BY SHARON SAVUNTHARARAJAH
Composer Rene Orth didn’t always want to compose for opera. In fact, she didn’t always want to compose at all.
It was during a fellowship to write for the dramatic voice at the University of Louisville that she seriously began to consider composing. Eventually, this journey of discovering and playing with the art form made opera a central focus of hers. Recently, it led her to become Opera Philadelphia’s composer-in-residence and most recently a composer at this year’s LIBLAB.
In LIBLAB, you don’t have the luxury of time, but according to Rene, this may be a good thing. Working with an immediate deadline does away with bad habits like second guessing yourself, feeling bogged down, or giving up due to a bad writing day or two. As a result, you learn a lot about what is and what is not effective almost immediately because you only have five minutes to take someone on an emotional journey. “It kind of functions as a big think-tank for ten days, allowing the participants to converse about what is successful and what is not.” She believes that the constant creative output at LIBLAB and “having to making it work” is freeing and a “rare environment”.
LIBLAB is a great opportunity to meet new librettists and composers and work with them in an intensive workshop within a short span of time. She hopes to keep a lot of these relationships, as they may become new avenues for potential collaborations. The beauty of LIBLAB is that it brings together creators with different perspectives and ideas. It’s exciting for diverse creators to meet and spend some time together. “I think we are inspired by each other and that’s really good for future creation opportunities.” She believes that everyone was there because they wanted to get better and, most importantly, because they all love opera.
Musical America describes her music as “…always dramatic, reflective, rarely predictable…”. This has a lot to do with her choice of sound. Orth is a composer whose writing makes ample use of electronic soundscapes. So her sentiments towards the sole use of piano in LIBLAB are not a surprise. “I hate writing for piano and being limited in the colour palette of instrumentation and orchestration. But when you have a deadline, those things don’t matter anymore!” Fortunately, she has gotten a chance to use a variety of electronic sounds in Mousetrap, which will be presented at Tapestry Briefs: Tasting Shorts on September 13-16 at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery District.
Sharon Savunthararajah is an undergraduate marketing student at Ryerson University at the Ted Rogers School of Management and studies Digital Media at OCAD University. She currently provides pro-bono marketing consulting services within her community and constantly looks for ways to experiment with media.