On February 24-26 next month in Toronto, the Toronto Operetta Theatre will present the premiere of Taptoo!, an opera in two acts, libretto by James Reaney and music by John Beckwith.
The opera is based on events surrounding the founding of the town of York, Upper Canada (now Toronto), roughly from 1780-1810. Using real historical characters like Major John Graves Simcoe as well as imaginary ones, the story tells how a Quaker family, the Harples, flee America to Canada to escape mob violence:
From Scene 1:
MOB: Take off your hat
To the emblem of our state,
Our state, our state!
TWO VOICES: (shouting) The rattlesnake!
JESSE: Friends, I will
Take off my hat
To neither king nor republic
Nor a flag, nor a …
MOB: You don’t want freedom?
JESSE: Yes. Freedom from all oppressors
Kings or — mobs like yourselves!
MOB: (shouting in unison)
Take off your hat!
(Jesse does not move. Pause, then sudden quick action as they seize him.)
MOB: Tar and feather him!
Seize that tub,
Burn that little flag there!
In a recent article about his collaboration with James Reaney, John Beckwith describes the music of Taptoo! “as the modern equivalent of a ballad opera, in which scraps of familiar songs and dances would now and then drift in to the musical score. I included about 20 such musical references — hymn tunes, popular sentimental or patriotic songs, dances, marches and, of course, historical military music.”*
Taptoo! will be led by Larry Beckwith, Conductor, and Guillermo Silva-Marin is the Stage Director. Featured performers are Robert Longo,Michael Barrett, Todd Delaney, Sarah Hicks, and Mark Petracchi.
When: February 24 and 25 at 8 pm; February 26 at 2 pm
Where: Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre, 27 Front Street East Toronto, M5E 1B4
Order your tickets here from the St. Lawrence Centre box office, or
by phone: (416) 366-7723 or 1-800-708-6754
See you there!
Old Fort York at the foot of Bathurst Street in 1793
The full libretto for James Reaney’s Taptoo! is available in Scripts: Librettos for Operas and Other Musical Works, published by Coach House Books.
*John Beckwith, “Portrait of a partnership,” Opera Canada, Fall 2011, page 32.