Review: Songbook VII (Tapestry Opera)

Tapestry Opera’s showcase delights and thrills, on stage in Toronto

Tapestry Songbook VII is Tapestry Opera’s annual showcase of scenes from past productions, performed by emerging artists. It’s always an excellent opportunity to gain exposure to new opera for both connoisseurs of the traditional repertoire and complete opera novices.

The program always contains an excellent mix of scenes that are funny, absurd, tragic, political and fantastical, and this year’s program was no exception. For me, one of the highlights was getting to revisit a scene from Rocking Horse Winner, the triumph of Tapestry’s 2015/16 season. Nicole Dubinsky’s performance of “Now I’m All Nerves” was divine and impressive, and nicely captured the haunting beauty of this work.

Gwenna Fairchild-Taylor, who gave a hilarious and memorable performance as the queen of a bee colony in Tapestry Songbook VI returned to the New Opera 101 program this year and was equally engaging and funny. She and baritone Janaka Welihinda performed “A Little Rain Must Fall,” a short opera developed in Tapestry’s 2014 LIBLAB. The LIBLAB is an intensive program that pairs emerging librettists and composers, and supports them to develop short new works. In this scene, Rain begins to suspect that his girlfriend Simone has been doing away with his ex-girlfriends. Given his suspicions, he makes some poor choices about how to confront her. The scene was a delightfully dark side-splitter, and an excellent way to close the first half.

My favourite thing about new opera is that it explores and unmasks the melodrama in familiar, modern-day situations. “Leaving” from LIBLAB 2011 by composer Darren Russo and librettist Sharon Bajer pulled back the curtain on a couple who is spiraling apart as a result of postpartum depression. Mental illness affects many and is talked about by few, and is therefore an essential topic for art to address. Soprano Marianne Moore and baritone Michah Schroeder dug deep into this scene and packed a whirlwind of emotion into this brief work. Schroeder’s wistful gaze towards Moore’s exit, carefully timed to the final, tense chord of the piece was like a punch in the gut.

Emerging performers in New Opera 101 are mentored by established artists Krisztina Szabo, mezzo-soprano, and Keith Klassen, tenor who performed the uproarious program closer “You and Meme.” This piece is from LIBLAB 2013, by composer Dean Burry and librettist Nicolas Billon. Just as an awkward first date is about to go belly-up, the would-be couple discover a shared fetish for goat themed memes. It’s not every day you get to hear operatic singing punctuated by raucous bleating.

The show runs for two nights, and seating is limited, so it is one to keep an eye for each February. Seriously, get on Tapestry’s mailing list or connect with them on social media.

There will definitely be an opportunity to experience new opera before next February. Tapestry is mounting the world premiere of Oksana G, which tells the story of a young woman who gets sucked into human trafficking. This new work by composer Aaron Gervais and librettist Colleen Murphy opens on May 24 at Imperial Oil Opera Theatre.


  • Tapestry Songbook VII played until February 24, 2017 at at Ernest Balmer Studio.7
  • Showtimes were at 7:30 PM on February 23 & 24, and 10:30 PM on  February 24, 2017
  • Ticket prices for upcoming show range from $50-175.
  • Tickets for upcoming show can be purchased online.

Photo of Krisztina Szabó, Keith Klassen, & Steven Philcox