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“Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt” is a huge hit!

April 5th, 2016 by admin

“Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt” is a huge hit!  The World Premiere was a big success with full houses, and standing ovations for both performances. The compliments and positive reviews keep pouring in! Thanks to all who gave it life! Composer Peter-Anthony Togni, Voicebox:Opera in Concert, Guillermo Silva-Marin, Conductor Robert Cooper,  Lucia Cesaroni, Michael Barrett, Michael Nyby, Julie Nesrallah, Stuart Graham, Christopher Wattam, Leigh-Ann Allen, and the wonderful chorus and orchestra, especially Narmina Afandiyeva!

Thanks to all our supporters and donors. The full list is here: www.ariaworks.ca/supporters.html 

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Vat’s a Wandelprobe???

March 25th, 2016 by admin

“Vat’s a Wandelprobe?” (with thanks to Lua Hadar’s Blog)
So, as Book Writer and Librettist, I’ve been creating this opera with composer Peter-Anthony Togni for four years and just heard a new word WANDELPROBE.  Tuesday is the WANDELPROBE for new Canadian opera “Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt” inspired by ancient Egyptian mythology. Exotic, romantic, strange, chilling.

“SO VAT’S A WANDELPROBE, ALREADY? A rehearsal used in opera and musical theatre where actors, the orchestra, and blocking come together for the first time. That’s the first rehearsal with everything. The one you need a lot of patience to get through.”

Maestro Robert Cooper and Opera in Concert General Director Guillermo Silva-Marin will be performing their magic as all elements of this new work come together.We have been in the trenches of rehearsals for days. Very intense. Very exciting. The odd word change to help the singers sing. Some musical adjustments by the composer. The layers of meaning becoming ever richer as the music and the words are enhanced with glorious singing and acting, blocking: the movement of the artists on stage. Guillermo Silva-Marin works with each individual to “flesh out character relationships.”

“It takes a village to make an opera.” In our rehearsals, here is who is there: the stars of the opera: Lucia Cesaroni, Michael Barrett, Michael Nyby, Julie Nesrallah, Stuart Graham, Christopher Wattam, and Leigh-Ann Allen. Conductor and Chorus Director Robert Cooper who sings any missing vocal part, if an artist is not present, or to represent the missing chorus, Guillermo Silva-Marin staging, pianist Narmina Afandiyeva and, on Chorus days, the 29 male and female choristers.

So if you get to see the extraordinary production of ISIS AND OSIRIS, GODS OF EGYPT on April 1 and 3, know that I’m in the audience “verklempt” seeing my words come to life, blossoming with dazzling singing, orchestral music, acting.

Check out www.operainconcert.com

Sharon Singer’s Talk at St. Lawrence Centre

March 25th, 2016 by admin

TALK St. Lawrence Centre, Sunday Feb. 7, 2016 by Sharon Singer

“ISIS AND OSIRIS , Gods of Egypt” A New Canadian Opera

Composer Peter-Anthony Togni, Librettist Sharon Singer

Produced by Voicebox:Opera in Concert

 

The story of this opera comes from the pre-history of Egypt, perhaps as much as 6000 years ago, when the Egyptian creation myth was born. This myth recounts how  the world began: in the beginning, primeval waters covered the earth. Rising from these waters a mound of earth emerged,  and on this mound the self-begotten god ATUM stood and created all living things. Atum had two children –the air and moisture: Shu and Tefnut. They mated and brought forth the god of the earth, Geb, and the goddess of the sky, Nut. The children of Geb and Nut are the main characters of the myth and of this opera – Isis, Osiris, Seth and Nepthys. These are the first gods to descend and live as human beings on earth.

Of these four siblings, Isis and Osiris are predestined to be king and queen of Egypt. They share a great eternal love. Together they bring civilization to Egypt—the gifts of agriculture, weaving, animal husbandry, a code of laws, the arts, and worship of the gods.

