This february has become a month for new opera. Toronto will see a world premiere of a Canadian work, the professional world premiere of another Canadian work and the Canadian premiere of an acclaimed 21st century opera. In the depths of winter we already see the new growth of spring. The world premiere is Obeah Opera by Nicole Brooks running February 16 to March 4. For more on that work, see Robert Wallace’s interview with Brooks in this issue.

18First to appear is the Canadian premiere of L’Amour de loin (Love from Afar or more accurately “The Far-Away Love”) by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho at the Canadian Opera Company. Not only will this be the first time the COC has staged an opera by a Finnish composer, it will also mark the first time it has staged an opera by a female composer.

This opera that premiered in 2000 at the Salzburg Festival tells the story of a world-weary 12th century troubadour from France who carries on a long-distance love affair with a beautiful woman living in Tripoli, Lebanon, whom he called in Languedoc his “amor de lonh.” Although they never see or speak to each other, their feelings develop and grow through the efforts of an enigmatic Pilgrim, who carries messages of love and yearning between the two. Saariaho drew her inspiration for the work from the life and song texts of Jaufré Rudel (died c.1147), a French prince and troubadour who wrote of his obsessive love for an ideal, unattainable woman. This is the well-known theme known as “courtly love” that swept Europe during this period. The yearning expressed has a religious component, due to the rise of Mariolatry, that leads the poet to ask whether such a love is best preserved from afar.

Reviewing the opera in 2000, New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote that Saariaho’s music “combines vivid orchestration, the subtle use of electronic instruments and imaginative, sometimes unearthly writing for chorus ... The vocal writing is by turns elegiac and conversational. Her harmonic language is tonally grounded, with frequent use of sustained low pedal tones, but not tonal. Bits of dissonance, piercing overtones and gently jarring electronic sound spike the undulant harmonies, but so subtly that the overall aural impression is of beguiling consonance … Her evocations of the troubadour songs, with medieval modal harmony and fragments of elegiac tunes, are marvelous.”

The new COC production is conducted by COC music director Johannes Debus and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, known for his work with Cirque du Soleil. It features an all-Canadian cast. Baritone Russell Braun is Jaufré Rudel, soprano Erin Wall is his beloved Clémence and mezzo Krisztina Szabó sings the role of the mysterious Pilgrim. Sung in the original French of Lebanese librettist Amin Maaloof, L’Amour de loin (which, unlike other companies, the COC insists on calling Love from Afar) runs for eight performances from February 2 to 22. For more, visit

Taptoo! is the opera receiving its professional world premiere, with music by John Beckwith and libretto by James Reaney. The opera written in 1995 was given its world premiere by Opera McGill in 1999 and was later staged by the University of Toronto Opera Division in 2003. Toronto Operetta Theatre is presenting its professional premiere as part of the national commemorations of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The title refers to the last drum-and-bugle signal of the day that would later expand into what is now known as a military tattoo.

19bThe work was conceived as a prequel to Harry Somers’ opera Serinette which had had a highly successful premiere in 1990 at the Elora Festival. As Beckwith writes in Unheard Of: Memoirs of a Canadian Composer, to be published in February 2012, “Where Serinette was set in York and Sharon during the 1830s, the new piece deals with the founding of York by John Graves Simcoe in 1783 and covers a time period from the American War of Independence to just before the War of 1812.” Beckwith says that the opera features a number of Reaneyesque devices: “Cast members assume a variety of roles, changing age or gender rapidly, functioning solo for one scene and in the next, as part of a chorus; the orchestral players are sometimes required to join in the action.” In the TOT production, he says, a cast of 18 singers will cover 26 characters including historical figures, like Simcoe and Colonel “Mad Anthony” Wayne, and other imaginary ones like boy soldiers Ebenezer and Seth, the aboriginal Atahentsic, settlers and adventurers.

TOT lays claim to the work because Beckwith himself says he was inspired by ballad operas, the earliest examples of what would later become operetta. As Beckwith says, “Two period productions of early music theatre affected me around this time [of composing]. John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera and Thomas Arne’s Love in a Village were the most-often-performed ballad operas of 18th century England … I saw Taptoo! as the modern equivalent of a ballad opera, in which scraps of familiar songs and dances would now and then drift into the musical score. I included about 20 such musical references — hymn tunes, popular sentimental or patriotic songs, dances, marches and, of course, historical military music.”

