Category Archives: Visual Art and related events

Naomi’s Road at West Vancouver Library is great… looking forward to April 23 at Italian Cultural Centre

Erica Iris and Hiather Darnela-Kadanoga play Obasan and Naomi, in a scene when the family leaves Vancouver on a train.

I saw the production at West Vancouver Library on Friday April 19th, and we both really enjoyed it.  Sam Chung returns as Stephen. The new singers are all good. Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga plays Naomi, Erica Iris plays the 3 roles Mother, Obasan and Mitzie. Henry Chen plays Daddy, Bully, Rough Lock Bill, Trainmaster.

I saw the original production in 2005/06 five times and enjoyed it immensely.  West Vancouver Library isn’t the best place to the performance because lighting was not the best, and the performer’s faces were often in shadows.  Close to 50 people came to the library for the free performance.

The performances by all singers are strong, and the storyline is strong.  Watching the perfomers, we were amazed at both the choreography of the movement on stage, as well as how the small versatile set is used and moved to simulate so many scenes: Powell Street, Living Room, Train, Internment Camp.   There were tears in my eyes as I watched the pinnacle scene of the opera.  It makes a powerful statement against racism and bullying.

Tickets are still on sale for Tuesday’s April 23 performance.

buy tickets on-line here:

There will be a limited number of tickets available at the door.

Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga (soprano) plays Naomi

Erica Iris (mezzo-soprano) performs as Mother, Mitzi, Obasan

Sam Chung (tenor) plays Stephen
Photographs courtesy of Vancouver Opera, and available from the Naomi’s Road press kit

Chelsea Hotel is an inventive presentation of Leonard Cohen songs

Chelsea Hotel is inventive and theatrical – and probably more fun than a Leonard Cohen concert!

Adrian Glynn McMorran (The Writer), Marlene Ginader (The Lover), Steve Charles (The Sideman), and Lauren Bowler (Sister of Mercy) perform many dramatic and musically diverse collaborations of Leonard Cohen songs during “Chelsea Hotel” at the Firehall Arts Centre – photo David Cooper, courtesy of Firehall Arts Centre

Chelsea Hotel featuring the songs
of Leonard Cohen

Dates and
8 February – 3 March 2012, 8pm, (2pm Weekend matinees
& 1pm Wedmatinees) | Firehall Arts Centre

Conceived and Directed by Tracey Power

Artistic Direction by Donna Spencer

Music Direction by Steven Charles

Performed by Rachel Aberle, Lauren Bowler, Steve Charles, Benjamin Elliott, Marlene Ginader, Adrian Glynn McMorran
DATES: February 8 to March 3, 2012

8pm, 2pm (Weekend matinees), 1pm (Wednesday matinees)

Today is opening night of “Chelsea Hotel” at Firehall Arts Centre –
featuring songs and poetry of Leonard Cohen…. AND the ACCORDION is a
featured instrument… actually it is the first musical instrument to play in
this amazingly theatrical production.  There are constant visual surprises for the audience.  And there are musical surprises too.  Three
males and three females take turns on up to many different instruments
including violin, cello, double bass, electric guitar, electric bass, drum kit, acoustic guitar, keyboard, ukelele, tambourine, and kazoo…

I saw Chelsea Hotel on Friday Night – the first performance… a world premiere – preview version… and LOVED IT.  I have had Leonard Cohen ear-worms in my head all weekend, as I listened to my Cohen cd's trying to figure out the titles of the songs that were included in the production.

There have been many musicals made of songs by specific songwriters.  Mama Mia by ABBA… Jersey Boys is based on the music of The Four Seasons… Uptown Girl is the music of Billy Joel.  And way before that, musicals were made of George Gershwin and Cole Porter songs.  All of these have a story arcs, and dialogue to develop the plot lines.

But there is no invented dialogue in Chelsea Hotel, nothing but the songs and poetry of Leonard Cohen.  Director Tracey Power has conceived and created a theatrical presentation that moves seamlessly from song to song with interspersed words of poetry.  The drama is in the storytelling of the songs.  The dynamic tension is in the body language and the faces of the performers.  The story is in the words of each song, as they speak of love, break ups, regret, hate, and reconciliation.  And somehow it all works.

