Tom Diamond Opens Luminato with 'Dark Star Requiem'

Published: June 11th 2010
in Culture » Stage

Tom Diamond
Pic: courtesy

The story of AIDS spans more than 25 years and reaches from Africa to North America and around the globe. So how do you tell it, in an opera no less?


Tom Diamond, director of Dark Star Requiem – an ‘operatic oratorio’ that receives its world premiere at Luminato tonight – says in one sense, you can’t. “In a way it would be like telling the story of the Holocaust,” he says. “Where do you begin to tell that story?”


Instead, Dark Star Requiem, which is jointly produced by Luminato and Tapestry new opera works, uses an evocative hybrid form to get its message across. With a libretto by Jill Battson and a musical score by Andrew Staniland, Requiem sets poetry to the music of four soloists, two percussionists, and two of Canada’s premiere ensembles, the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Gryphon Trio. Together with an array of visual media, these elements portray 14 episodes, or “collected historical moments” as Diamond puts it, from the entire HIV epidemic.


“For me it really moves between the world of science and humanity,” he says. “Because of all these scientific implications, scientific discoveries, the notion of finding a cure or a maintenance for people who have the disease, and the implications for humanity. We’re lucky in North America to have access to medication and they’re not so lucky in Africa, and in many ways it kind of devastated the continent, and continues to. I think it’s the largest ongoing medical emergency of our generation.”


Like all Tapestry works, this piece strives to enlighten the audience as well as to entertain. “When you hear it’s the stories of HIV and AIDS, you think you’re going to witness an exclusive, tragic evening, which is not the case at all,” says Diamond, explaining that the piece includes comical, moving, and ironic moments, as well as a degree of finger-pointing at the Catholic church for its counterproductive role in the crisis.


Diamond’s directing career dates back to the ’80s, but he says, “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything quite like this before. I’m not sure anyone has ever done anything quite like this, in terms of an operatic oratorio.” With his extensive background in opera and musical theatre, he would know. Though his home base is with Tapestry (where he serves as the resident director and dramaturge), Diamond is also well-versed in classic operas. He freelances with a variety of companies (in fact, he’s flying to Italy on Tuesday to direct Handel’s Julius Caesar for a month) and is one of the more publicly recognizable opera directors working today, thanks to the twelve hours he spent on television judging Bravo! Canada’s Bathroom Divas, a Gemini Award-winning reality/documentary series tracking opera-star wannabes.


He still gets stopped at opera events, on airplanes, and even sitting in his gym’s steam room (true story) by people who remember him from the show. “My 15 minutes of popular culture fame came with me doing something I do naturally, and they just put a camera in the room to basically witness a skill that I’ve been honing for 20 years,” he says with obvious amusement.


Related articles: (stage, opera, tom diamond, tapestry new opera works, luminato, dark star requiem)
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