Isis and Osiris are both devoted to– order, truth, law and justice. The Egyptians had one word for these four principles:  Ma’at . OSIRIS is a great king a visionary. ISIS is a woman of power, a queen, a goddess of magic and healing.

I made some additions to the myth to demonstrate the idealism of Osiris. One of these is the Great Policy of Peace which Osiris announces at the Jubilee Celebration in the opening scene.

Isis and Osiris have created a paradise on earth. But just as in the Bible, there is a snake in the garden. Isis and Osiris have a brother Seth who is jealous and power-mad. He thinks he should have been made king. In so many ways, he is completely different from his three siblings – he is cruel, deceitful, and treasonous. He makes a plan that will rid him of his brother Osiris so that he can usurp the throne. He murders Osiris — twice. The first time he sends him down the Nile in a gold sarcophagus. But when Isis finds Osiris and brings him back, Seth descends into the most brutal and chilling mindset in order to rid himself of his brother for good. Seth  cuts up the body of Osiris into pieces and has his soldiers bury the parts all over Egypt. Chaos and terror are the result. Seth has ushered evil into the world.

But Isis, impelled by love and duty to Egypt, and her total devotion to Osiris, goes on a perilous journey to find the fragments of her husband. She travels throughout Egypt sensing his presence, using her prophetic and magical gifts. Finally she assembles his body, creating the first mummification. Osiris is not alive, he is not dead.  Then all nature holds its breath as Isis attempts to resurrect Osiris.  With prayer, magic, charms and unguents and with the help of the gods, Isis brings breath back into the moribund body of her husband. She has performed the very first resurrection. It’s a shocking revelation to all who witness it since it had never been done before.

The Composer of Isis and Osiris

Peter-Anthony Togni is so well known both for his own compositions and his many years as a CBC Radio broadcast. The recording of Peter’s “Responsio” is nominated in this year’s JUNO awards in the Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral Performance category.

We know that the ancient Egyptians loved music, and they had a lot of it –it fills their wall paintings. And their musical instruments have been discovered in tombs to entertain pharaohs in the afterlife. There are flutes, harps, the tambourine-like sistrum, bells, drums and trumpets.

Even knowing all this, nobody knows exactly how the music of ancient Egypt sounded.   So Peter Togni  had a big challenge in writing music for this opera.  But he has created something wonderful. He describes it as “ancient yet modern, at times tender and lyrical,  sometimes quite spare, sometimes romantically rich and wild.” I think it’s  contemporary music with an ancient gusto.

I love large concepts, big works. Opera is at home with BIG!  Opera requires larger than life stories, unforgettable characters, epic, grand, iconic, and usually tragic tales. And I love that opera is such a beautiful  expression of ALL the arts – poetry, drama, acting, singing, music, the visual arts,  dance, architectural sets, and fashion in the costumes.

Only opera, I felt,  could encompass the grandeur of the myth of Isis and Osiris, and this opened up extraordinary artistic possibilities.

So here was this amazing strange myth just waiting to be turned into an opera, just waiting to be united with this grand art form. It was an irresistible combination.

 

It was very important to me to incorporate authentic Egyptian words, concepts and facts into the opera. I found ancient sayings that fit right into the text. And it was also a challenge to incorporate the magic and supernatural elements of the story without making the opera too ritualistic.

For examples, ancient Egyptians believed that the flesh of the gods was imperishable, made of the most valuable precious metals. So after he murders Osiris, Seth sings these words: 

The bones of the gods are silver

their flesh is gold, and yes, immortal

but I have found a way to end a god.

Egyptophiles like myself might recognize sayings like “ Life, prosperity, health.” a traditional Egyptian blessing. At Seth’s Banquet for Osiris, they drink dark Khenemes beer, an actual ancient Egyptian beer, and the food served is what was eaten by Egyptian royals: roast ox in garlic, quail with leeks, gazelle basted in honey. 

