Association of Canadian Choral Condutors

Association of Canadian Choral Condutors

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dark Star Requiem: A World Premiere production from Tapestry new opera works & Luminato featuring the Gryphon Trio & the Elmer Iseler Singers

Tapestry new opera works announces their second partnership with Luminato, Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity, to present the world premiere of Dark Star Requiem, a dramatic oratorio from poet Jill Battson and composer Andrew Staniland, during the opening weekend of the 2010 Festival. Dark Star Requiem explores the 25-year history of the AIDS pandemic with astonishing power and hope. Shining a light on those affected by the fear, confusion and devastation that AIDS has wrought, this world premiere features four outstanding soloists and two percussionists alongside two of Canada’s premiere ensembles: the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Gryphon Trio.
The four soloists have impressive talent and represent our national, cultural diversity: Neema Bickersteth (soprano), Krisztina Szabó (mezzo soprano), Peter McGillivray (baritone) and Marcus Nance (bass-baritone). Dark Star Requiem premieres June 11 and 12, 2010 at 8pm during the opening weekend of Luminato, Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity. Presented in Toronto’s breathtakingly beautiful new Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Dark Star Requiem will be shown on Friday and Saturday night and is sure to garner public and artistic accolades for its power, poetry and poignancy.

Dark Star Requiem will be deeply integrated into this year’s Luminato Festival, whose 2010 curatorial focus comments on the way rights and freedoms are expressed artistically. The artistic team behind the production, including librettist Jill Battson, composer Andrew Staniland, music director Wayne Strongman and dramaturge Tom Diamond, will participate in an Illumination panel discussion during the Festival. As well Jill Battson’s work, including the poems featured in the libretto, will be featured in public readings. In addition, a companion book to Dark Star Requiem which highlights the libretto and includes poems which were not set to music for the final score will be sold throughout the festival.
Tapestry Managing Artistic Director Wayne Strongman says: “We are so proud to be producing this important and beautiful new work, with such a brilliant array of artists. The creative team, the performers, and the producers have that rare synergy that comes when a work of such integrity is on the line. For a company like Tapestry, which places collaboration at the top of its mandate, the ongoing partnership with Luminato has also deepened our relationship in our own community as well as abroad. It is a wonderful meeting of creative spirits!”

Dark Star Requiem’s collaborators Battson and Staniland met at Tapestry’s 2005 Composer-Librettist Laboratory (LibLab), an annual 10 day “opera boot camp” during which four composers and four writers change partners every two days with each partnership resulting in a brand new five-minute opera scene. Since the LibLab, the partnership spawned a world premiere short opera, Ashlike on the Cradle of the Wind, which was produced as part of Tapestry’s Opera to Go production at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in 2006. Ashlike addressed the issue of HIV-AIDS among different generations in the gay community and inspired an invitation from PRIDE Toronto to present the opera at the annual PRIDE Parade celebrations. Ashlike was reprised in this year’s Opera to Go at the Fermenting Cellar, Distillery Historic District March 24-26, 2010. Battson and Staniland have maintained an interest in exploring, through opera, the complex issues of HIV-AIDS around the world. Dark Star Requiem is a full-length dramatic oratorio investigating the history of the global pandemic.

In Jill Battson I have found a true collaborator. Such a relationship is rare, and is a fresh and welcome alternative to the solitary work I usually engage as a composer. For this project I have used chamber choir, soloists, and percussionists as a medium to explore a contemporary, humanistic requiem. The piece, while not operatic in the traditional sense, will involve a theatrical narrative element, blurring the boundary between operatic and choral experience.” Andrew Staniland, Composer

With Dark Star Requiem, the creative partners are exploring the challenges and rewards of crafting a full-scale choral requiem through a humanistic, rather than religious lens. With composer and poet working together as equals at every stage to create the piece, this is a rare collaboration, based on the contemporary operatic model. It is a collaboration that promises a unique meeting ground for the artists to take on issues of global concern.

Among the major issues facing humanity in the present day is history’s most deadly epidemic to date: AIDS. Dark Star Requiem explores this through text and music, the relatively short history of AIDS This evocative, poetic concert work interlaces such timely topics as ecology, myth, politics, and family as they relate to the pandemic. While the text includes fragments from the Latin Mass for the Dead, the overall perspective is humanistic rather than religious. Focusing on the intimate and personal face of AIDS, the piece resonates with audiences across a wide spectrum of age, class, culture and experience. The creators’ aim is to bring a new focus to the issue, especially in people too young to remember the fear, confusion, and devastation AIDS wrought in the late 1980s, and to remind people not only about the disease, but to bring up issues of racism, homophobia, and disinformation.

Andrew and I have mapped out a form for the requiem which consists of a chronology of the disease, charting its known history until the present day. Included in this is disinformation from the beginning of the pandemic, greed within the scientific camps and narrative presentations of the virus. This form has given me the opportunity to write poems in different styles including the longer, narrative poems which will give the audience the ‘story’ and parallel sound poems using fragments of the different parts of the traditional mass for the dead. Sometimes these fragments are in Latin, other times translated into English and often used as themes within the poems. This variety allows for the combination of voices to convey a percussive quality and to add depth, meaning and emotion into the overall text.” Jill Battson, Librettist

Tapestry is thrilled to once again be part of Luminato. Their relationship began in 2008 when the Festival included the world premiere of Sanctuary Song by Abigail Richardson & Marjorie Chan, a world premiere opera for all ages from Tapestry and Theatre Direct which won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Opera/Musical.

The world premiere of Dark Star Requiem is commissioned by Luminato, with additional support from the Ontario Arts Council, and co-produced by Tapestry new opera works and Luminato.


Dark Star Requiem:
A World Premiere production from Tapestry new opera works and Luminato Written by Jill Battson and Composed by Andrew Staniland
Music Director: Wayne Strongman
The Elmer Iseler Singers - Lydia Adams, Artistic Director
The Gryphon Trio (Annalee Patipatanakoon, volin; Roman Borys, cello Jamie Parker, piano) Percussion: Ryan Scott, Mark Duggan
Dramaturg: Tom Diamond
Soloists: Soprano Neema Bickersteth; Mezzo soprano Krisztina Szabó; Baritone Peter McGillivray;  Bass-Baritone Marcus Nance

Friday, June 11 – Saturday, June 12, at 8 PM at Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory of Music,
273 Bloor Street West

$30 – 50 For more information, visit Tickets will be available at 10:00 AM, April 15th through all Ticketmaster outlets call 416-872-1111 or visit

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