Views
1 year ago

Volume 23 Issue 5 - February 2018

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • February
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Performing
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Quartet

the church are kind of

the church are kind of doing it alone – women of the faith are not supporting them because we are taught not to question the religious authority. I have mixed feelings about it because as a child I thought being a nun was the greatest thing one could achieve. I really wanted that, until actually one day – I went to an all-girl Catholic school – one day a nun who was teaching there punched a student in the face. And that day I understand that being a nun would not make me a better person. That I would still be the person that I am. And that I can be the person that I am in my own clothes. And still do what I consider to be God’s work. This is a roundabout way to say: when we think about salvaging, I think about how people who are oppressed by patriarchal structure have a desire to be absorbed into that patriarchal structure just because of the absence of alternatives – and the inability to imagine alternatives. Myself included. When I say, for example, that we should abolish prisons, that’s just obvious to me, and when people ask me then what should we do with people who break the law, all I can say is I don’t know because we haven’t been permitted the space to imagine things being any different. Maybe the institution can be salvaged, but what would it look like if we rethink the institution? Are you in favour of the Catholic church finally allowing women to be ordained and priests to get married? Wouldn’t that be awesome? I mean, I grew up with deacons who are married and have children and if I had a question for somebody I’d go to a deacon before a priest because I understand that they know what life is – that they’re not living in a way that’s separate and above me and at a distance from all the experiences I’m struggling with. I guess I hope for those things, but at the same time the church has become such a political organ, and I don’t mean now with this new Pope, or with the evolution of what Islam is right now… Catholicism, and Islam, and Buddhism, it’s all becoming quite perverted in a political way and my understanding of what Christianity is is not a political Christianity. It’s so unreasonably and childishly absolute and whole. I care for everybody. I value all light. It’s hard to do, yes. That’s why it’s a goal; your spiritual life is not supposed to be easy. It’s not supposed to be, in my opinion, all about serenity. The way that the Buddhists teach that all life is a struggle, and that the struggle has a reason – yeah. Yeah. There will be poor people – give them stuff. It’s that easy to me. Yet it’s not easy. It’s simple, but nothing simplistic about it. I think that all the faiths have a valuable core. Religion is like driving or work or anything in the world – what’s wrong with it is people. And people will always be flawed, so this will always be a problem. But at the core most faiths have really valuable guidance for us. And this is not to say that if you’re atheist or agnostic, you don’t have a moral code – you do, it’s just based in something else. We all look to find things that make us our best selves. Lucifer too features in the Forbidden. How does that play out? In our story, Lucifer is both the catalyst to enlightenment, and an object of pity. The central interaction is between Lucifer and a child and there’s some negotiation there. Lucifer says something I believe to be true, which is: you can’t just blindly follow this authority, you have to question things. What we’ll be seeing is a child – in my understanding, everyone’s spiritual positioning is childlike – who’s torn between the intellectual understanding that rules have to be followed, and the visceral alignment with what Lucifer is saying, You know that that guy is not always right, so why follow? Look at the world; is the world what they’ve told you? Probably the longest conversations that I’ve had were on the nature of Lucifer. Both Afarin and I spent a lot of time looking at our respective traditions. In both cases, Lucifer has always wanted nothing but to be close to God, and my concept of how not to be allowed to be close to God is what is done to Lucifer…. I feel like western pop culture has inflated the importance and the power of Lucifer. Because it’s “juicy.” The idea that the devil wants all the souls, and evil for evil’s sake. I don’t believe in evil for Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (left) and Afarin Mansouri evil’s sake; I believe that every villain is trying to achieve an objective, and we don’t always agree that that objective is worthy. I think that Lucifer is on this eternal punishment, and who would not be spiteful, who would not be bitter and angry in such circumstance? Who would not hurt so much that they would want to hurt everyone that they can reach? How can I not have some compassion for that? We’re bunch of saps, I tell ya. We are a couple of soft-hearted saps, Afarin and I. But we really worked from aspects of Lucifer that are consistent between our faiths. And sort of negotiated a shared story about Lucifer. I honestly think that the devil from the movies is for people who haven’t read the Bible. If you really read the story and really look into the fallen angel concept, it’s the saddest story every told. I don’t know if you’ve read J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello? The title character, who’s an atheist, says something that struck a chord with me, also an atheist: evil, as a concept, survives even for the atheists. We’ve all seen it – if not in person, then in the news of war crimes, concentration camps... You don’t need an elaborate religious system; the concept remains useful, unfortunately. Yes. There is such a thing as certain things being wrong. And if there was no God, those things would still be wrong. But let’s return to the libretto. And the music. The opera will have Persian, Western classical and hip-hop music. Hip-hop is there thanks to you? Yes, hip-hop is my primary artistic form. And because it’s TAP:EX, we want to experiment with form, we want to see what happens when the aesthetics collide. It’s not only a matter of rapping on opera, which is not a brand new thing, but it’s also a matter of engaging hip-hop aesthetics. We’re going to be doing something that’s probably uncomfortable for the singers - coming into rehearsals and going, like, “Switch it up!” Equally, we’ll be doing some things that are uncomfortable for the rapper. In the kind of hip-hop that I practise, you do not speak what you didn’t yourself write. And in this performance, that’s not the case. I’ll be writing rap for another emcee. In Tapestry Lib Labs, we worked on how opera is structured, and how different roles interact, and how it comes together. And then I went back home to hip-hop, and did a show where if I didn’t feel like saying a thing, I wouldn’t say that thing and would say something else instead. Now we’re trying to work in this way, with a certain amount of prepared material. And then every day – we unsettle it. Which to me is at the heart of what we’re doing: we’re unsettling both practices. And then, if possible, unsettling your entire spirit. TAP EX: Forbidden runs February 8 to 11 at the Tapestry Opera Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery District, featuring Neema Bickersteth, soprano; Shirin Eskandani, mezzo; Alexander Hajek, baritone; Saye Sky, Farsi rapper/spoken-word artist; and Michael Shannon, conductor. Lydia Perović is an arts journalist in Toronto. Send her your art-ofsong news to artofsong@thewholenote.com. 30 | February 2018 thewholenote.com

