Almost 20 years after first seeing her name on a book, I got to meet the literary theorist Linda Hutcheon last Thursday. Together with her husband Michael Hutcheon, she hosted a party in their home in honour of the forthcoming premiere of the new opera by Ana Sokolović, Svadba (Wedding). Queen of Puddings Music Theatre commissioned the piece which will open on June 24 at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs. Three of the six singers in the cast performed a segment from the opera stationed on the large staircase landing, with audience filling the lobby and all the rooms on the ground floor.
Sokolović was originally inspired by Stravinsky’s Les Noces, but turned to the Balkan ethnographic materials and most of all the rough musicality of the Balkan languages, Serbian and its archaisms in particular. The music to this textual base is however entirely new and composed. I heard the first semi-public performance of the work-in-progress opera back in June, and the word that comes to mind is chilling. I look forward to the premiere.
The one opera by Ana Sokolović that I did see is The Midnight Court (above), back in 2005, also under the auspices of the Queen of Puddings and under the baton of Dáirine Ní Mheadhra who (memorably for this writer) conducted on that early summer night barefoot. On Thursday, she conducted the three singers from the lobby.
The Queen of Puddings is the kind of heroic company whose mandate is to commission and produce contemporary opera. They’re also known for discovering singing talent that later gets scooped for international stardom. Jane Archibald got her first major role at QoP, and so did Measha Brueggergosman. (Yes, Measha actually used to sing rather than brand well, is all I’m sayin’.)
What I kept thinking on my way there was — of all things — what does Linda Hutcheon’s library look like? It must be occupying half of their High Park house, since Linda Hutcheon’s own bibliography is one considerable list. The last book I read by her (co-authored with Michael) was this one:
I gawked at the first editions of the Waves and The Three Guineas, one of the earliest Shakespeare & Co editions of the Ulysses, a print of the 1904 photo of Richard Strauss, the Joyce sculpture and other gems, all of which are located on the ground floor, but the library (I found out just as I was getting ready to leave) takes up the entire basement of the house.
Next time I’m heading there first. (Just don’t tell the Hutcheons.)