Review: Pandora (Fawn Chamber Creative)

Pandora blends opera and ballet to explore the tale of the classic myth, on stage in Toronto

Pandora, by librettist James Brock and composers Joseph Glaser, Kit Soden and David Storen was my first Fawn Chamber Creative show. I am astonished that I did not know about this company before, but I am glad I am in the know now. Their current production Pandora (musical direction, Adam Scime, stage direction, Amanda Smith) is an opera-ballet inspired by the Pandora myth. The opera unfolds in a vignette by each of the three composers, with all three libretti written by Brock.

In Away from Eyes (Kit Soden, composer) a political painting takes on a life of its own, sucking its creator and those hoping to silence her into its vortex.

In the second vignette, Kaleidescope, a woman hopes to save her lover by roaming the earth to bring her rare and precious jewels. Instead, her lover is only more debilitated by the weight of these treasures.

The concluding vignette of the trilogy, Daffodil by Joseph Glaser, is a couple’s reflection on their abusive relationship at the grave site of one member of the couple.

Jagged “distressed” beige-white peaks form the set and a backdrop for projection in all three scenes, functioning as canvas in the first piece, caves in the second, and a graveyard in the third. There is also some very creative prop and costume design including the bejeweled blindfold, gag, and cap used in Kaleidescope and the bubble wrap hospital gown used in Daffodil.

Pandora is written for a tenor, a soprano, two baritones and two dancers accompanied by a chamber orchestra of piano, cello, percussion, bassoon, electric guitar and electronics operator. Most of the singers are double or triple-cast in the three vignettes.

The scenes are not narrative driven and my reaction to the performance was much more visceral than analytical. Musically I enjoyed the fusion of traditional classical instruments with electronic instruments and sounds. There were true moments of aural delight and textural interest in each composers’ piece but there were also times when I found the use of melodic dissonance random and jarring. On the whole, the three composers’ styles fit together well.

Singers and chamber orchestra navigate a complex and varied score very adeptly from a musical standpoint, but it seemed to me that the cast could have benefited from more dramatic direction. Acting in a non-narrative piece is undoubtedly challenging and at times the performance felt very detached from the emotions that were being expressed

Unlike the tradition in opera of using dance as an interlude between scenes, dance is fully entwined with singing Pandora. Choreograher Jennifer Nichols is an excellent dancer with supple and precise technique and gives a very strong performance. At times I found the choreography a tad repetitive. For example in Kaleidescope, a rapid, high rond de jambe en l’air (admittedly an impressive move) was used too many times for my liking. Her duet with Tyler Glendhill in Daffodil included several beautifully executed, intimate lifts.

On the whole, I was intrigued by the concept and liked this show. I will definitely be following Fawn Chamber Creative going forward, as should anyone who is interested in innovative, interdisciplinary new works.

Details:

  • Pandora is playing until May 25, 2019 at Geary Lane (360 Geary Ave.)
  • Show times are 8 PM on May 23, 24, 25 .
  • Ticket prices range from $35 – $45. Regular: $45, Arts worker/under 30: $45.
  • Tickets are available online.

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