The TOT cast includes Michael Barrett as Seth, Robert Longo as Wayne, Todd Delaney as Simcoe, Allison Angelo as Atahentsic, with Mark Petracchi and Sarah Hicks as Mr. and Mrs. Harple, Eugenia Dermentzis as Mrs. Simcoe and boy sopranos Daniel Bedrossian and Teddy Perdikoulias. The composer’s son, Larry Beckwith, conducts and TOT general director Guillermo Silva-Marin directs. Taptoo! runs only February 24 to 26. For more information see

Beckwith says of his collaborations with James Reaney, “Without articulating our objectives further, I believe we wanted to affect our audiences in two ways — to move them and to cheer them.” We must thank TOT for giving Taptoo! a chance to achieve these goals.

Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre.  He can be contacted at

In toronto’s opera scene, the last month of the old year and the first of the new provide a mix of old and new themselves. There is the Toronto premiere of a work that is standard repertoire in many central European countries, an unconventional production of a warhorse and an unconventional production of a seldom seen work.

Back by popular demand: Against the Grain Theatre remounts its acclaimed production of Puccini’s La Bohème not in a theatre but in a pub, the Tranzac Club at 292 Brunswick Ave. to be precise, December 1 to 3. The opera is directed, adapted and translated into English by AtG co-founder Joel Ivany, a frequent assistant director of productions for the Canadian Opera Company.

Inspired by the success of the musical Rent, in which the late Jonathan Larson updated the story of Puccini’s opera to the artistic community of 1990s New York, Ivany and company thought, “Why not set the opera itself in the bohemian atmosphere of contemporary Toronto?” The Tranzac Club, a favourite of indie musicians, home to several arts groups and central meeting place during the Toronto Fringe Festival, seemed like the perfect location. There’s no proscenium to separate the audience from the performers; in fact, the soloists are scattered among the patrons during the performance. AtG follows in the success of pub opera performances in the UK. In 2011, OperaUpClose won the Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production over productions from the Royal Opera House and the English National Opera.

On his blog, Ivany heaps praise on the cast he has assembled: “We’ve got a fabulous cast lined up. Miriam Khalil, as Mimi, is a young soprano who recently made her debut at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in the UK. Our Rodolfo, Ryan Harper, is a former member of the Atelier Lyrique program at Opéra de Montréal and our Marcello, Justin Welsh, is a former member of the Ensemble Studio at the Canadian Opera Company. Our cast is rounded out by cabaret singer Lindsay Sutherland Boal as Musetta, current COC Ensemble member Neil Craighead as Colline, baritone Keith Lam as Schaunard and Gregory Finney as Benoît/Alcindoro.”

Christopher Mokrzewski, the pianist and music director, has been on the music staff for both the COC and Opera Atelier, for the latter as coach and répétiteur for La Clemenza di Tito. This season he will be giving a solo recital of Liszt and Messiaen as well as serving as accompanist for both classical and jazz vocal recitals.

For tickets and more information about Against the Grain, visit

26_againstthegrain-boheme_operaSeldom seen: The programming slot after Christmas to just beyond Epiphany has been filled for more than two decades by productions from Toronto Operetta Theatre. This year from December 28, 2011, to January 8, 2012, TOT presents its first-ever production of The Gypsy Princess (Die Csárdásfürstin) by Imre Kálmán (1882–1953). While the TOT has presented Kálmán’s Countess Maritza (1924) twice and even the rarity Gypsy Violins (1912) once, it has never staged the Csárdásfürstin (1915), which brought Kálmán his greatest success. According to the data gathered by Operabase, in the last three years there were 39 productions of Csárdásfürstin, 12 of them new, in 29 cites, in 11 countries including not just Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary — that one might expect — but also Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Macedonia, Norway, Poland and Slovakia.

