Faculty of Music

Gisela in Her Bathtub & City Workers in Love

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Life, love and the pursuit of bacon and eggs

For anyone with the winter blues, two hilarious one-act operas provide the best pick-me-up. Farce, fun and fabulous music produce “blue-collar opera antics” according to director, and librettist Michael Cavanagh.

Originally written for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, City Workers in Love is performed with Gisela in Her Bathtub by UWOpera students March 14, 15 in the Paul Davenport Theatre and March 17 at the Imperial Theatre, Sarnia.

The idea for City Workers came to Cavanagh on a cold walk. “It was snowing, it was the dead of winter, it was Winnipeg,” he said. “I happened to come upon a street repair site. I thought, why not set an entire opera here, using a group of construction workers as a metaphor for our society as a whole?”

This is not your usual operatic plot – the story follows an earnest city work crew as they toil for society, strive for love and break for coffee - and City Workers in Love is definitely not your average opera. It’s warm-hearted and fun, gleefully skewering opera cliches, civic bureaucracy, union regulations, office politics, young love, theatrical conventions, pop psychology, and much more.

The music was written by Canadian composer Neil Weisensel, and includes a mock anthem for the road crew, along with a bit of Vivaldi, a moment of Verdi, a pinch of Puccini, even a dab of Disney – all tonal and tuneful. The orchestra consists of piano, cello and clarinet.

There is also a celebrity walk-on, to be played by a secret local star. You’ll have to come to the show to see who plays The Mayor.

From the start, the show has received rave reviews. “Everything about City Workers in Love is a triumph.” (Winnipeg Free Press) “City Workers in Love hilariously lampoons opera convention and cliché.” (Opera News) “City Workers in Love  inspires awe and laughter. (Vancouver Guardian) “A fresh and off-the-wall hour of fun.” (Edmonton Journal)

“Cavanagh’s witty libretto transforms opera’s forthright communication of human feelings into trade-union lingo, bureaucracy-speak, and pop-psychology jargon, using metaphors that are as hilarious as they are mixed.” (Robert Jordan)

Weisensel and Cavanagh also collaborated on Gisela in Her Bathtub, a short and sudsy opener of good clean fun. Gisela is reading the last pages of a sweeping Icelandic sage while soaking in her tub. The characters of this historical romance begin to hop off the pages.

Any clichés that escaped being spoofed in City Workers are fair targets here, including that of the vanquished foe who takes a long aria to die – only to revive to join a rousing chorus number.

Comic timing, visual gags and puns pump the romp full of laughs.

“Great loves are won and lost,” said Cavanagh. “And the bath water of the gods is splashed all over the tile floor of history. It is an operatic epic of the tiniest proportions.”

As reviewer Jo Ledingham wrote: “Opera lovers will love the parody; non-opera lovers will enjoy the wit. This is one detour worth taking.”

If You Go

What: Gisela in Her Bathtub and City Workers in Love

When: March 14, 15 8 p.m.

Where: Paul Davenport Theatre, Talbot College, Western University

Tickets: $15/$10 at the door

More Information: Cast List