Like the musical Chicago, these performances are part fantasy and part memory recall.  The character called The Writer (Adrian Glynn McMorran) is trying to write at his desk and having difficulties.  The inventive set is piled high with crumpled pieces of paper.  The Writer is having writer's block in a room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City (where Cohen lived for awhile).   He groans and crumples up another piece of paper to throw it against the wall.  Suddenly a man pops up playing a tune on an accordion… and thus the interior workings of The Writer's attempts at song writing began,  The Writer recalls a woman in his life – and a female performer steps onto the stage singing about their relationship.  Then next another musician steps onstage for accompaniment, and another woman who joins in the singing…

Steve Charles (guitar), Benjamin Elliott (accordion), Marlene Ginader (violin), Rachel Aberle (voice), photo David Cooper, courtesy of Firehall Arts Centre

The songs are strangely familiar, as they take their turns like old shirts from a long forgotten box of clothes.  They are comfortable, and in a variety of musical styles and arrangements.  Some songs are old like Suzanne or Lover Lover Lover.  Many are from Cohen's middle period of the 80's and 90's such as I'm Your Man, Tower of Song, First We Take Manhattan and Hallelujah. 

The production is sooooo playful.  There is a carnival cabaret atmosphere, with the performers all wearing whitened faces and exagerated costumes.  Benjamin Elliot's character is called The Magician.  Musical Director Steve Charles is performing as The Side Man.  The arrangements vary from solo instruments to string trio, acoustic folk stylings, to full-on rock and roll.

I found the
musicianship to be surprisingly good… the performers pick up
their instruments and play them when you least expect it.  Rachel Aberle and
Lauren Bowler as The Sisters of Mercy,  both have amazing presence and create dynamic and sexual
tension with Adrian Glynn McMorran's The Writer and the audience.  Marlene Ginader is innoculously beautiful to watch.  She first seems to float down from the mountain of
crumpled paper after appearing first as musical supporting cast on violin, and her character The Lover, takes on increasingly important dynamics.

Friday night was the first audience performance prior to Wednesday's Opening Night on Feb 8th.  I thought the production flowed well.  There was a standing ovation for the performers.

Chelsea Hotel is a fun production.  There are constantly visual and musical developments happening as well as the interaction of the characters.  The songs are entertaining in themselves – both for lyrical beauty, irony and humability.  My recommendations are:
1) don't sit in row A on the floor – there is a row AA in front of you that obscures your view. 

don't sit in the audience far left side.  It is hard to see some aspects
of the stage and performers – that are hidden by a set design.

Marlene Ginader (The Lover), and Adrian Glynn McMorran(The Writer) sing their hearts out to each other, after loving, hating, resenting, pining, forgiving each other to find resolution. – photo David Cooper, courtesy of Firehall Arts Centre

see other links about Chelsea Hotel:

Tetsuro Shigematsu returns as co-host to Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner

Tetsuro Shigematsu (actor/writer/comedian/former CBC radio host) will
be returning to co-host the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.


Tetsuro Shigematsu (centre) tells wild and crazy stories about co-hosts Toddish McWong (left) and Jenna Chow (right), as Todd and Jenna prepare to read the poem “Recipe for Tea” composed by Jim Wong-Chu, one of our traditional Gung Haggis Fat Choy poems – photo Lydia Nagai

We love
Tetsuro, and he always brings lots of great energy and enthusiasm to the
stage.  He is a very talented entertainer with a gift for the gab.  He is comfortable with a large audience.  And outrageous when he is old friends with his co-host and fellow stage performers.

Tetsuro himself is very intercultural, very Gung Haggis.  While he is of Japanese ancestry, he was born in London England, and raised in Quebec.  His wife is Persian… He speaks Persian as well as English, French and Japanese…  And his beautiful spirited children are Japanese-Persian-Canadians.

I first got to know Tetsuro back in the early 2000's when he was a member of the sketch comedy group, The Hot Sauce Posse.  Soon after he was the new radio host for CBC Radio's “The Round Up” replacing Bill Richardson.

