The Laurels

Chamber opera in one short act

Instrumentation soprano solo, baritone solo; cl(bcl)/hp/perc/vn/va/vc/cb
Percussion requirements snare dr, bass dr, 2 bongos, susp. cymbal, lg. tamtam, chimes, vib

Timing ca. 13′

Composed 2001

Libretto by Michael Lewis MacLennan

Commissioned by Tapestry New Opera Works with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and New Op Angel: Ernest Balmer

World Premiere April 22/23, 2002, Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto, Ontario. Laura Whalen, soprano; Steven Pitkanen, baritone; Banuta Rubess, stage director; Wayne Strongman, music director

Programme Notes

The Laurels is a short one-act opera which makes use of a thriller genre in order to explore a woman’s response to harrowing crisis. Rather than dramatise the actual event, which would be difficult to create within a short space of time, the opera opens on the aftermath and illuminates manifestations of morality and how the past haunts us.

Laurel runs through a large city park at night, chased by a male Stranger. We are initially invite to see the Stranger as a dangerous stalker and to “read” the woman as a helpless victim. In the course of the story, however, clues are slipped which suggest that the victim is not so innocent. Through music, word and action, the opera reveals that The Stranger is in fact part of Laurel’s psyche, and his pursuit of her is with a more complex purpose. When she stabs him and explains her motives, talking of “killing a man tonight,” we think she is referring to the Stranger we have just seen her stab. But when the stranger stirs, not killed, we realise that he is not the victim. He is haunting her, a voice she cannot escape which offers her the only way to properly silence him. The piece ends in this place of heightened dilemma.

The Laurels doesn’t announce itself as an interior psychological drama. Instead, it employs a contemporary retelling of the Daphne and Apollo myth in order to tell an exciting, surprising and moving story that works on many levels.

The Laurels is dedicated to Wayne Strongman and Claire Hopkinson of Tapestry New Opera Works.

Reviews

Librettist Michael Lewis MacLennan and composer Jeffrey Ryan distill the emotional and vocal essence of opera into an extended dramatic dialogue that takes full advantage of the beauty and pathos of the human voice. Ryan’s often lush, evocative score was gorgeously rendered… (John Terauds/Toronto Star)

The softness of the soprano is contrasted with the fierceness of the baritone. The score at first is rushing and restless with interesting musical accents, but there are also moments of rapture and ecstasy as Laurel seeks an end to her despair. (Paula Citron/Opera Canada)

Highlights of the evening [included] Jeffrey Ryan’s and librettist Michael Lewis MacLennan’s jazz-influenced The Laurels, a modern, sexually charged revision of the Daphne and Apollo myth, in which the usually chaste maiden is far from innocent. (Jon Kaplan/NOW Magazine)

PDF Downloads

“Lost” excerpt   “Think Why I Chase You” excerpt   “And So I Killed a Man” excerpt

Audio excerpt

Coming soon

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Score $75 print, $45.00 PDF
Piano/vocal part $40 print, $24 PDF
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