The characters in the myth are archetypes, they have no personality, so I needed to flesh them out,  give them dimension, motivations, a personal history. I had to try to understand them, and express what they wanted and how they felt about it. I had to find their flaws and smooth out the rough edges of the story so that it would have a coherent dramatic flow.

A major theme of the opera is the conflict between good and evil—good governance for all vs personal desire for power. Think Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump. In this case it’s the idealism of King Osiris, versus his brother Seth’s lust for power for its own sake. Larger questions are raised such as when, if ever, it is justified for a nation to go to war.

There is a duet between King Osiris and Seth, in which Osiris tries to convince his disgruntled  brother that PEACE is a better path than WAR.  Seth, a violent, rapacious would-be tyrant believes that only WAR will give him the power he desires.  Don’t we read about this very struggle every day in the news?

So I didn’t have to work very hard to make this story contemporary. Another aspect that is very contemporary is that in the myth Queen Isis holds equal power to king Osiris. How’s that for up-to-date?

So WHY EGYPT?

Ancient Egypt has long been a passion of mine –ever since I saw those beautifully painted mummy cases in the ROM on high school outings. It still has a fascination for me that knows no bounds. I have been to Egyptian exhibits in Toronto, Los Angeles, Berlin, Chicago, London, Paris and New York.  The Temple of Dendur with its reflecting pool, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is truly awe-inspiring.

Our educational system, in fact, western civilization, has never accorded ancient Egypt its rightful place in the development of western culture. For instance, the Great Pyramid was the tallest building in the world for over 3800 years. About 50 stories high!

Even though the Greeks thought of themselves as intellectually superior to all non-Greek “barbarians,” the Egyptians were an exception, and the impact of ancient Egypt on Greek culture cannot be underestimated. The Greek philosopher Plato studied with learned Egyptian priests for 13 years.  The Greeks viewed the Egyptians as a prime source of ancient and venerable wisdom.

Egyptian civilization lasted over three thousand years and it was still a powerful force in the world during the Roman Empire – there were temples dedicated to the goddess Isis throughout the Roman world until the 4th century. After the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, everything considered “pagan” was banned. Hieroglyphics were no longer written.  Then Egypt fell into darkness. The culture of ancient Egypt disappeared to the outside world, and was forgotten, a mystery of the ages.

Then in 1799, the Rosetta Stone was discovered and when it was translated, it became astoundingly clear that the ancient culture of the Egyptians had great depth, complexity and superb beauty in its literature, poetry, and mythology.

And it is fascinating to realize that despite all the technological improvements through the millennia, human beings don’t change. Human nature,  human emotions remain the same, through the ages. And that is why it is so easy to identify with the characters in this opera.

CONCLUSION

The Egyptian government has been very supportive of this work and they want to produce the opera in Egypt at the pyramids! So the world premiere is very important. We need to sell out the house!

For more information:

Sharon Singer, Book Writer/Librettist Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt

sharonsinger.com

ariaworks.ca

@IsisOsirisOpera

facebook.com/isis.osiris.opera

ISIS AND OSIRIS, Gods of Egypt, WORLD PREMIERE April 1 and 3, 2016.   www.operainconcert.com

Monday March 7, Spring of Songs Concert and Fundraiser for “Isis and Osiris”

February 25th, 2016 by admin

Early Bird Tickets: Call Voicebox:Opera in Concert 416-922-2147   Tickets at the door $35

Come and join us for this fun event to celebrate “Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt” just a few weeks prior to its World Premiere.

Art auction and auction of great prizes from Canadian cultural institutions!

Refreshments and Cash Wine Bar.