In February, Tetsuro was a speaker for TedX – the topic sounds soooo Gung Haggis.  Chinese in Kilts?  A walking Oxymoron?

TEDxTerrytalks 2010 – Tetsuro Shigematsu – The Awesomeness of Your Contradiction Feb 201117 minUploaded by TEDxTalks
Stick out your thumb. That's the thickness of my press package. If you flip through it, fanning past you would

This past summer Tetsuro has been very busy.  He hosted the Asian Comedy Night by Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre in June.

But in August, I saw Tetsuro in the play Salmon Row, about the history of the Steveston community in Richmond.  It was a brilliant play that told the history of BC and the salmon and cannery industry which also focused on the interactions of the non-White communities.  The audience witnessed the effects of the provincial legislation against Chinese workers such as the head tax and Exclusion Act, against the First Nations workers such as the Potlatch Law and Residential Schools, and against the Japanese fisherman such as reduction of fishing licenses, and the internment during WW2.  Tetsuro did an incredible job, playing multiple roles and

For 2012, we hope to get this UK born example of “Sexy Asian
Man” (as featured in Ricepaper Magazine) to wear a kilt and show us his

Enjoy this clips from Tetsuros's video website


History of the World Part 1

China VS Japan – Who is Smarter


UBC's Way Too Asian, Macleans

This is the video that went viral – a response to the Maclean's article “Too Asian?” – As
seen in the National Post, Global Television, Vancouver Sun, Geist
Magazine, Epoch Times, Vancouver Observer, etc. 

Tickets now on sale
through Firehall Arts Centre

Allan Cho goes VAFF on Day 3 & 4

VAFF 2011 – Day 3 & 4 of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival

Allan Cho, guest blogger, checks out the films and Closing Night's after party at Wild Rice restaurant

Had a wonderful time at #VAFF2011.    Saw Anna
May Wong: In Her Own Words
Screened at a number of festivals, Anna May Wong, documents the first
Chinese American female actress in Hollywood. 

The after party at Wild Rice
was unbelievable
.  Great food,
excellent drinks, and fantastic atmosphere.  
The chatter was pleasant.  Met
many wonderful people.  The night ended
on a strong note – Surrogate Valentine
– was a huge hit.  Audience members
enjoyed the jokes, laughing often at the witty dialogue and clever script.  



Canadian Premiere
Director In Attendance


PRODUCERS: Elaine H. Kim, Asian Women United of California
Documentary | Digibeta | Colour | 2010 | 30 min | USA | English

Previous Screenings/Awards: San Francisco Int’l Asian American Film Festival 2011; Int’l
Women’s Film Festival in Seoul 2011

Slaying the Dragon Reloaded: Asian Women in
Hollywood and Beyond explores representations of Asian and Asian American in
American media to explore what has changed, what has been recycled and what we
can hope for in the future. Designed primarily but not exclusively for college
classroom use, the first half of the documentary examines Hollywood images of
Asian women from 1984 to the present to examine how commercial visual media in
the U.S. reflect or ignore the dramatic social and demographic changes of the
past quarter of a century. The second half showcases the exciting ways Asian
American cinema and new media such as YouTube seek to broaden, diversify and
challenge common notions of Asian women.


Canadian Premiere

DIRECTOR: Yunah Hong
PRODUCER: William Smock
Documentary | Digibeta | Colour/B&W | 2010 | 58 min | USA/South Korea
| English

Previous Screenings/Awards: San Francisco Int’l Asian American Film Festival 2011

Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American
movie star. She started out in silent films when she was 17, and went on to
make dozens of films in Hollywood, London and Berlin, co-starring with Marlene
Dietrich, Anthony Quinn and Douglas Fairbanks. She was glamorous, talented and
cosmopolitan. Yet she spent most of her career typecast either as a painted
doll or a scheming dragon lady. Filmmaker Yunah Hong paints a vivid portrait of
a Hollywood original, narrated in Wong’s own words by actress Doan Ly. Generous
excerpts from Wong’s films, archival photographs and interviews enhance this
richly detailed picture of a woman and her times.


