For many readers, I expect Schafer needs no introduction. But for those who don’t know him, he’s not an easy man to introduce. That’s because there seem to be several Schafers – composer, poet, visual artist, pedagogue, ecologist, plus a few other métiers – inhabiting the same body.
He’s a study in contrasts and contradictions: intellectual with an anti-academic streak; cosmopolitan yet anti-urban; deeply Canadian but in many ways at odds with Canada. Last autumn he published an autobiography, My Life on Earth and Elsewhere, in which he tried to make sense of it all. It’s a good read. (You can find my review of it here.)
However, Patria’s unusual musical and theatrical demands don’t mesh very well with the resources of a typical opera company, so they aren’t often performed by them. Some of these pieces can’t even be mounted in a theatre, but are site-specific outdoor works. For a while, Schafer had an active production company, Patria Music Theatre Projects (see here), but the organization hasn’t staged anything for a few years.
Fortunately, some passages from the Patria series are readily excerptable. Here’s a selection from Patria 6: Ra, set (as the title suggests) in ancient Egypt: “The Duet of Isis and Nephthys.” I can’t say with certainty who the performers are. The piece was commercially recorded, some years ago, by sopranos Kathy Terrell and Janet Smith – but I’m not sure if this is from that recording or not.
© Colin Eatock 2013