Fourteen-year-old Ulla is attempting to become the youngest person to sail the world single-handedly in her trusty sailing boat ‘The Homer’, with only her cat Binnacle to keep her company as she navigates the high seas.
All is not plain sailing, as our heroine encounters mythical creatures and obstacles on her journey, including Cy-ops, a one-eyed, over-keen robotic customs official who mistakes her cat for smuggled contraband, and Sylla, a dangerous sea creature whose body and mind have been horribly twisted by radioactive rubbish dumped into the ocean. Meanwhile the voices of the Sirens, Ulla’s friends and family, call out to her from across the waves, tempting her to give up her lonely voyage and come home. A family-friendly fantasy, inspired by Homer's Odyssey and by the modern teenagers who have sailed around the world. Winner of both the Opera Factory New Works competition (2012) and the Flourish Prize (2014).
New Zealand composer Anthony Young and I developed this opera for children in two stages: a short initial version was directed by Sally Stroman at Opera Factory (Auckland, NZ), and then the full-length version was developed with director Lynda Hill at Theatre Direct (Toronto, Canada). The final piece, directed by Valentina Ceschi, was premiered by the Olivier Award-winning OperaUpClose at Kings Place (London, UK)
Composer Anthony Young Librettist Leanna Brodie Director Valentina Ceschi Musical Director Alex Beetschen Set and Costume Designer Faye Bradley Puppet Designer and Director Matt Hutchinson Lighting Designer Nicholas Holdridge Assistant Director and Graphic Designer Camilla Ceschi
"clear, involving story-telling… a children's opera approached with grown-up values." – The Stage
"...a very contemporary, classical-sounding score… I am mesmerised by the opera’s style... The music trickles beneath the voices like a gentle current… The array of 7-10 year olds in the theatre can’t take their eyes off Sarah Minns’ chummy Ulla... Most barely move a muscle…" – Fringe Opera
Sarah Minns, Pamela Hay, Flora McIntosh, Oskar McCarthy
Ed Hughes as Cy-Ops
Sarah Minns as Ulla, Flora McIntosh as the Goddess of the Sea
Oskar McCarthy, Pamela Hay, Binnacle the cat (designed by Matt Hutchinson). All photography by Christopher Tribble.
This site-specific opera at the venerable Paupers Pub was a sold-out critical hit of the Toronto Fringe Festival. The concept is simple: the audience filter into a real bar, take their seats, order their drinks and snacks, and suddenly find themselves in the midst of the action – and of the music. Opera on the Rocks tells a collection of raucous Saturday night tales: star-crossed passions, hockey loyalties, karaoke dreams... and the epic closing-time quest for one more beer. Combining live electronics with guitar, Ogborn's innovative score is performed by an orchestra of one... who also becomes part of the story.
"The simple but elegant composition by Ogborn and the hilarious words by Brodie et al., brought to life by the talented performances by Aronoff, Bickersteth, Klassen, and Lloyd... all this over two pints of Guinness has reaffirmed my belief that opera is still very much alive!" – Mondo Magazine
"Clever writing by librettists Leanna Brodie, Dave Carley, Lisa Codrington and Krista Dalby kept the action moving, set to live music by composer David Ogborn that included a guitar played with, among other implements, a set of kitchen knives." – NOW Magazine
Keith Klassen as Randy, surrounded by the audience in Paupers Pub.
Composer David Ogborn
The librettists. L-R: Dave Carley, Lisa Codrington, Krista Dalby, Leanna Brodie.
Opera on the Rocks was produced at the Toronto Fringe Festival by the Ambient Opera Society. The director was Liza Balkan, and the singers were Neil Aronoff, Neema Bickersteth, Keith Klassen, and Jessica Lloyd. An earlier, workshop run at Paupers Pub featured Alex Dobson and Carla Huhtanen. Music was played live by the composer, David Ogborn.
Sabryn is not the first new mother to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, unprepared. The fact that her baby was born blind simply compounds her fears that she will not be up to the task. A microdrama for soprano and orchestra, about hope, fear, resilience, and everything that lies beyond what we can see.
Commissioned and premiered by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (Auckland, NZ, 2009) Soprano: Julia Booth Conductor: Hamish McKeich Approximate length: 15 minutes
It's Orientation Week, in more ways than one. When a jaded academic brings home an exuberant student for a one-night stand, the last thing she's expecting is real connection. Possibly Canada's first lesbian opera, and contains a memorable love duet called “Cinnamon Limbs” that has been excerpted several times for performance. First production: Tapestry New Opera Works' Opera to Go (Toronto, 2008) Conductor: Wayne Strongman Director: Tom Diamond Agnieska (Soprano): Carla Huhtanen Sumana (Mezzo): Jessica Lloyd Approximate Length: 15 minutes
In a bleak interrogation room, Alessandra, wrists zip-corded together, faces Colonel Crane, the head of a secret, American-controlled prison for suspected terrorists, somewhere near the Afghan border... She is an interpreter who has been caught trying to leak intel to Human Rights Watch: he is determined to rehabilitate her by convincing her that the prison's "enhanced interrogation techniques" are moral and necessary. This is Sophocles' Antigone, adapted for the age of Abu Ghraib.
First production: Tapestry New Opera Works' Opera to Go (Toronto, 2008) Conductor: Wayne Strongman Director: Tom Diamond Alessandra (Mezzo): Jessica Lloyd Crane (Baritone): Calvin Powell Chorus (Soprano, Tenor): Carla Huhtanen, Keith Klassen Approximate Length: 15 minutes
Emergence Composer: David Ogborn Leanna was a contributing lyricist to this song cycle created for guitar and singing robot. First production: Personal Computer Museum, Brantford (2009) Singing robot: CESAR
Au Café Trudeau Composer: Kevin Morse Harcourt Farnsworth is finally in Montreal... and he is going to practice his French, dammit. A tiny comedy about that classic, understandable, yet utterly humiliating phenomenon known to English-speaking Canadians as "switching." First production: Tapestry Opera Briefs, 2006 Director: Tom Diamond Harcourt (Baritone): Alex Dobson Ruisselle (Mezzo): Jessica Lloyd Approximate length: 5 minutes