Obeah Opera playing in Toronto is filled with voices that will take your breath away
Obeah Opera playing at the Bathurst Centre is an operatic production that tells the story of African/Caribbean women living in Salem during the time when women practicing Obeah were put to death for being witches.
At first glance this production seems simple. The venue is beautiful; the stage is made of what looks like an oversized wooden crate placed under a cathedral-style, peaked wooden ceiling. I couldn’t imagine a better space for this piece. There are few to no props and the show is carried by sheer talent, no bells and whistles.
There are a lot of details in this production that make it so successful. The powerhouse of talent onstage will blow your mind. I had chills listening to these women sing. No music, no instruments just pure song. Each one had a voice that touched the soul.
The background music and beats are created by stomping their feet and snapping their fingers. The music changes from tribal to jazz to gospel to blues to spiritual to R&B, to name a few styles. This is done flawlessly, setting the mood for each scene and complimenting the storyline.
There is so much strength in this show. You feel the pain, the suffering, the loss of these women. The emotional range of the lead actress, played by Joni NehRita, was breathtaking. You could tell she felt and lived every word and had moments where there were real tears in her eyes. I can’t single everyone out but I have to say that each woman brought something unique to the performance.
I had the great pleasure of having Megan Mooney accompany me to this production and the insights she offered after the show really made me think about all the little details that I perhaps would have missed. She pointed out the amazing costumes and how the same women that were part of the Obeah slaves or peasants were transformed into white witch-hunters by a simple reversing of a shawl. Quite genius.
We also both noticed that it seemed to be a multi-cultural cast which was quite surprising given the storyline and the fact that it can be considered a historical or period piece. One of the Obeah women was played by a white girl who certainly did her part justice and it was refreshing to see people cast according to their talent and abilities as opposed to just fitting a role.
We marveled at the fact that the production managed to find so many extremely talented women who were able to be a part of this show. It was definitely a little disappointing to see so many empty seats for a show that has so much to offer.
If you can, please go see this show. You will walk away with an experience that you will want to share with others. We couldn’t stop talking about all the things we loved about this show.
– Obeah Opera is playing at the Bathurst Centre (918 Bathurst St) till March 4, 2012
– Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm with Sunday matinees at 2pm
– Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for seniors and students
– Tickets can be purchased online or at outlets found here
Photo from left to right of: Bemnet Tekleyohannes, Joni NehRita, Nicole Brooks, Macomere Fifi and Saidah Baba Talibah by Nation Cheong