Fab nights: Whose Opera is it Anyway?Editorial
It may have been a staple of the operatic stage in centuries past, but in opera’s more recent history, true improvisation hasn’t been a prominent part of the art form. For all their Olympian vocal feats, opera singers don’t often hold a reputation for being improvisers; that’s a huge reason why Loose TEA Music Theatre’s Whose Opera Is It Anyway? was such a treat.
The hour-long show at The Comedy Bar on Bloor makes a big nod to the well-loved TV improv show, Whose Line is it Anyway? Eight singers and one pianist rotate through short improv games, the details of which are supplied by audience suggestions. For those who admire what opera singers can do, Whose Opera is it Anyway? is totally mind-blowing; these singers add serious variables to the existing pressure of singing in public and being appropriately funny in a comedy bar. It’s enough to make any hardcore opera fan super-duper curious to watch an Opera Improv rehearsal.
The biggest test of something like this - a show that’s decidedly niche-within-niche - is in the reactions of opera newcomers. I brought along my Andrej, who despite being Schmopera’s co-creator, has a humble knowledge of opera. (But how about that site design, am I right?) He had a total blast, shouting out game suggestions to the singers and laughing into his beer.
The players onstage, who in fact make up “Canada’s only Opera Improv group” had fun and poked fun. They conjured up cringe-worthy audition situations, laid out solid impressions of well-known opera bosses, and basically roasted every stereotype of “Canadian contemporary opera”. By design, what happened onstage was not only relevant to the audience, but hopelessly intertwined. Soprano Adanya Dunn had our hearts with her recitation - artfully sung, naturally - of the recent text messages in one audience member’s phone (including a live video reply to keep things spicy).
Whose Opera is it Anyway isn’t something that just any opera singer could do, which keeps it unique and impressive. This was the summer’s second instalment of the show, and there are fairly loud murmurings of Opera Improv’s becoming a long-term regular thing in Toronto, which would certainly be fab. Similar to the monthly Opera Pubs led by Against the Grain Theatre throughout the season, regular Opera Improv nights would be a fantastic, low-key complement to the city’s more formal operatic offerings.
We had a blast at this latest Whose Opera is it Anyway?, and the next show can’t come soon enough. Stay in the loop by following Loose TEA Music Theatre on Twitter and Facebook, and watch out for the hashtag, #WhoseOpera.