Allan Cho checks out VAFF

Vancouver Asian Film Festival is “Almost Perfect” with guest actor Edison Chen

Written by guest blogger, Allan Cho

I checked out opening day’s VAFF
program.  What a great festival – seems
like this year is the biggest one yet.  
VAFF is celebrating its FIFTEENTH anniversary (
Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society and Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop, and Ricepaper incidentally also celebrate their FIFTEENTH
anniversaries).   Great chance for me to
catch up with our old friends from at VAFF – its dedicated executives:
Grace Chin, Callan Tay, Kathy Leung, and
Clement Woo, and board director Iven Tse
VAFF founder and president Barbara Lee was also there, and we exchanged
a few good laughs.   ACWW friend, filmmaker
and director of One Big
Hapa Family’s Jeff
Chiba Stearns
was also on hand.

The first film I saw was “Almost Perfect,”
Kelly Hu, Edison Chen, and Tina Chen.  A remarkable film, about the complexities of
families and the wrenching realities of modern relationships and marriage, the
film won the hearts of the audience, as they gave a roaring applause at the
film’s end.  On hand was also Asian mega
Edison Chen, who was greeted by curious observers and fans
alike.  I had a chance to exchange
greetings with Edison, and even had a chance to ask about his most
recent controversy
in Asia
, but he declined
comment.  Along with renowned actress
Tina Chen on a panel discussion after the film, Vancouver-born and
raised-Edison revealed that he is currently working on three music albums and
another film project.  What a hard

Check out the VAFF Website at

Vancouver Asian Film Fest plays this weekend

The Vancouver Asian Film Festival is now 15 years old.

I started attending VAFF around 2000, when festival founder Barb Lee came to a dinner event for Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, trying to promote VAFF.  Many years later, VAFF is now one of the biggest and best events in the Asian Canadian cultural scene.  It has grown from a one day event to a four day event.

Back in 2000, there were few movies that were made or set in North America, and made by North American Asians.  A lot of films shown at early VAFF events still came from Asia, while some came from the US. 

In recent years, VAFF has really matured into its own.  The Mighty Asiam Movie Making Marathon has helped to develop more local talent and films.  VAFF events now regularly feature Canadian directors and film makers, as well as actors.

Here are some of the 2011 VAFF 15 events that have caught my eye… that I wish I could attend – if I wasn't already committed to performing my accordion in the Heart of the City Festival this weekend.

PROGRAM 1 – Opening Night Presentation: Almost Perfect

Thursday November 3, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Love Letter to Vancouver by director Joanna Wong
PROGRAM 5 – Canadian Asian Stories
Saturday November 5, 2011 at 11:00 AM

PROGRAM 7 – Chicks on Flicks – Women in Hollywood: Then & Now
Saturday November 5, 2011 at 4:00 PM

PROGRAM 10 – Vancity Shorts

Sunday November 6, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Word On The Street – is almost swept up by the wind, but prevails!

Great Day at Word On The Street today…

Adrianne Carr, Green Party politician, came by the Historic Joy Kogawa House booth, and told me that her daughter had shared with her Joy's children's book “Naomi's Tree.” “It's a great book” said Carr, as we chatted about the importance of saving historically significant landmarks (such as Kogawa House), and conserving sensitive and important environments – okay, I told her I was a director for The Land Conservancy of BC.

It's always great to see literary friends such as Evelyn Lau, George McWhirter, Renee Saklikar, Brad Cran, Charles Demers, Wayde Compton, Marisa Alps, Kevin Chong, Ariadne Sawyer, Alejandro Mujica + more… Lots of great books and magazines! I did my Christmas shopping to support local book publishers!

Susan Crean and Hal Wake (Vancouver International Writers Festival) chat in front of the Historic Joy Kogawa House booth – photo T.Wong

Also great to see my friends at the booths such as Historic Joy Kogawa House, Ricepaper Magazine, Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC, CUPE BC, Tradewind Books, Harbour Publishing, Vancouver Review, BC Book Prizes, VPL Foundation + more!

It was a busy busy Sunday, starting at 10am, because we had moved the dragon boat practice for Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team one hour early to encourage paddlers to attend events at WOTS.

