Toronto Star

Tapestry Opera’s young new visionary


Michael Mori has been in the arts for more than 20 years, which is a pretty big accomplish­ment when you are only 33.

The newly appointed artistic director of Tapestry Opera, a company devoted to developing and presenting new operas, is using his vast and varied experience to shake things up a bit.

“I want to make a difference,” says Mori, a well-respected baritone with serious chops as a music director. “I don’t think the same old, same old is working.”

That means inviting rock and digital music into its operas, joining forces with other companies for works such as the upcoming M’dea Undone, a collaborat­ion with Scottish Opera, and scouting for crowd-friendly performanc­e spaces that incorporat­e other activities such as food markets.

“Michael has quickly become a dynamic leader in the Toronto opera community,” says Canadian Opera Company General Director Alexander Neef, who sits with Mori — whom he nominated — on the board of, the national opera organizati­on.

Canadian-born Mori made his performing debut in New York at age 11 with the Dicapo Opera, touring the U.S. and Europe. He has a master’s degree in opera performanc­e from the University of British Columbia and diplomas from Die Wiener Meisterkur­se, Vienna, and Die Universita­t Mozarteum, Salzburg.

Fluent in German, Mori can also read and speak French and Italian, and he manages in Spanish, Czech and Japanese as a result of his extensive travels and studies.

He directed a series of small operas this fall in a program titled Tapestry

Briefs: Booster Shots. Short works about Isaac Asimov’s I Robot, George Orwell’s

1984 and a historic Toronto girl gang all showed promise of turning into larger works, Mori says.

When he handed the audience of 500 comment cards after the shows, Mori discovered one-third had never attended an opera before. He wants to build on this growing audience and get them to return.

Coming up in January is the Moricurate­d concert Songbook V, with arias culled from Tapestry’s collection of “absurd, tragic and beautiful” operas featuring its emerging artists and establishe­d star, baritone Peter McGillivra­y. This will be followed in March by

Tap:Ex Tables Turned, the latest in Tapestry’s annual avant-garde shows, this one combining an operatic vocalist with a turntable/electronic artist.

Tapestry’s most ambitious work next year, the world premiere M’dea Undone, is the straight-from-the-headlines story of a Middle East translator brought to America by a military commander who then finds love with another. It is a modern adaptation of Medea, the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides, complete with M’dea killing her child.

“She is a person who will never take defeat,” explains Mori, who is directing the show and has been creatively involved in it from Day 1.

“Michael is a real up-and-coming director to watch,” says executive director Christina Loewen

Working with a budget of $750,000 a year, the small but influentia­l Tapestry is reaching out to others in the same game. Mori recently invited the small indie opera companies springing up throughout the city to his east-end home for a potluck dinner. “We have a movement in Toronto,” he says of the crop of new young opera companies with leaders in their 30s. Among other things, the participan­ts shared calendars to make sure they weren’t competing with each other for audiences.

Caitlin Coull was among the guest Mori’s house. “Michael’s a connector with a calm and friendly presence de-

spite the enormous pressures on him as a young artistic director,” says Coull, a founder of the indie opera company Against the Grain.

In his free time, Mori likes to cycle for pleasure, though it’s something he does every day to get around town — he rode his bike to an interview with the Star at Tapestry’s Distillery District offices. He’s figured out his backpack can carry nine bottles of wine or 18 bottles of beer.

Things on his wish list include working on his house and garden. “I live in a 100-year-old house, which comes with creaky floors, yes, but two fireplaces and a lot of character. I prefer craftsmans­hip to flash trends.”

As for his garden: “In Vancouver I grew parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme side by side as a tribute to Simon and Garfunkel. A bit of a nerd.”

Maybe so, but this nerd has vision.

 ??  ?? Tapestry Opera artistic director Michael Mori, right, attends a rehea
Tapestry Opera artistic director Michael Mori, right, attends a rehea
 ?? RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR ?? arsal in the company’s studio in the Distillery District.
RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR arsal in the company’s studio in the Distillery District.

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