 

 

Monday March 7 “Spring of Songs” Concert and Fundraiser for “Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt”

February 23rd, 2016 by admin

Monday March 7th “Spring of Songs” Concert & Fundraiser for “Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt” Early Bird Tickets only $25 for opera concert, excerpt from “Isis and Osiris” and refreshments. Cash bar. Auction for gorgeous works by internationally-known Anton Cetin as well as auctions for prizes donated by prestigious Canadian cultural institutions. More information here: http://operainconcert.com/Springofsongs.html

First Person Librettist Sharon Singer on “Isis and Osiris”Opera (from The Charlebois Post – Canada)

January 7th, 2016 by admin

The Charlebois Post published Saturday September 13, 2014

How an ancient Egyptian myth is being reincarnated into a new Canadian opera

Isis and Osiris by Sharon Singer and Peter-Anthony Togni is in development 
by Sharon Singer (Librettist)

 Isis and Osiris AGO

Toronto-born Sharon Singer is a published poet, librettist, journalist, and spoken word performer, known for her dramatic monologues. In addition to four published books, Ms Singer’s work has been included in poetry journals and anthologies. More than 15 years ago, Sharon Singer began collaborating with musicians who wrote soundscapes to accompany her spoken word performances. This resulted in her work being set to classical and jazz music for the CDs Hail, Canadian Art Song and Global Warming, a collaboration with renowned New York jazz saxophone player Bob Mover. In 2008 Philip McConnell composed music for Sharon Singer’s short story The Museum and  her documentary poem, The Burning Book both of which she  performed with the Toronto Sinfonietta Orchestra at the Royal Ontario Museum. Isis and Osiris is her first opera libretto. The opera’s initial public performance took place at the Art Gallery of Ontario. www.sharonsinger.com      www.ariaworks.ca

Anyone who has ever been to my home sees evidence of my love for ancient Egypt.  There is the six foot tall poster of Ramses the Great, purchased at a Ramses le Grand exhibit of monumental sculpture in Paris in 1976.  My kitchen towels are Egyptian themed and in the living room is the Egyptomania poster from the 1979 exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. I have been enchanted by ancient Egypt since high school trips from Oakwood Collegiate Institute took me to the Royal Ontario Museum where I first saw mummies, scarabs, shwabti, and mysterious hieroglyphic symbols. From there I amassed a comprehensive collection of books about Egypt, and even sculpture reproductions. For many years I attended the all-day Symposium put on by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

Sharon Singer Librettist

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that my creative work would go in that direction. With several books of poetry to my credit, and a number of CDs, I wanted a new challenge. The idea for Isis and Osiris was inspired by one of the great world myths. This myth of Isis and Osiris is exciting and provocative, strange and exotic, mysterious and compelling. It tells the story of four siblings, Isis, Osiris, Seth, and Nepthys, born of the gods of earth and sky, the first living gods to dwell among humanity. Isis and Osiris, king and queen of Egypt, share a great love, an eternal love that nothing can shatter. Their brother Seth however, is jealous and lusts for power and, for his brother’s wife. Seth wants to be king and nothing can stop him. Like Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey in Netflix’ House of Cards, Seth climbs the ladder of power through murder, deception, and treason. He murders Osiris in the most gruesome manner, but Isis, loyal, devoted, and driven by destiny to bear their child, the heir to the throne of Egypt, goes on a gruelling search for her husband’s body. She finds all the parts of his body, except the phallus. Using her magic and with the help of the gods, she creates a phallus of pure gold, resurrects Osiris, and together, they create their son Horus, progenitor of a line of kings.

I had made several attempts to get this project mounted, originally, as a staged musical drama, until I finally realized that this story was made to be an opera. Nothing less than a grand conception can hope to convey the larger-than-life tale of the first great love story in world literature, with its elements of sibling rivalry, murder, the quest for immortality, and an archetypal battle between good and evil, which resonates through the centuries in more contemporary love stories and dramatic literary tragedies. Only an opera could encompass its power and strengths.
And it is in this direction that Isis and Osiris is finding success. The first 30 minute excerpt of the opera  was performed  during the King Tut show at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), a supporter and partner in the production. The Egyptian Tourist Authority was a major donor and continues to be an enthusiastic ally. The project was directed by Guillermo Silva-Marin, General Director of VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert, a 40-year-old Toronto opera company that puts on a full season of works at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Guillermo was excited about the work, fascinated by ancient Egypt, and quite taken with the libretto. He was amazed that this thrilling myth had never before been the inspiration for an opera.

