Weird & wonderful: Toronto Darknet MarketReview
Last night I went to Mây on Dundas West for one of the most compact, strange evenings of music theatre I’ve ever seen. Canadian tenor Jonathan MacArthur, Loose TEA Music Theatre Artistic Director Alaina Viau, and Fawn Chamber Creative Artistic Director Amanda Smith have collaborated on Toronto Darknet Market, a fundraising event for Medée Toronto’s 2016 production of Medée by Charpentier.
It started with soprano Jen Krabbe (who sings the title role in Medée) breaking into Berlioz in the main floor of the bar, and luring the crowd down a dingy set of stairs to a lair-type basement space, where we fairly free to move around. In the lair was a dude on a laptop watching a video; to his right was a small vignette scene, where a man played airy saxophone beside a woman (mezzo-soprano Alessia Naccarato) in a negligee, posing on a bed with an iPhone in hand, no doubt with the camera facing her.
I originally thought they were supposed to be bats hanging on a clothes line across the space, but they turned out to be black bandanna scarves, which we were given to wear like gang members over our faces. We watched as baritone Cairan Ryan, sprawled on the basement floor, started to sing Purcell’s eerie Frost Scene (from his semi-opera King Arthur, accompanied only by a sparse double bass.
Jonathan MacArthur’s voice came out of nowhere, and after some wandering in the dark, I spotted him brightly lit, but partly hidden under a closed up bar. He sang schizophrenic John Cage, with all the extramusical sounds you’d expect from a master of thinking outside the box. MacArthur finished his odd aria and our eyes followed him to a parting curtain, where soprano Beth Hagerman dove right into Alban Berg’s “Lied der Lulu” from his Lulu. She was decked out in black hosiery and a leather corset, and she sang with a sound that rang full and satisfying in the the dank, low-ceilinged space.
When it was all over, MacArthur, Hagerman, and Ryan spread their arms out and slowly walked backwards towards where most of the audience had gathered; they gradually closed the space between them, forcing the listeners to crowd in tighter and tighter. Finally, they opened up the human pen and guided us out the door, where we shared a baffled trip back up the stairs.
I’m not sure what to make of the night, other than I couldn’t stop staring at things, and the singers were all tremendous. I don’t expect that Toronto Darknet Market is an indication of what we’ll see with Medée, but Amanda Smith did mention a love for Baroque music, and getting creative with it. I definitely was not bored at Darknet Market.