Like an Old Tale
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An operatic staging of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for 2 operatic soloists — sop + bar, 2 traditional singers, 2 SATB choirs, traditional drummers and chamber ensemble — cl/bcl, pf, perc, vn, db [150’] 2011

Commissioner: Jumblies Theatre Company
Funder: Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Jumblies Theatre Company, director Varrick Grimes, soloists Doug MacNaughton (baritone) and Neema Bickersteth (soprano), Rosary Spence (First Nations singer), Sharada Eswar (Carnatic singer), Toronto, December 8-18, 2011.
Concept: Ruth Howard
Program note:

Like an Old Tale has drawn me into a world in which hundreds of people from all over the world retell an old story through sound, text, movement and image. How can music help or hinder our understanding of each other? Over the last year and a half we’ve worked together to create a musical world which makes room for different cultural traditions and skills. Some moments are soundscapes, while others are clearly operatic and driven by the vocal line. There have been break-through moments: the Bohemian chorus’ gutsy embrace of the call and response of the Daffodil song; Sharada singing Katrinile Varum Geetham while the Sicilian Choir sing a lament; Rosary and Sharada spinning a double lullaby together over the musical bed of the ensemble; mridangam drummer Sarma joining the groove in Rosary’s Water Song. When we read through the outline of the piece in the summer, I was struck by the compelling voices of children and seniors speaking passages from Shakespeare’s text: these extraordinary words are the bedrock of our collaboration. I am indebted to the generous contributions of Sharada Eswar and Rosary Spence, whose songs weave their way through the piece, and to the band (Adam, Adam, Aleksander, Alex and Martin) whose improvisations summon the Badlands and Bohemia. Thanks to everyone for giving voice to this new world!