Obsidian Theatre and Tapestry Opera have come together to commission a new Black Canadian opera – and the first ever in Obsidian’s history. OF THE SEA is a powerful work of operatic storytelling flowing with hope and heartbreak. This ground-breaking World Premiere production is brought to life by an incredibly talented and diverse team of creatives.
The work is written by Black playwright Kanika Ambrose (Our Place / Anansi and the Great Light, Curtis School of Music), composed by Métis and French-Canadian musician Ian Cusson (Fantasma, Canadian Opera Company), directed by the deeply respected and award-winning Black cultural leader, director, and actor Philip Akin (Pass Over / Gould’s Wall), and music directed by Chinese Canadian conductor Jennifer Tung (Gould’s Wall).
OF THE SEA follows the story of Maduka (Jorell Williams), his daughter Binyelum, and fellow Africans thrown overboard during the Middle Passage who now populate mythical underwater kingdoms that span the ocean floor. Amidst the waves, fiery plans for revenge are made, a parent is blinded by love for their child, and a fight against fate begins. In the cold, murky waters, everyone dreams to see the sun again.
We had a chance to have a quick chat with conductor Jennifer Tung to learn more…
The team working on OF THE SEA is a powerhouse of talent. What can you tell us?
Jennifer: It’s exactly what you say, Philip Aiken is an incredible director with unique vision and is always able to inspire the cast to not only see his vision but also to make sure they’re being their authentic selfs always.
Every production is unique and as the music director, what have you found interesting/different about this one?
Jennifer: Working in a World Premiere production means you’re creating everything with everyone for the first time. It’s especially exciting to be able to work so closely not just with the cast and crew but also the creators.
Anything you wish people to pay close attention to when attending this?
Jennifer: I don’t know if I can choose specific things 🙂 the music, the staging, the story, the scenery all work so seamlessly together in harmony to tell this touching story.
You’re also involved in a new Women in Musical Leadership Program. Can you tell us more about this?
Jennifer: I am one of 2 conductors chosen for the following program in its inaugural season.
Women in Musical Leadership (WML) is a three-year program designed to collectively develop the next generation of women and non-binary conductors and music directors in Canada.
Led by Tapestry Opera with lead orchestral partner Toronto Symphony Orchestra and lead partner Pacific Opera Victoria, the program addresses a historic gender inequity on the podium by providing women and non-binary conductors active mentorship with leading conductors in the field, deep and varied experience with professional companies, and a robust artistic network.
WML provides conductors with the opportunity to assist, observe, conduct, and build experience within a range of organizations in symphonic, chamber, operatic, and contemporary repertoire – giving conductors the professional experience and training that will enable them to take the podium anywhere in the world.
OF THE SEA runs from March 25 to April 1 with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. at the Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front Street, East Toronto. Tickets start at $39 and are available now online here.
About Jennifer Tung
Jennifer is the Artistic director of Toronto City Opera and assistant conductor of the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, Chinese Canadian conductor Jennifer Tung leads a uniquely versatile career as music director and pianist. In 2020/21, she joined Tapestry Opera as a conducting fellow in the inaugural year of the Women in Musical Leadership program, in partnership with Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Pacific Opera Victoria. As part of her time within the program, Jennifer served as assistant conductor for the world premiere of Brian Current’s Gould’s Wall for Tapestry Opera, and a brand-new production of Orfeo ed Euridice by Vancouver Opera in collaboration with Ne Sans.
What else is happening in Toronto this month? See our City Girl’s Guide to Toronto.