Deb & I arrived shortly around 1pm to see that the tents for Poetry and Childrens events were flat on the ground.  We later learned that the wind tunnel on Hamilton St had threatened to lift the tents into the air.  After past years of rain, road closures, and a library strike, this will be forever known as the Year of the Wind.

Storyteller Mary Gavan wrote on FB that:

Storytelling in Word in the Street tent. Wind blew. Wind blew and blew; tent flew up; chairs fell down; Persian carpet went into orbit, as per its history.
Storytelling at Word on Street terminated. Area evacuated. All in a
day's story!!!
time in 25 years that anyone can recall the wipe out of part of Word on
the Street (ed. note: tents were taken down for safety and programs moved to other locations). Library staff outstanding in ensuring safety and rehousing
organisations inside with tables to replace their booths. Will write
as a story shortly.


George McWhirters steps off the “Poetry In Transit” bus, where Poetry Tent events were moved to after the tents were “put down” for safety.  George told me that he had arrived at the Poetry Tent 10 minutes before his scheduled event to find the tents flat on the ground!


Rob Taylor read his poems on the “Poetry In Transit” bus, which didn't have any lights because of a dead battery.  Transit attendants had to herkily-jerkily back up the bus while previously reading poets and host Evelyn Lau were still on the bus chatting with audience.


Christine Lowther reads her poems – not on the bus, but in the outdoors –  from her collection “My Nature” at another location instead of the Poetry Tent.

Despite the early morning rain, and the sudden windstorm, this year was lots of fun.  Great programming at WOTS this year.  I was able to help out at the booth for Historic Joy Kogawa House, check in at Ricepaper Magazine, drop in at lots of author readings, chat with friends at the publisher tents, and buy lots of books, as well as scoop up some deals at the silent auction prizes.

I was able to see Jen Sookfong Lee, Wayde Compton, Susan Crean, and many other authors.


The elegant Jen Sookfong Lee read from her new book “The Better Mother” and also suggested to aspiring writers to never give in to Writers Block, nor interrupt their writing time.  She admitted that she doesn't answer the phone even when she knows her mother is calling.


Wayde Compton is the current writer-in-residence at Vancouver Public Library.  He spun a particularly captivating story about mixed races.

My friend Tetsuro Shigematsu was especially affected by JJ Lee's reading today.  Tetsuro wrote on this FB that

Today at Word on the Street, JJ Lee along with Sheryl MacKay
took a reading and raised it to a new level. The shivering audience
laughed and cried, as JJ spoke entertainingly and insightfully about his
new book, The Measure of a Man, a memoir about his stormy relationship
with his father reconstructed around the rebuilding of his father's
suit. Buy this book. You will love it. I guarantee it. And by
guarantee, I mean I will personally buy the book from you if you don't
love it. (JJ ran out of books to sign afterwards, so I couldn't buy one)
But I know because I read an advance copy!

Early media stories on Hapa Palooza – we got a buzz!

Early media stories on Hapa Palooza

– we got a buzz!

Hapa-Palooza challenges mixed-race stereotypes

Vancouver Sun – Vivian Luk – ‎Sep 7, 2011
The nickname Super Nip – partly derived from a Second World War term to
describe Japanese people – and racial jokes followed Jeff Chiba Stearns
everywhere when he was growing up in Kelowna.

Hapa-Palooza showcases Vancouver's 125 years of cultural passion

The Province – Tom Harrison – ‎Sep 7, 2011‎
This is especially true of Vancouver, where just boarding a SkyTrain is
a multi-cultural experience, or walking the streets can be an
eye-opening exercise in cultural diversity and acceptance.

Hapa-Palooza revels in fest of ethnic mashups – Jessica Werb – ‎14 hours ago‎
Here's to mixed heritage: circus artist Chris Murdoch will be among the
performers at the Hapa-Palooza event's wildly diverse Friday cabaret
night. Growing up, Zarah Martz never felt like she fully belonged.

Hapa-palooza hype builds, but will it deliver?

