Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Aeroplan Mini-Opera

This Tuesday will see the Toronto premiere (albeit at a private concert) of a short operatic scene I had the pleasure of premiering in September at the Aeroplan convention in Montreal. Aeroplan prides itself on being a fluid organization, and as part of their annual convention they schedule unconventional activities in order to build community and teamwork. This year, Tapestry New Opera Works was the guest organization invited to participate.

As the managers and executives entered the convention space on the first day, they were required to fill out a card on which they listed an Aeroplan moment that changed their life. From the collected cards, the composer/librettist team of Darren Fung and Colleen Murphy then chose five scenarios that the convention delegates, divided into teams of ten, would then expand into mini-operas on the following day, complete with a selection of pop songs that the teams would have to rewrite lyrics for and perform.

The other task of Darren and Colleen would be to choose one scenario from the assembled cards and create a five-minute mini-opera that would then be performed by tenor Keith Klassen, mezzo-soprano Jessica Lloyd, and myself at the keyboard the following day. The scenario they finally chose, one that they noticed kept on being mentioned in card after card involved the recent death of a trusted and valued Aeroplan employee in a tragic car accident.

The scene that Colleen and Darren came up with involved an employee on his first day on the job (tenor) who kept on getting lost and barging into the office of a manager (mezzo). After the first-day employee bursts into the manager's office a second time they strike up a conversation. Just then, the manager fields a telephone call in which she finds out that the woman who trained her on the job has just passed away after a car accident. The first-day employee then ends up comforting the devastated manager.

Since this scene was based on a real-life situation in the life of the company, the emotions of the actual event were still very much with the Aeroplan employees when they saw the performance. There was not a dry eye in the house. What was also fascinating is that the woman who fielded the telephone call in real life was in the audience and was able to actually experience herself being portrayed on the operatic stage.

This scene, with a working title of First Day, was an operatic first in that it was commissioned by a major corporation (Aeroplan) to portray an actual situation in the life of that company in a positive and community-affirming light. I was also impressed by the quality of the scenes that the Aeroplan teams created and performed and how completely they surrendered themselves to a process that must have seemed absolutely alien to them at first.

Although Tuesday's performance is invitation-only at a Toronto location I cannot disclose on the blog, I hope that there will be public performances of First Day in the coming months.

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