There was a joy of discovery, the deeper I delved into the story and the ancient mysterious world that I was seeking to know and reveal.

The day of the AGO performance was electrifying for me, as I sat in the front row and heard my words sung by wonderful artists: Amanda Jones as Isis, Stefan Fehr as Osiris, Joseph Angelo as Seth, and Douglas Tranquada as the Royal Scribe. I was so impressed with the persistence and musicality of David Eliakis, our music director, who insisted on clear enunciation of every word of the libretto throughout the rehearsals. We had a sold-out, standing-room only, highly enthusiastic crowd filling Walker Court as well as the side aisles around it. The ardent reaction to this production was the ‘go’ light for VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert to continue with the opera’s development.

After the AGO production, with Guillermo as dramaturge, I continued working on the libretto aiming at a two-hour opera for the world première. Guillermo and I had many creative discussions as I worked out the overarching concepts of the piece, its style, action, plot, structure, the fleshing out of the characters, and the themes, poetic metaphors and symbols. Being a poet, it was also important to me that the text be precise and melodic, that the rhythm of the language be suited to music, always keeping in mind the prime importance of a strong dramatic thrust.

The story developed over the months that I worked on it, becoming richer as I discovered more of the facets of each of the five main characters, their back stories, their motivations, and the arc of each of the characters. There was a joy of discovery, the deeper I delved into the story and the ancient mysterious world that I was seeking to know and reveal.

I was introduced to the award-winning composer Peter-Anthony Togni through the accomplished  mezzo-soprano Andrea Ludwig, who I met at a party at the home of Elaine Smookler, a well-known Toronto humorist, writer, performer and teacher. Andrea and I took to each other immediately, and when I told her I was a librettist looking for a composer (to take a page from Pirandello) she told me that she knew someone who had expressed the desire to write an opera. What luck! But would he like my work?  Would I be taken with his music?  I asked her to read the libretto and, only if she liked it, would she then mention it to this composer. Andrea got very excited about Isis and Osiris, and conveyed her enthusiasm to Peter. We got in touch with each other. I sent him the libretto and this was his reaction in an email.  “ I read the libretto and I love it!.  Very dramatic, very singable…brilliant…I would love to make this happen!!!”

I also became enamoured with Peter’s music – it has so much mystery, melody, and artfulness. Peter loves improvisation, creation in the moment, the excitement of discovery, and I am delighted by the playfulness within the powerful sweep of his scores. Peter’s compositions include 23 choral works, his most recent being Warrior Songs, a 75 minute concerto for improvised percussion and choir, whose central theme is the idea of being a warrior for nonaggression. The idealistic Osiris, who, in my libretto, creates “The Great Policy of Peace” document, would approve.

In addition to being a 20 year veteran CBC Radio broadcaster, Peter travels to perform his music around the world including at Roy Thompson Hall, in Moscow, Shanghai, and for the Pope. Peter is a rare, unique talent, and I am deeply grateful that he decided to work with me.

Thus our collaboration began. Since Peter is in Halifax, this involves travel, many phone calls, Skype, and emails.  Writing is a lonely art for both a poet and a composer, so it is truly a joy to have a partner who appreciates your work and as Peter and I got to know each other, we also became friends. Working with Peter has expanded the dimensions of the story, which is now being told not only through the words but through the emotional thrust of the music.
I see the libretto as a literary form and by utilizing the heightened language of poetry, it becomes a work in itself.   When the poetic text is set to music, the audience can be drawn in on so many different levels—intellectually, emotionally, and even physically. Yet, taking a page from Stephen Sondheim, the lyric or libretto “can be full of complex thoughts and it certainly can have resonance but it must be easy to follow–that is not true of poetry.”
The libretto is now almost complete, which means that Peter can continue working on the musical score. We are still on our journey of collaboration.
In the summer of 2013, Peter and I did a demo recording of the opera’s love scene with mezzo-soprano Andrea Ludwig and tenor Colin Ainsworth at CBC studios. This recording can be heard on Peter Togni’s website.

