Going Out

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Opera Undressed offers a fresh take on a tradition form

By Chrissy Shannon

Get ready for opera in the buff.

Aimed at bringing classical music to a wider (and younger) audience, Opera Undressed is actually a collective made up of soprano Noosa Al-Sarraj, pianist Nick Rodgerson, and visual artist Ariane Beauchamp. Following a successful summer series, Opera Undressed unveils its second cycle over two weekends in Ottawa and Wakefield.

By choosing pieces based on emotional explicitness and incorporating a titillating visual aspect to the show, the collective aims to offer a new kind of dramatic performance. For example, venues were specifically chosen so that the audience could satiate all of their sensual needs: music for the ears, sights for their eyes, and food and drink for their palates. Further, the audience is encouraged to be active rather than passive participants.

Taken out of the original context, one might discover that classical music isn’t as dated as it’s typically portrayed. It discusses everything that we nowadays obsess over: heartbreak and jealousy, envy over better looking people, sex and betrayal, and, of course, flirtatious games.

Even songs originally composed for a church service don’t necessarily stick to “sacred” content. Take for instance the (translated) lyrics to Bach’s Cantata 21. written by a 17th century lawyer-scientist-poet.

Change whining into pure wine
Burning and flaming is the purest candle of love…
since Jesus comforts me with heavenly lust
.

The festival features a brew of different styles and composers spanning Europe, all touching on the dangers of sex and love. Highlights include Die Forelle (The Trout), a deceivingly light tune warning young women of the bloody dangers of seductive “anglers” and a lighthearted Mozart piano sonata performed by Rodgerson, followed by some frivolous and flirtatious opera arias to end the night.

In short, Opera Undressed strives to penetrate traditional forms — and lay bare both the beautiful and horrific things that are a part of the human experience — with a program that explores the darkest and most entertaining parts of the psyche.

Opera Undressed. Sunday, Nov. 27. 7:30 p.m. at Fat Tuesdays (62 York St.) and Thursday, Dec. 1. 7:30 p.m. at Le Hibou (757 Riverside Dr., Wakefield). $10. www.operaundressed.info