Fall Opera Showcase featuring new works developed under the Tapestry banner.

Michael Mori joined the Tapestry team as a full time Associate Artistic Director and Metcalf Intern this past January.  Recently nominated for a Juno award, Michael Mori began performing in Opera at the age of nine in NYC. Since then, his training has encompassed theatre, dance, and a Masters in Opera Performance including training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.  Michael has been directing opera and operetta for the past seven years and has recently worked with opera director and luminary Tim Albery as assistant director and will be working with him again in Dallas this coming spring. Michael is new to Toronto and very pleased to be joining Tapestry's talented staff and creative team, championing new Canadian operas and training his own skills in stage directing and conducting. Recent music direction credits include Noor over Afghan at the Festival of Ideas and Creation at Canadian Stage.  Recent directing credits include Tapestry’s March New Opera Showcase, and Marjorie Chan’s Chapel with Fu-gen Theatre company.  In addition to singing with the Vancouver Opera, he has worked as a singer, music director and co-artistic director with Vancouver’s musica intima and with them has toured Europe and North America, been nominated for a Juno, and won best classical album in Western Canada for the all Canadian album Into Light.  Michael has also had his work as a librettist published in WestCoast Line. Nothing is Free with 2010 LibLab composer Iman Habibi premiered in Vancouver at the Spatial Poetics Festival. He is very happy to have found such a fitting family in Tapestry!

In 2010 Christopher Foley was hard at work learning the finer points of programming, marketing, publicity, development, finance, and educational outreach as Tapestry New Opera's very first Leadership Legacy Intern. As a member of the Tapestry New Work Studio Company, he has been a coach/repetiteur for recent productions of Opera to Go (2004-10), The Shadow, Nigredo Hotel, and Facing South, as well as being on the creative team for Tapestry’s unique Composer-Librettist Laboratory. At the Eastman School of Music, he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1994, majoring in Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music. He now teaches at the Royal Conservatory of Music, serving as head of the voice department in the Conservatory School, where he also started the RCM's popular Collaborative Piano class.  Recent performances include the Eastman School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series, the Women in Music Festival, the University of Western Ontario, the Festival of the Sound, Word on the Street, and the Algoma Fall Festival. As author of the Collaborative Piano Blog, he writes about issues of importance to the collaborative pianist, as well as current musical events in Toronto and elsewhere. Dr. Foley was a pianist and coach for the singers featured on the Bravo!Canada reality show Bathroom Divas, was interviewed for CBC Television’s Living in Toronto, and was featured in a Toronto Star article about video games and music education.

Jennifer Tung is one of Ontario’s most sought after vocal coaches, piano accompanists, sopranos, instructors, and adjudicators.  She is currently the Vocal Department Coordinator and a vocal coach at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music as well as the founder, faculty and coordinator of the vocal program for the Glenn Gould School Academy.  In the summer of 2006, Tung was invited to join the faculty of the “Songfest” Young Artist Program in Malibu, California and has been the assistant director and faculty member since 2009. In the summer of 2008, Tung served as a voice teacher, vocal coach and music director at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival in Waimea, Hawaii.  She was also invited to participate in the Schubert master classes as a pianist at the prestigious Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme.  In the summer of 2009, Tung once again joined Hawaii Performing Arts Festival as faculty in both the voice and collaborative piano program. This past summer, in addition to her duties at Songfest, she was on faculty as a vocal coach at the Vianden Music Festival in Luxembourg as well as a collaborative pianist in the Wolf and Strauss art song program at the Britten Pears Young Artist Programme.  An advocate of contemporary music, Tung was appointed as the repetiteur and pianist for the inaugural season of the Tapestry New Opera Studio in the summer of 2007.

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