Article Written by Teiya Kasahara – Web & Social Media Coordinator @coffeescreative
At Coffeeshop Creative we are not only passionate about designing and developing a unique web presence for our clients, but also sharing their stories. We are super excited to share another story in our series of blogs – Grabbing Coffee. Today’s feature – composer Kye Marshall and librettist Amanda Hale of the upcoming chamber opera Pomegranate. As we are designing the upcoming launch of their show’s custom website, we recently caught up with both Kye and Amanda one of Toronto’s favourites, Future Bakery in the Annex. So grab your favourite cup of java and get to know a little about this exciting opera and the creators!
Tell us a little about yourself?
AMANDA: I’m an immigrant who arrived in Montreal in 1968. I have spent my life in the arts – writing, painting, doing theatre – and have developed a rich network of friends, especially in Toronto. I travel frequently to Cuba where I’ve had close ties for 15 years; and to the UK where my family lives.
KYE: I am a cellist, composer, and photographer. As a cellist, I perform Jazz and Classical music as well as avant-garde free improv. As a composer, I like to infuse my Classical compositions with Jazz and Latin rhythms and harmonies. Likewise, with my Jazz compositions, I like to incorporate classical elements. I use my expertise as an improviser to get thematic material.
“Two lovers are confronted with the realities of patriarchal power and are torn apart.”
How did you meet and begin this collaboration?
KYE: I started this collaboration with Amanda many years ago as she was a very good friend and had written some wonderful poems called Pomegranate. I thought it would be lovely to set them to music which I did. They were performed at the Heliconian Club and were very well received. So Amanda and I decided to write an opera! It was set in Pompeii before the volcanic explosion and in the 2nd act the lovers reunite in Toronto in an 80’s lesbian Bar called the ‘Fly By Night’.
AMANDA: I came to know Kye in the lesbian-feminist community in Toronto during the 1980s. I admire her skills as a musician and composer, and she likes my poetry, so when she had the idea to set some of my Pompeii poems to music we began our collaboration, resulting (surprisingly for us) in Pomegranate, the opera!
Why is an opera like Pomegranate needed today?
AMANDA: Pomegranate tells a story of the endurance of love over time. The scope of this narrative, across almost 2000 years, comes at a time when we are looking back as much as forward as a global society, trying to assess how we got into this mess, and questing to find our true values.
KYE: Opera is a very heterosexual art form and there are very few lesbian operas. I feel very strongly that a lesbian opera is necessary to reflect the reality that there are many lesbians in the world and we would like to tell our stories, have music written about us and about our love. Not only do lesbians have to deal with homophobia we also have to deal with sexism. In this opera, the two lovers have seemingly safe havens–in the Temple of Isis in Pompeii and in a lesbian bar in Toronto. However, safety is an illusion. In both settings, the two lovers are confronted with the realities of patriarchal power and are torn apart.
Why did you decide to create an opera with two distinct time periods?
AMANDA: We didn’t decide per se – the 1980s lesbian bar scene evolved naturally out of the ancient Pompeii love story. I believe we both work intuitively and this is where our instincts took us, with a desire, of course, to bring some political muscle to the plot and to make an artistic statement appropriate to our time.
KYE: We decided to have two distinct time periods to show how love can transcend time and also to show that lesbian love has always existed.
What does it mean that Pomegranate will only be the second lesbian opera in Canada?
AMANDA: It is very exciting to break new ground on an old topic! It means that we have an opportunity to provide visibility and identity to an LGBTQ community that still suffers from systemic prejudice. My hope is that Pomegranate will be one of many artistic endeavours to contribute to the normalizing of gender and sexual orientation choices.
What do you want your audience to be left with after they see Pomegranate?
AMANDA: I would like the audience to leave the theatre with something new to think about and puzzle over; with a feeling for lesbians of having seen ourselves represented; and overall to have been emotionally engaged by a poignant love story.
KYE: We would like the audience to leave with the feeling of warmth and admiration for these two young women who faced several obstacles within society and within family structures. As opera is about emotion we would like the audience to have been moved by the story and the music.
Favourite type or style of coffee?
AMANDA: Americano decaf with cream!
KYE: I don’t drink coffee ^_^