Against the Grain Theatre is another local company that has taken the tradition of opera and flipped it on its head, presenting classic works with a laid back attitude, and in interesting places. Against the Grain Theatre is “a collective of Toronto artists – actors, opera singers, musicians, painters, writers, dancers, and arts professionals – with a thing for performing in unique spaces. We want to take the classics and turn them sideways – that is, present them… differently. Cozily. Sometimes with beer and popcorn.”
Super Villains is the performance that I attended. There was Steam Whistle on ice (Steam Whistle loves opera, don’t they?) and a never-ending supply of candy and chocolates laid out. The theme of the evening was inspired by comic book super villains. Magneto, Green Goblin and the Joker would have been right at home. They presented a unique mix of opera and musical theatre pieces, performed by villainous characters but loosened them up a bit. Whips, beer and razor blades all made welcome appearances.
Smash Furniture Store made for an inspiring performance space, as their merchandise tilts the scale towards theatrical styling than conventional furniture. The exposed brick, vintage fixtures and sale tags on the audience’s seats contributed to the warm and easy going atmosphere. The singers were inches from the audience, and as observers we were completely engaged into the scenes by the performers. It came across like audience members were spontaneously getting up to perform. It completely worked.
The repertoire was classic as it gets, and the character choices exposed the complex and evil personalities of Don Giovanni, Carmen, the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflote), Sweeney Todd, Esclarmonde, Tarquinius (The Rape of Lucretia), Medea Redux, and Javert (Les Miserables).
Yes, opera villains are as appealing as you think. I loved the performance.
Super Villains featured Gene Wu, Stephen Hegedus, Ambur Braid, Vilma Vitols, Christopher Mokrzewski and Noa May Dorn.
Photos are below, video will follow shortly. Don’t forget to check out Against the Grain Theatre’s production of La Boheme, performed in English at the Tranzac Club December 1, 2 and 3. This opera is actually being performed in a bar. Hallelujah, let’s all go!
All Photos by Diana Di Mauro: Vilma Vitols; Ambur Braid; Founder and Artistic Director, Joel Ivany; Gene Wu; Stephen Hegedus; Against the Grain Theatre.