From page to stage, from written word to sung aria: the opera adaptation of Lisa Moore’s debuts this evening

October 2023

It opens, like much great performance, with a wedding. “They’re really in love!”
Opera on the Avalon’s adaptation of Lisa Moore’s acclaimed and adored novel February had a star-studded world premiere October 13th. The libretto, co-written by Moore and composer Laura Kaminsky retains the bones of the story distilled from 320 pages into two and a half hours plus stage work. Helen (Katherine Pracht) and Cal (Matthew Dalen) are young and married and crazy in love – and living in a substandard apartment with three children and another on the way. But there’s hope, not just for them but everyone – oil has been discovered on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. Oil means money, oil means jobs, means a bright economic future for all hands. And sure enough, Cal gets work, on the Ocean Ranger.
That name is now synonymous with maritime tragedy, and Cal was lost when the “unsinkable” rig went down on February 15, 1982. “I knew I’d been robbed,” Helen states, repeatedly, now a widow walking the aisles the church when she’d been married. Not just Helen but the province and far beyond in is mourning and questioning what these mega-projects truly mean, as the oil industry proceeds to wrack up tremendous personal, commercial, and ecological costs.
This is told through arias, duets, and chorus ensembles. Several of which sparked applause from the enthusiastic audience on opening night. The blocking is brisk, clear, and imaginative; the lightening and stage affects tremendous; the costumes fresh yet classic; the orchestra at its usual professional pitch. I did think the momentum dropped in the second act, and a subplot concerning ethics in the oil field was a little too on the nose. But this a bold idea with the breath to become a big deal. Bravo, brava!

 

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