The plot about an aristocratic family’s distress that their young heir is in love with a cabaret singer plays out much like a story by P.G. Wodehouse. The TOT production will feature Lara Ciekiewicz as the glamorous Sylvia Varescu, Elizabeth Beeler as Countess Stasi, Keith Klassen as Prince Edwin in love with Sylvia and Ian Simpson as Count Boni in love with Stasi. Derek Bate will conduct the TOT Orchestra and Guillermo Silva-Marin will direct. The production premieres under the honourary patronage of Hungarian ambassador His Excellency László Pordány. For tickets visit

27_hercules_hydra_-paintingHandel’s Hercules: From January 19 to 22, 2012, Tafelmusik will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Tafelmusik Baroque Choir with a “staged concert” version of Georg Frideric Handel’s Hercules. The piece will be staged by none other than Marshall Pynkoski, stage director for Opera Atelier. When I asked Pynkoski back in September what a “staged concert” would be, he answered that a lot would depend on what was and was not possible in Koerner Hall. What we could be sure of is that the soloists would be off book and interact as characters and that the Opera Atelier corps de ballet would be involved in the dances.

27_hercules_allysonmchardyThe question of Hercules’ genre has existed since the work premiered in 1745. Handel called it a “Musical Drama” and indeed its English-language libretto by Thomas Broughton is based on Sophocles’ tragedy The Women of Trachis. The work was first performed in a theatre, not a church, but as an oratorio without any stage action. Modern critics have since suggested that this confusion of genre led to its later neglect. Handel had the same experience with Semele (1744) which was also first presented as an oratorio, but since oratorios were supposed to take biblical stories as their subject matter, it was also rejected by the public and suffered similar obscurity until the 20th century. Now Semele has been fully embraced as an opera and will conclude the COC’s 2011–12 season.

The plot concerns the circumstances of Hercules’ death. When Hercules returns to his wife Dejanira after his 12 labours, he brings the captive Iole in tow. This arouses Dejanira’s jealousy and she seeks to retain Hercules’ love through a tunic imbued with the blood of Hercules’ enemy, the centaur Nessus, which supposedly can render the wearer faithful to the giver. In fact, the garment is Nessus’ revenge on his opponent since it causes unendurable pain that leads Hercules to ask his son to set him upon a funeral pyre.

For Tafelmusik, Sumner Thompson will sing the role of Hercules, Allyson McHardy will be Dejanira, with Nathalie Paulin as Iole, Colin Blazer as Hercules’ son Hyllus and Mireille Lebel as the herald Lichas. Jeanne Lamon will conduct. For tickets and more information, visit

Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre.  He can be contacted at

November offers those in Toronto and vicinity a chance to see the Canadian premiere of a new Scottish opera with a Canadian connection, and the revivals of seldom-seen American and Canadian operas. This is a further demonstration, if anyone needed one, of how vital such companies are in maintaining the diversity of Toronto’s opera scene.

18_opera_sloans_inside18_opera_sloans_outsideFirst to appear, on November 10, 11 and 12, is Pub Operas by Scottish composer Gareth Williams, to a libretto by Canadian David Brock. The two met in 2009 at Tapestry New Opera’s LibLab, Tapestry’s composer/librettist incubator, and the project grew out of that meeting. The opera premiered earlier this year in July, at Sloan’s Bar in Glasgow as part of the Merchant City Festival. The venue was no quirk because Pub Operas was written specifically to celebrate the history of Sloan’s, which is Glasgow’s oldest pub, having been founded in 1797. The libretto, about life’s cycle of love, marriage, birth and death, is based on letters sent in by the public for whom Sloan’s played a real role at key points in their lives.

For the performance, the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery District will substitute for Sloan’s. The singers will be Xin Wang, Heather Jewson, James McLean and Benjamin Covey with Wayne Strongman leading a six-piece band. Sue Miner directs. For more information about the opera, visit; and for the history of Sloan’s visit

18_john_beckwith_photo_andre_leducAlso playing on November 11 and 12 will be the Toronto premiere of the 1989 opera Crazy to Kill by John Beckwith to a libretto by James Reaney. Toronto Masque Theatre will mount this production of “Canada’s first detective opera” at the Enwave Theatre starring singers Kimberly Barber, Doug McNaughton and Shannon Mercer and actors Brendan Wall and Ingrid Doucet. The work, scored for piano and percussion, wiill feature Greg Oh as pianist and conductor and Ed Reifel as percussionist. David Ferry will direct.

