By Yazmeen Kanji

Librettist Daniel Solon wishes that there were more opportunities to collaborate. Outside of this year’s LIBLAB, he doesn’t often get to engage so deeply with collaborators – for him the intensive 10-day program is so uniquely exciting because it provides an environment to experiment without the fear of judgement: “You never realize how differently people work until you work with a bunch of different people.”

Writing an opera is typically an incredibly time-consuming process and LIBLAB provides creators like Daniel with the instant gratification of showing their work without having the time to obsess over the details. Daniel’s goal for these two weeks is to stay flexible for the composers and absorb as much as possible. Witnessing multiple ongoing projects is a rare and exciting experience in the art form of opera.

Daniel is not new to opera and considers his most important work a libretto he wrote inspired by a childhood experience. As a child, Daniel’s best friend was shot and killed by accidental gunshot. Experiencing such a loss at a young age was difficult to comprehend. Through opera, Daniel was able to explore and portray the story of the boy’s mother who celebrated his birthday over the course of several years, growing numb to his absence. “We hear about these events and move on, but a mother could not.” This particular story is relevant to broader themes such as gun violence and genocide and, through a powerful art form such as opera, forces us to consider our collective reaction to tragedies.

Creative processes can be tricky to pin down, particularly when they are different with each project and collaborator, as is the case at LIBLAB. As a result, he made the decision to focus on the musical elements first, and let that inform the libretto. For the first assignment, Daniel worked with a composer who was excited about using a pipe organ which in turn raised questions pertaining to the cultural significance of that instrument.

In his first time working with Tapestry, Daniel has enthusiastically created relationships with “interesting people who have an imagination that is large enough to construct drama and music in such a short period of time.” He believes that events such as LIBLAB should happen two to three times a year and that there should be ongoing opportunities to have a high resource, low-stress environment. “It has to be okay to swing and miss because creatively, you can find some really cool stuff.”

Yazmeen Kanji is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying Cinema Studies, Equity Studies and Peace Conflict and Justice Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. She is an emerging filmmaker and the founder of a filmmaking organization called Films With A Cause.