Tapestry New Opera | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Tapestry New Opera

Tapestry New Opera (formally Tapestry New Opera Works). Toronto-based opera company, founded by Wayne Strongman in 1979.

Tapestry New Opera

Tapestry New Opera (formally Tapestry New Opera Works). Toronto-based opera company, founded by Wayne Strongman in 1979. Under Strongman and resident directors Claire Hopkinson (1991-2005) and Tom Diamond (2005-), Tapestry New Opera has become a leading producer of contemporary Canadian opera and a training ground for professional composers, writers, and performers of the genre.

The company began as a madrigal ensemble under the name Tapestry Singers, but by the mid-1980s it had transitioned to producing light opera and musical theatre, under the name Tapestry Music Theatre. In 1991 Strongman teamed up with producer Claire Hopkinson, and the following year the company made a drastic departure, premiering Toronto composer Nic Gotham's new opera, Nigredo Hotel. With the success of that production, the company found its niche in contemporary opera, and was renamed Tapestry New Opera Works in 1999.

From the outset, Tapestry's production style has been highly collaborative. In 1995 the company established an intensive one-week workshop for professional composers and librettists, which has served as a model for programs elsewhere. Four composers and four writers, chosen from more than 40 applicants, are given the opportunity to create a series of five-minute operatic scenes, all of them performed and critiqued. The sessions typically generate several short operas and two full-scale productions, which are formally staged by Tapestry's resident performers over the course of its season. Performances are held at the Ernest Balmer Studio in Toronto's historic Distillery District and at major venues throughout the city.

Since 1992, the company has premiered more than 30 new operas by both promising and seasoned Canadian composers, including Nigredo Hotel (Nic Gotham and Ann-Marie MacDonald, 1992), No No Miya (Rudolf Komorous, 1995), Still the Night (Theresa Tova, 1996), Elsewhereless (Rodney Sharman and Atom Egoyan, 1998), Iron Road (Ka Nin Chan and Mark Brownell, 2001), Facing South (Linda Caitlin Smith and Don Hannah, 2003), Sanctuary Song (Abigail Richardson and Marjorie Chan, 2007), The Shadow (Omar Daniel and Alex Poch-Goldin, 2009), and Dark Star Requiem, written by Jill Battson and composed by Andrew Staniland for Toronto's 2010 Luminato festival. It has also produced the children's operas Elijah's Kite (James Rolfe and Camyar Chai, 2006) and Get Stuffed (Richard Payne and Alexis Diamond, 2008), which have been performed for students across Ontario through the company's youth outreach program.

By the company's 30th anniversary, several of Tapestry's productions had become staples of Canadian opera. Gotham's Nigredo Hotel, Ka Nin Chan's Iron Road, and Abigail Richardson's Sanctuary Song have all garnered Dora Mavor Moore awards. For his work with the company, Wayne Strongman was named a Member of the Order of Canada and an ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre in 2009.

Further Reading