18_opera_puppets_218_opera_puppets_3The story for the libretto comes from the 1941 novel of the same title by Ann Cardwell (pseudonym of Jean Makins Pawley) that is still in print. It concerns Detective Fry who, with the help of “model patient” Agatha Lawson, investigates a series of murders at Elmhurst, a private mental asylum for the wealthy in Southwestern Ontario. Reaney has stated that it was reading this novel that inspired him to become a writer. The commission (from the Edward John Music Foundation and Billie Bridgman for the Guelph Spring Festival) limited the cast to three singers and two actors. To get around these constraints Reaney had the idea of giving Agatha the habit of making life-sized doll puppets, eighteen in all, who, manipulated by the performers, also portray characters at Elmhurst. After a workshop at Banff in 1988, the one-act opera premiered at the Guelph Spring Festival on May 11, 1989, with Jean Stilwell as Agatha, Paul Massel as Fry and Sharon Crowther as Mme Dupont, an Elmhurst patient. For more information visit Also note that the fall edition of Opera Canada includes an article adapted from a chapter from Unheard Of: Memoirs of a Canadian Composer by John Beckwith, to be published in 2012 that deals with the background of Crazy to Kill and other of his operas of the period.

On November 23 and 26, Opera by Request (OBR) and Ensemble TrypTych (ET) co-produce the first Canadian performance of The Saint of Bleecker Street by Gian Carlo Menotti. The 1954 opera had its Canadian premiere at the University of British Columbia in the 1980s, but as far as OBR artistic director William Shookhoff can determine, has not had a full performance in Canada since then. OBR and ET chose the opera in consultation with the performers to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the composer. OBR traditionally does one choral opera per season with the University of Toronto Scarborough Concert Choir, and as this is Menotti’s only choral opera it fit the bill. Besides, this seldom-heard opera provides something more out of the way than The Medium (1946) or The Consul (1950).

Bleecker Street, which won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, is set in New York City’s Little Italy, where a young woman named Anina manifests the stigmata and begins to see angels. A conflict develops between her atheist brother Michele, who thinks she needs medical attention, and the neighbourhood which regards her as a saint. Shookhoff says, “As with The Consul, there is a timelessness to it which resonates particularly with younger participants, as it does with all of us: the conflict between tradition and new surroundings; between faith and rationale; and the stigma of relationships which go against the norm.”

The work will be performed in concert with Shookhoff as pianist on November 23 at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus and on November 26 at Trinity Presbyterian York Mills. Deena Nicklefork will sing Anina and Avery Krisman will sing Michele with six other soloists rounding out the cast. For more visit

Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre. He can be contacted at

opera_opera_atelier_don_giovanni_photo_by_bruce_zinger._phillip_addis__curtis_sullivan_and_artists_of_atelier_balletFrom October 29 to November 5, Opera Atelier premieres its new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Phillip Addis sings the title role with Carla Huhtanen as Zerlina, Vasil Garvanliev as Leporello, Peggy Kriha Dye as Donna Elvira and Meghan Lindsay as Donna Anna. Italian conductor Stefano Montanari leads the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Marshall Pynkoski directs.

During an extensive telephone interview with Pynkoski, I raised the question, “What can be called ‘new’ in a period production?” In answer, he had much to say about Opera Atelier’s goals and what a period production is:

“By period production we’re not talking about a museum. We’re not talking about reproducing something someone did at an earlier time. We could do that if we wanted to, and at times we do, but when we say ‘period production’ we mean we are taking elements of every discipline involved in the production — the acting style, the singing style, the dancing style, the orchestral playing — all of those things, not so that we can copy what they did in the 18th century, but to see if there is anything that we’ve missed in the past and anything that we’ve lost that will challenge us as artists in the 21st century.”

“Our goal is to be more linear. We want to be storytellers. We’re going to follow the text and we’re going to try to figure out how to make it make sense. For example, we’re taking a look at what happened in the early productions of Don Giovanni so that we can challenge ourselves in a new way. Of course, we’ve done Don Giovanni before, but I think we’ve learned a great deal about it over the years. Initially, we were unable to build the production we wanted and had to cobble it together from what we had in stock. This is our first complete statement of what we’d like Don Giovanni to be.”

“The most important thing I want to get across is that it is a comedy. That doesn’t mean that there are no tragic or dark moments. All great comedy has moments that are poignant. But what I have right in front of me is a letter Andrew Parrott gave me, where Mozart refers to Don Giovanni as an opera buffa. I don’t care if everyone else called it a dramma giocoso with an emphasis on the drama. Mozart called it an opera buffa and I’m following what he said, because I think it makes the opera absolutely make sense.”

