Four One Act Operas in English

Gisela in her Bathtub by Neil Weisensel and Michael Cavanagh
Gisela (Nicki Smith), Helga (Meghan Jamieson), Snorre (Alex Wilson), Olaf (Pedro Arroyo)

An evening of varied, short operas, all written within the last 80 years and all accessible musically and dramatically. The Canadian premiere of Marc Blitzstein’s 1930 satire on Greek myth, The Harpies is joined by the gentle pastoral romance of Thyrsis and Amaranth by Boston countertenor and composer Steven Serpa. Canadian Neil Weisensel’s hilarious opera Gisela in Her Bathtub (1991) is a quirky tale of a woman desperately trying to finish her romance novel and Vaughan William’s Riders to the Sea (1937) has a special resonance for East Coast audiences as it tells the story of a woman who has lost all her sons to the sea.

Learn more ….

music director: Jennifer Szeto
vocal coach: Lucy Hayes-Davis
stage manager: Tessa Pekeles

The Harpies by Marc Blitzstein
Ocypete (Caroline Gelinas), Celaneo (Nicki Smith), Aello (Laura Noack), Iris (Meghan Jamieson), Jason (Phillip Rego), Calais (Alex Wilson) and Zetes (Pedro Arroyo)


The Harpies, by Marc Blitzstein (1930)

This operatic spoof of Greek mythology – and of musical neo-classicism – is also intended as a Depression-era allegory. Drawing on Greek mythological characters while satirizing the classical operatic form, with traces of pop music of the period and barbershop harmony thrown in for good measure, the opera expresses, in allegorical format, the composer’s attitude toward economic and political conditions as they existed at the time of the the Great Depression.

Set in ancient Thrace, the work has eight characters, balanced between tenor and soprano principals, a group of three female Harpies, and three male Argonauts. At the center is Phineus, a sightless oracle, who attempts to enjoy his dinner but is constantly attacked by the Harpies. Not only do they steal his food, they emit a foul odour as well. Jason appears on the scene with the Argonauts, and he promises to fight off the Harpies if Phineus will guarantee that the gods will continue to favor them. As soon as the Harpies are defeated Iris appears as a messenger of the gods. She promises Phineus that he will always be safe from the Harpies, and she dispatches them to experience various tortures. The philosopher can now eat his meal in peace.

stage director: Steven Bourque

THE HARPIES by Marc BlitzsteinSunday, August 5, 2:00 pm
Wednesday, August 8, 7:30 pm
Tuesday, August 7, 7:30 pm
Sunday, August 12, 2:00 pm
Phinneus, a blind oracleNicholas Fuqua (MI)William Ford (ON)
Aello, a harpyLaura Noack (NY)Allison Mills (NY)
Ocypete, a harpyCaroline Gélinas (QC)Michelle Siemens (BC)
Celaneo, a harpyNicole SmithMilena Bolaños (ON)
Zetes, an ArgonautPedro Arroyo (PR)Michael Hart (NS)
Calais, an ArgonautAlexander Wilson (MI)Alexander Wilson (MI)
Jason, an ArgonautPhillip Rego (ON)Phillip Rego (ON)
Iris, a messengerMeghan Jamieson (NS)Rachel Wood (ON)

Gisela in Her Bathtub, by Neil Weisensel and Michael Cavanagh (1991)

In this comic Canadian opera, Gisela lounges in the tub to soak her modern cares away while she finishes reading an epic historical romance. The setting of the novel is wind-swept ninth century Iceland. the world’s first Parliament, the althing, has just been established, where godars (tribal chieftains) elect a lawspeaker to guide them. Great loves are won and lost, blood is shed, and the bathwater of the gods is splashed on the tile floor of antiquity.

stage director:  Bonnie Archibald-Awalt

GISELA IN HER BATHTUB by Neil WeisenselSunday, August 5, 2:00 pm
Wednesday, August 8, 7:30 pm
Tuesday, August 7, 7:30 pm
Sunday, August 12, 2:00 pm
GiselaNicole SmithNicole Smith
HelgaMeghan Jamieson (NS)Rachel Wood (ON)
OlafPedro Arroyo (PR)Michael Hart (NS)
Lawspeaker SnorreAlexander Wilson (MI)Phillip Rego (ON)

Thyrsis and Amaranth by Steven Serpa
Bartender (Nick Fuqua), Thyrsis (Collin Shay), Amaranth (Allison Mills)

Thyrsis & Amaranth, by Steven Serpa (2010)

A charming pastoral opera for countertenor and soprano, based on a fable by Jean de la Fontaine.  Thyrsis loves Amaranth, but does she love him in return?

stage directors:  Andrew Pelrine and Nina Scott-Stoddart

THYRSIS & AMARANTH by Steven SerpaSunday, August 5, 2:00 pm
Wednesday, August 8, 7:30 pm
Tuesday, August 7, 7:30 pm
Sunday, August 12, 2:00 pm
ThyrsisCollin Shay (CT)Nicholas Fuqua (MI)
AmaranthAllison Mills (NY)Victoria Borg (ON)

Riders to the Sea by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Nora (Margaret Cormier), Cathleen (Victoria Borg) and Maurya (Erin Passmore)

Riders to the Sea by Ralph Vaughan Williams, play by J.M. Synge (1937)

A tragic opera, by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.  Maurya has seen her husband and four of her six sons drowned.  The fifth, Michael, is missing and the sixth, Bartley, rides away to a horse fair.  The daughters, Cathleen and Nora, try to keep from their mother a shirt and sock taken from the body of a drowned man — they are Michael’s.  Women begin to enter the cottage, keening.  Bartley has been thrown into the sea by his horse.  Now all her sons are gone; Maurya has no more fear of the sea, no more hope in the world.  She sits desolate and alone, and sings a powerful hymn of loss and resignation.

stage director:  Anne Morison

RIDERS TO THE SEA by Vaughan WilliamsSunday, August 5, 2:00 pm
Wednesday, August 8, 7:30 pm
Tuesday, August 7, 7:30 pm
Sunday, August 12, 2:00 pm
MauryaErin Passmore (AB)Nina Scott-Stoddart (NS)
CathleenVictoria Borg (ON)Meaghan Jamieson (NS)
NoraMargaret Cormier (QC)Melody Thomas (ON)
BartleyPhillip Rego (ON)Phillip Rego (ON)
A WomanMichelle Siemens (BC)Nicole Smith