Spoken-word poet and beloved 2010 Olympics performer Shane Koyczan has just been tagged to write the libretto for a new opera on bullying--an issue the Vancouver artist has said is close to his heart.
The Vancouver Opera commission will be based on Stickboy, Koyczan's 2008 novel in verse--a work that was based on the poet's own experiences of bullying when he was younger. That title is also now the working title for the new 80-minute opera.
Earlier this year, a powerful anti-bullying video put out by Koyczan went viral. The affable artist once told the Straight a large part of his interest in connecting with people via spoken-word stems from his isolation as a kid and being severely bullied. “It’s almost like a part of me started to overcompensate,” he suggested. “Physically, I’m not a very comfortable person—I realized I’m kind of this lumbering… man thing. So I compensate where I can show an emotional side of myself; I’m comfortable with an emotional nudity that allows me to be more fragile to strangers.”
Local composer Jordan Nobles (who also worked on Koyczan's We Were Here in 2009) will create the music for the piece, which will have its premiere in October 2014 at the Vancouver Playhouse. It will be an option for subscribers to Vancouver Opera's 2014-2015 season, with single tickets available to the general public. After its premiere an adapted version will be developed for touring to schools and community venues in Metro Vancouver and elsewhere as part of the Vancouver Opera In Schools program.
"I first approached Shane about this project in December and was so pleased when he enthusiastically agreed to work with us," James Wright, VO's general director, said in a press statement today. "Capturing the raw emotion and creativity of Stickboy will be an exciting challenge. I'm looking forward to the creative process and eager to see this work translated to the stage, with the emotional power that contemporary opera will bring to this moving story."
Leslie Dala, Vancouver Opera's associate conductor and chorus director, has been named the piece's musical dramaturge, with stage director Rachel Peake serving as the stage dramaturge.
Stickboy is just the latest in a series of youth-focused commissions at the local opera company. In the 2005-06 school year, the VO commissioned Naomi’s Road, based on Joy Kogawa's Second World War-set book. In 2009, its in-school program the new opera Jack Pine, by local musician Veda Hille, based on the environmentally-themed children's book of the
same name by Christopher Patton.