“I’m sick of seeing a Don Giovanni about a middle-aged Lothario who hates woman and can’t achieve intimacy. It never makes sense because it means every woman on stage is insane. How exactly can a horrible, dirty old man be irresistible? On the other hand, we find things amusing, even charming, in young people that we would find reprehensible in middle age. Just think, the first Don was under 20. The second Don was under 25. Therefore I have to find someone like Phillip [Addis] who registers young, innocent, fresh, irresistible.”

“Basically, Don Giovanni is Cherubino at age 25. He says all the same things. He falls in love with every woman he sees. He doesn’t hate women — he loves them. And women adore him. There has to be something adorable about him, but I have yet to see a Don Giovanni where I understand why women love him. To my mind Don Giovanni is the most innocent and the most honest man on stage. He’s a comic character and everything on stage revolves around him.”

“Anyone in the 18th century would have known from the first scene that we’re in the world of the Italian commedia dell’arte with the servant, like a Harlequin, outside a tavern who wants a drink but has no money while his master is inside drinking. The design will not be as strongly commedia as it was last time. I think we made our point. Martha [Mann]’s costumes will be more Spanish but will still retain very clear commedia touches.”

“What makes it ‘new’ when talking about period is to say it’s a comedy and to discover what that means. It means we have to re-examine every character and fight the stereotypes that have been built up over the past hundred years or so. It’s a big challenge for everyone, especially the singers, because they come in with so much baggage from other productions that we have to strip away.”

“We’ve recently learned that in the original production the Commendatore and Mazetto were played by the same person with little time for a costume change at the finale. This immediately tells us something about the opening. The Commendatore is not some doddering old man who staggers around the stage before Don Giovanni kills him. He has a daughter, after all, who is probably 17. Therefore he’s a vital, strong, dangerous middle-aged man. Of course, the Don calls him ‘old’ as any young person would. As soon as you see that the duel at the beginning is thus more on an equal footing, itchanges everything. It’s no longer the brutal murder of a senile old fool. Once we learned this we thought, ‘Let’s do it. Curtis [Sullivan] will play both roles. It’s a challenge, but we’re just doing what Mozart did.’”

For tickets and more information visit


For devotees of Music Theatre in its many forms, Atelier’s “Don Giovanni” won’t be the only event of interest this month.

On the afternoon of Sunday October 2, Opera in Concert presents a concert titled L’accordéoniste: Latin Heat with Kimberly Barber, mezzo; Peter Tiefenbach, piano; Carol Bauman, percussion; and Mary-Lou Vetere, accordion. The same day, at 7:30pm, Solomon Tencer Productions presents An Evening at the Opera at the Studio Theatre, Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Monday October 10, 8pm, sees the opening of an extended run of Art of Time Ensemble’s “I Send You This Cadmium Red,” an evening of theatre, dance and music, exploring correspondence between artist John Berger and filmmaker John Christie.

Wednesday October 12 at noon Canadian Opera Company/ Queen of Puddings Music Theatre showcase Ana Sokolovic’s new a cappella opera “Svadba — The Wedding.”

Wednesday October 19 at 7:30pm Opera Belcanto’s “Cav/ Pag” double bill kicks off a two-night stand at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.

Friday October 21 at 7:30pm, Opera By Request presents Handel’s “Orlando” at College Street United Church; Markham Theatre for Performing Arts has Isabel Bayrakdarian in recital at 8pm; and also at 8pm at St. John’sYork Mills Anglican Church is What They Did For Love, the debut concert of a newly formed opera ensemble, Opera Rouge.

Sunday October 23 brings Zarzuela Gold from Toronto Operetta Theatre, an opening gala concert; the same day, the University of Toronto Faculty of Music’s perennially popular Opera Tea features a Menotti Double Bill in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Saturday October 29 sees not only the start of the aforementioned Atelier “Don Giovanni,” but also what might be described as the “final return” of “Two Pianos Four Hands,” Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt’s musical comedy. about, what else, music.

Thursday November 3 and Saturday November 5 Opera York’s Madama Butterfly is on the boards at Richmond Hill Centre for the Arts. Friday November 4 Opera By Request presents Massenet’s “Herodiade.”

Details on all these, and more can be found in the listings.

Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre. He can be contacted at

So far over 35 productions have been announced for the 2011/12 opera season. Since so many of these are Toronto premieres or unfamiliar repertoire this looks to be quite an exciting season.

opera_oksana1The Canadian Opera Company has several fascinating offerings. The fall season opens with Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride (1779) starring Susan Graham — the world’s foremost Iphigénie. The production, running September 22 to October 15, continues Robert Carsen’s series of interpretations of Gluck that began last season with his highly acclaimed Orfeo ed Euridice. February brings the Canadian premiere of Love from Afar (L’Amour de loin) (2000) by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. This continues COC General Director Alexander Neef’s plan to include a contemporary work every season and it will also mark the first time the COC has staged a work by a female composer. In April, the COC will mount A Florentine Tragedy (1917), its first-ever opera by Alexander Zemlinsky, on a double bill with Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. And in May, the company will stage its first-ever Semele (1744) by George Frideric Handel. For more information visit

Opera Atelier’s season premieres a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, October 29, and remounts Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Armide (1686) in April, last seen in 2005. Toronto has to count itself as very spoiled to have a second chance to see an opera like Armide. In January, Opera Atelier Co-Artistic Director Marshall Pynkoski will direct a concert production of Handel’s oratorio Hercules (1744) with Tafelmusik at Koerner Hall. For more see and

Toronto Operetta Theatre charts new ground with its first-ever staging of Imre Kálmán’s Die Csárdásfürstin (1915), in late December. The TOT has presented other Kálmán works but strangely not The Gypsy Princess (as it is known in English), even though it’s regarded as one of the pinnacles of “Silver Age” Viennese operetta. In February it will present the first professional staging of John Beckwith’s opera Taptoo!, an opera with a War of 1812 theme given its world premiere by the University of Toronto Opera Division in 2003. Toronto Masque Theatre coincidentally will stage another opera by Beckwith, also to a libretto by James Reaney, Crazy to Kill (1989), earlier in November.
For more information see and

opera_kaija_saariahoNormally, the double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (1890) and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (1892) would not count as unusual, except that the COC last staged this traditional pairing way back in 1966. Since then, the company has yoked one or the other to various parts of Puccini’s Il Trittico (1918). This season, those who would like to “Cav and Pag” together have three choices: Opera Lyra Ottawa has scheduled them for September 10 to 17; Opera Belcanto presents them October 19 and 21; and Opera Hamilton has them on April 21 and 23. See, and for more.

The tradition of presenting operas in concert has immeasurably widened our knowledge of works now rarely staged. This year two companies offer some especially unusual items. Opera in Concert has planned Giacomo Meyerbeer’s once-popular Les Huguenots (1836) for November 27, Verdi’s first opera Oberto (1839) for March 4 and for April 1, Franz Schubert’s virtually unknown Die Freunde von Salamanka (written in 1815 but not performed until 1928). Meanwhile, Opera by Request has scheduled Handel’s Orlando (1733) for October 21, Massenet’s Hérodiade (1881) for November 4 and Giancarlo Menotti’s The Saint of Bleecker Street (1955) for November 23. Look for more information at and

Tapestry New Opera has three unusual offerings. Its season opener, “Opera Briefs,” gives us exciting new works from the Composer Librettist Laboratory, “Liblab,” September 23 and 24, at Theatre Passe Muraille. In November, it presents Pub Operas by Gareth Williams that premiered in Glasgow in July earlier this year. The libretto (by David Brock) is based on the stories of the patrons of Sloan’s Bar, Glasgow’s oldest pub, that has played host to the citizens’ betrothals, weddings, christenings and wakes. Then in June 2012, it will mount the first full workshop production of The Enslavement and Liberation of Oksana G. by Aaron Gervais and Colleen Murphy, excerpts of which have been tantalizing audiences for several seasons now. See for more.

Those with a taste for ground-breaking new operas will have much to cheer them. On February 2, Soundstreams will present The Sealed Angel (1988) a liturgical work by Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin that will be staged at Koerner Hall as choral opera with choreography by Lars Schreiber and sung by the combined forces of the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Amadeus Choir. See for more.

The 2011/12 season ends with a bang with the Canadian premiere of Philip Glass’s seminal 20th-century opera Einstein at the Beach (1976). This, the North American premiere of the first new production of the work in 20 years, will be the centrepiece of Luminato 2012 that runs from June 8 to 17. More information will become available.

Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre. He can be contacted at

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