Then, it was time to start raising funds, so in the Fall of 2013, I planned a Birthday Party/Fundraiser for the following December at Heliconian Hall in Yorkville.  This event took non-stop work, day and night, for months.  I had to get the word out to everyone I knew, create posters and flyers, learn how to use MailChimp and Eventbrite, plan the refreshments, find a photographer and videographer. The list goes on.

But it was worth it!  The event was a huge success—we filled the hall to capacity. With Peter at the piano, Andrea Ludwig and tenor Joseph Angelo sang their hearts out in the roles of Isis and Osiris to support the opera.

This event truly marked Isis and Osiris’ birthday. It was a happy circumstance that the month of December also marks my own. VOICEBOX views this opera as a new, vibrant, and visionary work and at that event, Guillermo said,  “It’s a tall order for a small company like VOICEBOX to present a world première, but we are absolutely committed to seeing it through to fruition. I fell for the story immediately in Sharon’s stunning words. This is something unique, important, and marvellous. This amazing project is a truly operatic subject with fratricide, incest, quest for power, seduction, belly dancing…you couldn’t hope for more.”

The libretto is now almost complete, which means that Peter can continue working on the musical score. We are still on our journey of collaboration.

Moving forward, VOICEBOX is planning a workshop of the opera in May 2015.  My job will be to work with the opera company to raise funds for the workshop and for the world première by engaging sponsors and donors, as well as to be involved in the marketing. I don’t think that any creator working with an independent opera company can just sit back once the writing is finished and let the company do all the work. It’s important to get involved in the entire process. I long to see the world première of my opera Isis and Osiris at the St. Lawrence Centre. I can’t wait!

4 comments:

  1. Terrific stuff, Sharon. Inspirational.

    Cheers,
    Barry

    Reply

  2. I can’t wait either, Sharon, May 2015 can’t come soon enough. Proud to know someone of such immense talent and dedication to her art!

    Reply

  3. What a wonderful article, allowing us to experience the amazing dedication you have to your core loves and beliefs. And then making it all happen! I’m in awe and thrilled for you and certainly hope to be there in May.

    Rhonda

    Reply

  4. Continue, continue, continue and get this project to market!!! After seeing the AGO preview, and having known about your passion for ancient Egypt these thirty years, I have no doubt that Osiris and Isis will find true love – again!

    Reply

WORLD PREMIERE DATE SET!

September 28th, 2015 by admin

April 1, 2016 The WORLD PREMIERE of Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt will take place at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, in a fully-staged production by VOICEBOX, Opera in Concert, under the director of Guillermo Silva-Marin.

 

MAY 2015 Workshop “Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt”

May 10th, 2015 by admin

 

On May 6 and May 8, 2015 An opera workshop too place for “Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt” with a prestigious cast:

Sasha Djihanian as Isis, Tonatiuh Abrego as Osiris, Michael Nyby as Seth, Ruth D’Souza as Nepthys, and Yvette Coleman as Sennefer.

ARTICLE IN CHARLEBOIS POST PUBLISHED

September 13th, 2014 by admin

On September 13, 2014  Sharon Singer’s article about “How an ancient Egyptian myth is being reincarnated into anew Canadian opera” was published in the online magazine, Charlebois Post. For a copy, email sharon@sharonsinger.com

 

Isis and Osiris AGO

Social Media Marketing

June 28th, 2014 by admin

Sharon Singer took a Social Media Marketing for Small Business course in order to develop more expertise with Social Media. Excellent course by Nawal Ahmed!