The Bicycle Opera Project at 21C

The Bicycle Opera Project at 21C

Jenna Simeonov

Last night, as part of the Royal Conservatory of Music’s ongoing contemporary music festival, 21C, the Bicycle Opera Project presented a teaser of their upcoming season. The BOP team will first take up an artist residency in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, to premiere Dean Burry’s new opera, The Bells of Baddeck. After that, they’ll tour both Nova Scotia and Ontario with shadow box, a cohesive collective of Canadian scenes. At last night’s preview, Bicycle Opera gave us a small taste of The Bells of Baddeck, plus about half of shadow box. A quick list of the BOP team:

  • Larissa Koniuk, soprano
  • Stephanie Tritchew, mezzo-soprano
  • Graham Thomson, tenor
  • Alexander Dobson, baritone
  • Ilana Waniuk, violin
  • Erika Nielsen Smith, cello
  • Wesley Shen, music director and piano
  • Liza Balkan, staging
  • Sonja Rainey, projectionist & set designer

The Bike Opera crew made sure we knew who they were right off the bat, riding their bikes onstage, and playing the world premiere of Chris Thornborrow’s Ride of the Bicycle Bells. I know what I’ll be thinking of each time I get on my bike now.

The scenes were a varied slice of contemporary Canadian opera. On the program were some of my new-found favourites, like Ivan Barbotin and Liza Balkan’s (What rhymes with) Azimuth?, and The Blind Woman by James Rolfe and David Yee. I loved the creepy scene, The Yellow Wallpaper, about a woman dealing with mental illness, who senses a ghostly presence in the wall. Bike Opera has a great sense of humour, too, which is why they indulged us with Tobin Stokes’ A five-minute bicycle opera. The piece is a quick story of two guys with bikes, vying for the affection of a girl with a bike; more importantly, the opera is bike-pun-tastic. shadow box is an impressive collection, and I look forward to seeing the full version when Bike Opera comes to Toronto at the end of their Ontario tour.

I was fortunate to chat with composer Dean Burry earlier in the day yesterday, and he spoke about The Bells of Baddeck, and achieving a balance of sophistication and accessibility with his opera, which will have its first audiences in Cape Breton. I liked the small bit I heard, which had a friendly, earthy sound to it.

Congrats, Bicycle Opera, on what looks like a creative and eclectic grouping of operas, short and long. I’ll be checking in with them while they’re in Cape Breton this summer, so stay tuned to meet the delightful team.

21C runs until May 24th; click here to find out what’s on and to purchase tickets.

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