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Events for Opera Lovers at Luminato

Posted in Luminato, Tapestry New Opera by cToronto on May 23, 2010

Opera season in Toronto is winding down, with only a few more performances left to go for Idomeneo and Maria Stuarda, both of which I will be attending this coming week. But do not despair! Here are three opera-related events at the Luminato festival in June to tide you over:

The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer – starring John Malkovich

This event is “part theatre, part opera, part concert”, with Malkovich playing the part of a real-life serial killer, Jack Unterweger. Here’s part of the blurb from the Luminato website:

Stage and screen star John Malkovich reincarnates this deadly Don Juan – a man as outwardly charming as he was brilliantly manipulative – while two sopranos, their soaring voices blending with the music of the Orchester Wiener Akademie in arias by Haydn, Mozart, Vivaldi and others, represent the women in Unterweger’s life: the mother who abandoned him and the victims of his murderous obsession.

Serial killer stories, especially when sexualized as they frequently are, tend to be upsetting to me – I haven’t got the stomach for gruesome details. However, the combination of the opera angle and celebrity wattage might lure me into the theatre this time.

Prima Donna – composed by Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright has been working operatic references into his cabaret-style songs for a while, and now he’s tried his hand at writing a full-length, full-blown opera. The story as described has echoes of Sunset Boulevard: famed opera singer of yesteryear, long in retirement, plans a comeback and falls in love with a younger man. The wikipedia entry explains that it was originally intended to be a collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera, but that they parted ways after disagreeing on whether the libretto should be in French or English (the Met wanted English, Wainwright insisted on French).

I’ve long had a soft spot for Rufus Wainwright, and was disappointed to see Prima Donna generally disliked by critics (although critics from outside the opera world seem to have been kinder). Wainwright’s response to the reviews isn’t all that compelling – whoever said that opera shouldn’t be entertaining? – but at the very least Prima Donna sounds like an interesting take on what a postmodern opera could be. Musical and textual references to other beloved operas are apparently abundant, so there should be lots of pleasant “aha” moments in store for those who know their stuff. I am definitely planning on seeing this one.

Dark Star Requiem – co-produced by Tapestry New Opera

Technically this is an oratorio and not an opera. But opera-lovers should still be paying attention: this is co-produced by Tapestry New Opera, which has been developing and promoting new operatic works in Toronto for over twenty years. The oratorio takes on the weighty topic of AIDS and its history, and “interlaces such topics as ecology, myth, politics, and family”.

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