Open File – Meghan Mast – ‎Sep 6, 2011‎
It wasn't until this year, at age 56, that Jonina Kirton connected her
story with that of other mixed-race women. “I hadn't really put two and
two together that someone else could have almost the same experience as I
had,” says Kirton, who identifies

The Georgia Straight presents Hapa-Palooza – staff –  ‎Sep 6, 2011‎
Hapa is a Hawaiian word to describe someone of mixed heritage from
islands in the Pacific Ocean. And in recent years, it has gone on to
become a term to describe people of multiple ethnicities from around the
world. The following night in the same room

Interracial identities part of the mix at Hapapalooza Festival's Mixed – Craig Takeuchi – Sep 5, 2011

Interracial identities part of the mix at Hapa-palooza Festival's Mixed Flicks Anyways?” are part of the Mixed Flicks program at Hapa-palooza.


I am part of the Vancouver 125 team.  I was
down at Jack Poole Plaza from 1:30-5:30, helping out with the ball
hockey tournaments. The 6pm Happy Birthday ceremonies included: birthday singalong by Vancouver Bach Choir + cake +
cauldron lighting at 6:45pm!
-photo T.Wong

The sky turned blue with occasional clouds, with lots of sunshine for the Vancouver 125 Celebrations, marking the 125th birthday of the City of Vancouver.  Fresh snow decorated the local mountains, yet the Jack Poole Plaza was a warmish 9 degrees in the sunshine.  The concert stage opened at 4pm with Uzume Taiko, followed by Mmm-HoP, and Leela Gilday.  The 6pm ceremonies featured a birthday singalong by the Vancouver Bach Choir, of which city councilor Heather Deal is a singer.

photo – photo Deb Martin
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson with Vancouver 125 Team city employees Kathy Bengston and Todd Wong.  The Mayor was dressed for ball hockey and he played with some of the teams, then later posed for pictures with the youth teams.  Wong works for the Vancouver Public Library and wore the Fraser Hunting Tartan kilt, because April 6th is also Tartan Day throughout Canada, and because the Fraser Hunting Tartan has the similar blues and greens of the Vancouver Tartan.  Bengston was part of the City of Vancouver Host team and was stationed at the Downtown Live City venue during the Olympics.

My role for the Vancouver 125 Team was to help out with the ball hockey games.  During my breaks, I walked around the Jack Poole Plaza and saw the music performances that featured some of my friends.  Bonnie Mah is part of Uzume Taiko.  Ndidi Cascade was one of the performers of Mm-HoP: Hop Jump Jive.

Uzume Taiko blends the traditonal and contemporaryarts into a great cultural fusion using Taiko drums, traditional Japanese masks…. and bagpipes!

Here is the bagpiper for Uzume Taiko wearing Japanese styled outfit.

A large screen projected rap singer Ndidi Cascade into a large image for the crowd, as she performed with Mm-HoP: Hop Jump Jive


It was a picturesque day with fresh snow on the mountains, and all the people creating a happy crowd.

Vancouver Opera: La Clemenza di Tito – Leadership or culture bending subtlety?

Vancouver Opera: La Clemenza di Tito – Leadership or culture bending subtlety?

Women playing male roles create some interesting cultural questions.  Photo credit: Tim Matheson – courtesy of Vancouver Opera

Expect an evening of subtlety and sublime beautiful music.  No big action scenes or over the top drama of people taking 10 minutes to die.  It's a salon-style opera with beautiful and exquisite Mozart music.  Do pay attention to the costume changes, and the spiritual metaphor of the Greek-style chorus.  Also keep your eyes open for gender bending roles, as castrato singers are now non-existent, but replaced by female sopranos.. The story is about the “clemency” or “mercy” of Emperor Tito.  As he strives to be a leader for all of the empire, valuing forgiveness and belief in the goodness of others, he faces the ultimate challenge – the betrayal of a loyal friend, and a chosen consort.

An All-Canadian cast give strong lead performances as Toronto's Krisztina Szabo as “Sesto”, carries out the wicked revenge plot of New Brunswick's Wendy Nielsen as Vitellia against Edmonton's John Tessier as Emperor Tito. The roles of Sesto and also Servilia (Campbell River's Kathleen Brett) were originally written for castrati males, but now played by female mezzo-soprano and soprano, made for some interesting gender bending romance.  As in traditional Chinese opera, female roles were traditionally played by males, because “only men knew how women should act”, according to the line in the David Henry Hwang play and movie “M. Butterfly.  Technically, the roles are male, but it's interesting to play with a female + female context.  And of course we go to opera for the music!  But in a town such as Vancouver with a large GLBT population, this is a good market for such a piece.

