News & Research

The Cannabis Cantata: Hitting the High Notes with Stratford Summer Music

cannabis • August 19, 2019

Cannabis meets Opera in this Legalization Libretto

Stratford, Ontario (the hometown of GreenSeal Cannabis) is well known as Canada’s “Festival City.”

Although that nickname originally referred to the internationally acclaimed Stratford Shakespeare Festival, there’s another successful festival in town that contributes to our city’s artsy vibe: Stratford Summer Music.

Stratford Summer Music is a six-week, multi-venue celebration of all types of music (with diverse concerts ranging from full-on choir and orchestra extravaganzas to intimate solo performances).

Last year [2018], Stratford Summer Music commissioned the Canadian classical music composer Peter Tiefenbach to create The Cappuccino Cantata (or The Lonely Barista), an original opera based on the music of J.S. Bach and performed by three vocalists accompanied by a trio of piano, cello, and violin.

The mini-opera was performed flash mob-style in a pop-up theatre space at one of Stratford’s busiest coffee shops and was a huge hit with the caffeinated audience.

After the show, an attendee approached Peter Tiefenbach with a tongue-in-cheek suggestion:

With Canadian cannabis legalization arriving over the next year, would he consider creating a Cannabis Cantata as a follow-up composition?

Fast-forward to Stratford Summer Music’s 2019 season, and guess what?

Tiefenbach took the suggestion and ran with it.

The Cannabis Cantata: A Musical ‘Pot’ Pourri” was created via a ‘joint’ commission between the Ottawa Chamberfest and Stratford Summer Music [apologies for two cannabis puns in one sentence, but these came straight from the printed program].

For one night only, the performance space at Factory163 was filled with the sounds of Tiefenbach’s newest cannabinoid-inspired cantata (accompanied by plenty of laughter from the audience).

There’s a new source in town

The Cannabis Cantata opens with a scene reminiscent of Canada’s pre-legalization reality.

Photo Credit: Scott Wishart/Stratford Summer Music

A young couple (soprano Mireille Asselin and tenor Matthew Dalen, above) struggle to keep their cool while attempting to look nonchalant about approaching a hooded figure (who we assume is a street dealer).

Photo Credit: Scott Wishart/Stratford Summer Music

As it turns out, the “dealer” is actually a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist (baritone Adam Harris, above on the left) who sings about his company’s latest foray as a distributor of medical cannabis:

When we started, whoda thunk

We would be selling skunk?

We’re your merry, merry marijuana store!

Bedibles: A Cautionary Tale

The opera’s second act opens with a domestic scene of pillow-talk between a sleepy husband and a wife named Debra who winces with back pain as she joins him in bed.

Debra has been gifted some homemade cannabis edibles by a well-intentioned friend, and plans to try them that night for the first time.

The gummies came with a warning to only take half at first, in keeping with the wise “go low and start slow” advice that all consumers of edible cannabis products should follow.

Debra ignores the advice and pops the second half of the gummy after waiting all of two seconds for the first half to kick in (simulating a common rookie mistake).

Photo Credit: Scott Wishart/Stratford Summer Music

Rather than experiencing a restful sleep, Debra is bombarded with nightmares, including a vision of her bed covered in opera-singing spiders (above).

What’s in a name?

The funniest operatic interpretation of the evening had to be the scene in which a Health Canada official hosts a focus group to determine the appropriate nomenclature for Canada’s newly legalized product.

Photo Credit: Scott Wishart/Stratford Summer Music

Bud (above, wearing a baseball cap in the photo centre) and Madam Dubé (above, in the photo foreground) have been invited to give their opinions on the various names available.

After singing an aria about all of the many, many labels that have been used over the years, the focus group settles on “Cannabis” (which pleases Mme. Dubé since it’s bilingual, but upsets Bud, who preferred “Loco Weed”).

Legalization has never sounded better

Photo Credit: Scott Wishart/Stratford Summer Music

The Cannabis Cantata composer Peter Tiefenbach (above) has successfully tapped into the zeitgeist of Canadian cannabis legalization in this timely and thematically spot-on opera.

In a thirty-minute performance, his trio of singers (accompanied by a trio of musicians) musically explore some of the most poignant issues arising out of our country’s legalization experience.

His opera manages to cover everything from the challenges of educating new consumers, to the transition of long-established Canadian corporations into the cannabis space, to the comical experience some consumers are having at the US border, to the uncanny process of creating an official name for a plant that has been previously banned (and more!).

Kudos to Stratford Summer Music and the Ottawa Chamberfest for commissioning this fantastic piece – we hope other audiences will also get the opportunity to enjoy this highly-original performance in the future!

Did you catch the performance of The Cannabis Cantata in Ottawa or Stratford?

How did you like it?

Let us know in the comments below!

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