Beat by Beat | On Opera Electric Bonds Of Life The Ins and Outs of Indie DAVID PERLMAN Christopher Hoile, our regular opera columnist, will return to his usual spot here in March, so I will leave it to him in his upcoming column, next issue, to walk you through the fine points of the Canadian Opera Company’s just-announced 2018/2019 season. Instead, as an enthusiastic but inexpert guest columnist, I thought it might be fun to start out by addressing myself not to the column’s usual readers, but to those of you who, either as guests to our city, or new readers of this magazine, or opera newbies might benefit from some friendly advice on how to traverse the potentially tricky terrain (both geographic and semantic) of opera in our fair town. The rest of you, who know your way around both these things, can skip ahead a few paragraphs, for what’s actually on the menu. Rule One (Geography): Be careful what you ask for – especially if you are in a cab. You might be lucky (or unlucky) enough to get a cab driver who actually knows his way around town, in which case responding to “Where to?” with a nonchalant“The Opera House, please” could result in finding yourself 3.7km due east of your intended destination, in an old Queen St. E. venue (that is actually called The Opera House!) in a throng of 1,200 or so mostly bobbing and weaving concertgoers, listening to Avatar, The Brains & Hellzapoppin’, with Gilda and Rigoletto nowhere in sight. The actual opera house here is called the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (named after Vivaldi’s favourite hotel chain), and the city’s premier opera company, with typical Toronto understatement, is called the Canadian Opera Company. The COC shares the FSCPA, for performing purposes with Toronto’s premier ballet company, the equally modestly named National Ballet of Canada, otherwise known as NBoC, or “the Ballet.” Rule Two (Semantics): Having established that “The Opera House” is not the opera house, let’s move on to an equally crucial distinction, The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts this time semantics. It is this: in Toronto, expressing an interest in "the opera" does not mean the same thing as expressing an interest in "opera." The former is generally assumed by listeners to mean performances by the the city’s premier opera company in the city’s premier opera house. The latter can mean a far more nuanced range of things. So listen very carefully when someone tells you about their relationship to this particular art form! The distinction between “I went to the opera” and “I went to an opera” is as important as the difference between a residential address on the 200s block of Chaplin Crescent or on the 300s block, the latter being where, after that winding avenue of stately homes crosses Eglinton Avenue, it peters out in a little thicket of mostly post-World War II midrise apartment buildings. (I also suspect, with only the slightest tinge of arts worker bitterness, that more residents of the 200 block of Chaplin Crescent would be likely to have tickets to the opera than their trans- Eglintonian 300-block counterparts.) All that being said, within their respective genres the COC and NBoC are, without doubt, the definite article, towering like forest giants above the Torontonian cultural undergrowth, and wellworth a visit. So, now that we’ve established what the opera means in this town, and how to get there, let’s take a little ramble instead through the city’s operatic undergrowth, where the fascinating biodiversity of the town’s actual operatic culture can be observed and measured. Welcome to the Undergrowth: It must first be said that “forest SAM JAVANOUH 18.19 BRINGING ART TO LIFE CHARPENTIER ACTÉON & RAMEAU PYGMALION OCT 25 – NOV 3, 2018 ELGIN THEATRE, 189 YONGE ST MOZART IDOMENEO APRIL 4 — 13, 2019 ELGIN THEATRE, 189 YONGE ST “Flawless… Opera Atelier has scored one of its greatest triumphs.” —TORONTO STAR SUBSCRIBE FOR AS LITTLE AS — OPERAATELIER.COM OR 416-703-3767 X222 CANADIAN SUPERSTAR MEASHA BRUEGGERGOSMAN AS ELETTRA Season Presenting Sponsor Season Underwriter Photo by Bruce Zinger thewholenote.com February 2018 | 31

Volumes 21-24 (2015-2018)

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)