Vitellia has her eye on the crown of the empress, and has been passed over by Tito several times, in favor of other women such as  Servilia.  She takes advantage of Sesto's “love” for her, and asks Sesto to murder Titus.  But before this can happen, Servilia admits to Tito that she is actually in love with Vitellia's brother Annio (Calgary's Norine Burgess – in the 2nd castrato role). This is all acted and sung out in lovely tension-filled arias, as the plot unravels up to the intermission.

Titus preaches forgiveness as a leader – like Mandela preaches forgiveness in the movie Vindictus, as he struggled to move South Africa beyond Apartheid – so suggested Michael Byers @ Opera Speaks panel discussion at Vancouver Public Library

Taking a bow by VancouverOpera

Picture of the Chorus costumes, while taking bows, from the Vancouver Opera flickr stream.

The chorus is presented in the style of a editorializing Greek Chorus, that comments on the actions and thoughts of the lead characters as if they are the gods, that these Romans blame or pray to.  Interestingly, they are dressed in toga-like robes of saffron, orange and reds that would seem to be more commonly found on an ashram in India.  A gold dot also adorns the forehead of each chorus member.

The background of this rarely performed Mozart opera is very interesting.  Not as bombastic as Don Giovanni or The Magic Flute, or as full of musical flurries such as Cosi Fan Tutte, La Clemenza di Tito is a delight in its subtlety.  Supposedly written in three weeks while Mozart was ill, and while he was still working on the Magic Flute.  It was a rush job, for the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as the new king of Bohemia.

The libretto was adapted from a fifty
year old work by the Viennese court poet Metastasio (Pietro
Antonio Domenico Trapassi) that had already been used many times by
other composers – but as I sat in the theatre, all I could hear was Mozart.  From the opening bars of the overture, it reminded me of how much Mozart has meant to both my musical education and pleasure.  It recalled the days of my youth when I played Mozart's Titus Overture in an accordion ensemble, and in my college days, when I performed the Sallieri soliloquy from the Peter Shaffer play “Amadeus.”  And like so many of the audience, I became lost in the beauty of the music, as the orchestra dissolved to the simplicity of a solo piano forte performed by Conductor and musical director Jonathan Darlington, accentuated by solo cello, clarinet or basset horn. We were very pleased to see the soloists from the orchestra, Ari Barnes, Mary Backun and Caroline Gauthier brought up on stage for bows along with Chorus Director Leslie Dala.

Check out the wonderful videos from the Vancouver Opera website

Clips from VO's La Clemenza di Tito

La Clemenza di Tito

Watch scenes from VO's La Clemenza di Tito

Interesting tidbits….

Last week CBC Radio One was discussing the opera audience as white-haired and caucasian (which I don't fit into – okay maybe the age demographic since I turned 50 last May).  The Vancouver opera is very aware of trying to reach a more culturally diverse audience.  While some of the bloggers commented that it was a very mixed ethnic crowd on opening night Saturday on Feb 5th, the audience that I saw on Tuesday Feb 8th, was very white haired and caucasian.  But I did see a number of gay and lesbian couples. 

Cultural diversity can take many forms.  If the opera does want a more ethnic mix in the audience, the best route to go is to feature more ethnic leads in key roles, not just in Madame Butterfly and Turandot, or Nixon in China – but in all productions.  Afterall opera in Hong Kong, and Japan feature Asian singers in many roles.  The costumes in La Clemenza di Tito were 18th Century, while the opera is set in Ancient Rome.  In the first half, the principles are wearing black, in the second half they are wearing white.  The chorus appears to be wearing South Asian style religious robes, all in the name of artistic merit – not historical accuracy.  Female singers have replaced male in the original castrato roles.  A few singers of colour in lead roles would not look out of place in this production.