Review: Love in the Age of AutoCorrect (Loose Tea Music | Theatre)

A modern take on two classic operas make up Love in the Age of Autocorrect in Toronto’s Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu

I arrived early at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu at Davenport and Avenue Road in Toronto after a remarkably easy commute from Scarborough. Being a bum, I looked around for dive bars for a cheap pint. FAIL. Out of my natural habitat, but loving it, I was excited to see Loose TEA Music | Theatre’s Love in the Age of Autocorrect.

Constance, my companion for the evening, showed up late. I grilled her in the dark, humid Yorkville air: “So what the hell is an atelier, anyway?”

She said that it is a term that denotes craftsmanship, attention to detail, something special. It means “Come inside. Let’s build something special together.”

So we sauntered through a little alley. Guests at an exclusive grotto in Toronto’s toniest neighbourhood, what a thrill!

When you are invited to Love in the Age of Autocorrect, you exit the rivers of money and waterfalls of pretentiousness that is Yorkville. It’s a catharsis. You also forget that you are going to an opera, or in this case, two operas.

Before I even begin to talk about the two brilliant operas and the fantastic performers we saw that evening, let me tell you a little more about the venue.

What must normally be a gorgeous Toronto backyard has tarps overhead to protect us from the elements. Jennifer Tung plays an electronic piano towards the back left near a bar serving delicious beer and wine. Alaina Viau directs and conducts while standing next to Jennifer.

Both sides of the “theatre” are lines with a lattice topped wooden fence that is home to luscious vines and other greenery.

The “stage” is a two-story porch that runs the width of the theatre and is about 15 feet deep. A door on either side of the stage and the pathway serve as entrance and exit points for the opera singers/actors.

And without further ado, on with the shows!

The two operas performed are both short and share a similar theme. The first is Stravinsky’s Mavra, the second is an updated version of Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne, which was renamed to Andrew and Andrea. The subject matter for both is young love, miscommunication, deception and comedy.

Before having the pleasure of seeing Love in the Age of AutoCorrect, the only opera I was familiar with was the Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd animated classic The Rabbit of Seville. Fortunately I am familiar with a smidgen more now.

It was still daylight out during the performance of Mavra. Staring Morgan Strickland as Parasha, Justin Stolz as Mavra, Gregory Finney as Parent and Keenan Viau as Neighbour, this is a typical Romeo and Juliet story. Stolz dresses in drag to be closer to Parasha. (Bugs Bunny looked much better in drag but didn’t have Stolz’ opera chops.)

Anyway, hilarity and great singing ensues until Finney mistakes Stolz for a burglar.

Constance and I had a bit of trouble deciphering Strickland’s words during Mavra but we chalked that up to not having our “opera ears” tuned in.

Strickland and Finney return for Andrew and Andrea, playing Andrea and Mark Z. Strickland’s voice was crystal clear in this opera, so perhaps her voice prefers stage lights to natural ones, or there was a temporary technical glitch.

Keenan Viau was a wonderful scoundrel in the second opera. Keep an eye out for Keenan or invite him over to your patio for a few stanzas of opera.

Constance and I agreed that Andrew and Andrea did a better job of modernizing the opera and incorporating the language of modern AutoCorrect devices. It’s fun, fast-moving opera that almost anyone can relate to. Again, it’s young lust, comedy, miscommunication and handheld devices that some people call “smart”.

Andrew and Andrea moves along at breakneck speed and will be over before you know it. Maybe a third opera could be added if Love in the Age of AutoCorrect is remounted? ;)

Speaking of Bugs Bunny, there was only thing that Constance and I didn’t like about the show: flying bugs of the insect variety. They kept landing on audience members, visiting our arms, necks and hair. Oh well, small price to pay!

Overall it was a great night out. Hats off to Loose TEA Music | Theatre for bringing opera to new audiences. Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu really went above and beyond for hosting the event and are my favourite Toronto neighbours of the 2014 summer. Be sure to stop by if you are in the neighbourhood!