I am super pleased to finally announce that for the past year I have been involved in the development of a brand new chamber opera based on Helen Humphrey‘s novel Wild Dogs. The project is being produced in Vancouver by Robert Carey and his black bachx opera lab. The opera is set in a small Ontario town plagued by unemployment and a pack of feral dogs made up of former pets, which have either escaped or been thrown out by their struggling owners.
I recently participated in a three-day libretto workshop with librettist Val Brandt, dramaturg Ann Hodges, producer Robert Carey and a crew of six fantastic actors (Kyle Jespersen, Heather Pawsey, Julia Arkos, David Adams, Shawn Macdonald and Kayla Dunbar). Ann led the workshop in a beautifully smooth and professional manner getting all of us to articulate our interpretation of the novel and our vision for the opera. She expertly mined the actors for feedback using them as a kind of “consumer testing” group. These super talented performers truly inhabited the world of the libretto and gave remarkably insightful comments. Val pulled some all-nighters to make significant revisions, which could be workshopped yet again the next day. She’s a superhero! The libretto has a solid dramatic arc and is well on the way to completion. It was a remarkably productive and inspiring process, and I’m grateful to have been involved.
From top left: me, Kyle Jespersen, Heather Pawsey, Julia Arkos, David Adams, Ann Hodges, Val Brandt, Robert Carey; Bottom left: Shawn Macdonald, Kayla Dunbar
In the evening of the final day, we held a reading and information sessions for some invited guests. The actors were fabulous, the atmosphere buzzing with excitement. The workshop and reading session were held in the East Studio at the Post at 750, the new downtown Vancouver venue inhabited by PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, Touchstone Theatre, Music on Main, and the DOXA Documentary Film Festival. Our time in the studio was generously donated by Music on Main.
In the next few months, Val will turn the currently more play-like libretto into a form more suitable for opera. I will start working on the music at the end of this year in preparation for the first music workshop scheduled for June 2016.
I would like to thank the Shevchenko Foundation and our private donors for sponsoring this project. I can’t wait to begin the music!