Thursday, August 28, 2008

Creating Opera From Scratch at the 2008 Tapestry Composer/Librettist Laboratory

Today is the last day of the 2008 Tapestry Composer/Librettist Laboratory, which I've been playing at for the last few weeks. Here's what it is, in short:

4 composers and 4 librettists collaborative with each of the others in the opposite discipline to create 16 opera scenes over the course of the 9-day workshop. Each composer/librettist group has 48 hours to create a scene, after which the performers are called in, rehearse the work for 60-90 minutes, and then perform the work at a master class for dramaturge Michael Albano and musical dramaturge Wayne Strongman.

Here's another account of the workshop from the Tapestry site:
For most composers and writers the artistic process is a solitary one. Producers around the world agree that forming workable artistic partnerships between composers and playwrights is the single greatest challenge facing the development of new opera and music theatre. The Composer-Librettist Laboratory is Tapestry’s response to this challenge. Initiated in 1995, the laboratory is an intensive one-week workshop for composers and writers to explore the collaborative process. Currently, the program attracts participants from Canada, the United States, Germany and England. It is also the model for the English National Opera Studio’s All-in Opera, as well as Pacific Opera Victoria’s Composer-Librettist Workshop.
What's important to realize is that with some of the press that new opera workshops are getting (such as today's article in the New York Times about the Met's new opera projects) many people are tempted to think of the operatic development workshop as an entirely new idea. Not true. The Tapestry LibLab has been in operation since 1995, and the level of the work created in it, the level of discourse between composers and librettists, and the ability of the performers to create a performable account of the works from scratch has been improving to an astonishing degree.

If you're in the Toronto area, you can check out the final round of the workshop today at 4pm in the sanctuary of Rosedale United Church. Admission is free. Several scenes from the workshop will be featured in Tapestry's Opera Briefs in late September, as well as at the Word on the Street festival (more information to come shortly). From there, successful composer/librettist teams will then embark on larger operatic projects, either with Tapestry or other companies across Canada and the United States.

Here are the personnel for the 2008 Composer/Librettist Laboratory:


Scott Brubacher
Justine F. Chen
Teresa Connors
Jack Perla


David Brock
Spy Denomme-Welsh
Ken Gass
Andrew Moodie


Carla Huhtanen, soprano
Krisztina Szabo, mezzo soprano
Scott Belluz, countertenor
Keith Klassen, tenor
Alex Dobson, baritone


Christopher Foley (me)
Jennifer Tung


Michael Patrick Albano
Wayne Strongman

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