Hailed as a masterpiece at its sold-out 2009 world premiere in Toronto and subsequent 2011 tour to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Canadian Opera Company presents the revival of Robert Lepage’s theatrically transcendent production of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. Nine performances take place on April 13, 14, 22, May 1, 2, 10, 12, 13, 19, 2018.
A co-production between the COC, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Dutch National Opera and Opéra de Lyon, in collaboration with Lepage’s own Ex Machina, The Nightingale and Other Short Fables bears the unmistakable signature of Canada’s theatrical visionary. It’s a visual feast that turns the operatic experience on its head, placing the orchestra on stage while singers perform and manipulate puppets in an orchestra pit flooded with water.
COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts a program featuring the best of Stravinsky’s music. The production opens with the short vocal and instrumental pieces of the jazz-tinged Ragtime, Pribaoutki, Two Poems of Konstantin Balmont, Berceuses du chat, Four Russian Peasant Songs, and Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet; followed by the satirical one-act opera-ballet The Fox; and concluding with The Nightingale, a Russian conte lyrique based on the tale by Hans Christian Andersen.
Internationally acclaimed Canadian soprano Jane Archibald, the COC’s Artist-in-Residence, leads a cast of established and rising stars, and makes her role debut as the Nightingale. Also making role debuts are COC Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Owen McCausland as the Fisherman, who discovers the Nightingale; Moldovan bass Oleg Tsibulko as the Emperor, whose life is saved by the Nightingale; and Lindsay Ammann as Death, who threatens the Emperor.
The Nightingale and Other Short Fables is an international cultural showcase that draws costume and set inspiration from the Vietnamese water puppetry and bunraku (traditional Japanese puppet theatre) featured in the production. Puppets were designed by Tony and Emmy award-winning American puppet designer Michael Curry, whose work has appeared in The Lion King on Broadway, Cirque du Soleil, the Olympics, and the Super Bowl, among other credits.
All performances of the COC’s production of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables feature the COC Orchestra and Chorus. The opera is sung in Russian and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.
Single tickets for The Nightingale and Other Short Fables range from $35 – $225 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.
Forget Beyoncé at Coachella this weekend, been there done that. The game changer in Toronto this weekend and beyond is catching the Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Nightingale and Other Short Fables’. Not only will you get a pop up experience of operatic juicy indulgence but you will encounter a form of theatre that you may never see again in your lifetime.
As per Robert Lepage, 2009 Director’s Notes, ‘Today there is no shortage of ways in which to use light when creating a performance, certainly no barrier to imagination, and inspiration can come in any form at any time. I was fascinated to see puppetry used in an opera several years ago, and realized that although they are not an obvious pairing, the two disciplines are actually quite suited to each other. Puppetry pulled the poetry out of the libretto and the poetic ideas out of the music in a way I hadn’t seen before.’
From the outset of ‘The Nightingale and Other Short Fables’ the audience is invited into the warmth of shadow play and the humour Stravinsky punctuates throughout his work. As the music saturates the space you may feel compelled to lean into reading the lyrics being performed from the likes of Jane Archibald, the COC’s Artist-in-Residence. I encourage you to try something different and just listen to Archibald’s epic artistry as she sings to you a musical spell only best experienced through the eyes and wings of the bird on her finger tips.
As the opera continues and the puppets make their delicate appearances with support from COC Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Owen McCausland as the Fisherman, who discovers the Nightingale; Moldovan bass Oleg Tsibulko as the Emperor, whose life is saved by the Nightingale; and Lindsay Ammann – be ready to feel transformed and perhaps your mouth to slightly open aghast at the level of detail and curated goodness that continues grow throughout Stravinsky’s work.
We the audience observe divers in a water tank sat in the once orchestra pit prancing out dragons, ducks, tree stumps all found in a traditional garden. Your eyes will not believe what you are seeing – it is a sight to behold! We view the orchestra sat on stage guiding us through numerous fables as black cloaked artisans pierce our attention with smiles, awe and warmth.
As per Robert Lepage, 2009 Director’s Notes, ‘we should go to theatre: with the open mind of a child.’ Indeed. Not at all a thought that was in my mind when I entered the Four Seasons of Performing Arts that night, but yet what a wonderful way to leave my work week behind and be truly entertained and injected with a forgotten childhood innocence to inhaling story telling at its finest.
From the tale beginning with the Cock boasting of his prowess with his hens. The hungry Fox initially deceives the Cock, twice enticing him down from his perch but each time the Cock is rescued by his friends the Ram and the Cat. After the Cock’s second rescue, the Cat and the Ram strangle the Fox, and the three friends celebrate in dance and song.
To the Fisherman hears the song of the Nightingale, which causes him to forget his troubles. The fame of the bird’s song has reached the Emperor who sends his Chamberlain, the Cook and courtiers to the forest to invite her to sing at court. The Nightingale accepts the invitation, but says that her sweetest song is heard in the forest.
The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Nightingale and Other Short Fables’ will challenge your operatic emotional space and make you want to see this production more than once with friends and family. Not only is it a game changer in the blending of operatic artistry with the craftsmanship of shadow play, puppetry and storytelling – you will be given a glimpse into a new way of stitching in operatic thought into a purposeful well rounded theatrical experience that will leave you feeling energetic and at peace.