Welcome to the Hip Hopera!

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Hip Hopera, Finale

There are a lot more New York tales to tell, but I just have to interrupt the proceedings to fill you in on an extraordinary musical experience I had today.

Premiered just a couple of days ago to a packed house in the light-filled Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre of the Canadian Opera Company, The Hip Hopera was re-staged this morning at the Royal Conservatory of Music. The Concert Hall, filled with busloads of excited high school students, had a palpable air of anticipation as five musicians set up extensive sound equipment and techies buzzed around.

The concept of a fusion between Opera and Hip Hop is right in keeping with the urge to push new boundaries in exploring relevance and meaning in music, especially when one considers that the history of Western Classical music is littered with constant innovation and cross-pollination of genres and influences: an ongoing mash-up of musical styles.

But beyond that, these artists are each internationally-acclaimed masters of their craft and made the diverse mix of sounds appear natural and effortless. The two genres complimented each other beautifully, and the two unamplified singers from the Canadian Opera Company balanced perfectly with the twinned turntable artists (DJ Lil Jaz & DJ T.R.A.C.K.S. both teach ‘Scratch from Scratch’ classes at the RCM), their expressive scratching and overlay of intriguing electronic samples and loops.

There were a few moments where, in fact, I wanted to hear more turntable!

A new collaboration between the COC and the RCM, and the result of a year of intensive collaborative workshops, this progressive mini-opera was virtuostic and captivating and offered the best aspects of both Opera and Hip Hop – and their respective audiences – perfectly interwoven and layered together.