UK/Canada alliance for Burnt Toast

The UK’s Channel 4 and Canadian pubcaster CBC have signed on to develop a new arts special that adds a contemporary and humorous twist to arts programming in the form of a ‘domestic opera’.

Canadian production outfits Rhombus (The Red Violin) and marblemedia ( are currently in the scripting phase of the project, entitled Burnt Toast.

Slated to begin production in the summer of 2004, it is a one-hour special comprised of ‘domestic opera’ vignettes, each depicting personal relationships in contemporary settings.

The special will be shot on location in HD, and will also be delivered as eight standalone segments. “Each vignette is a self-contained story, so they could run as interstitials, but collectively they are designed to play together as a cohesive single piece,” marblemedia’s Matt Hornburg told C21.

The concept for Burnt Toast evolved from Toothpaste, a six-minute domestic opera that screened at Input 2002 in Rotterdam, at the Palm Springs Film Festival, Canada’s Atlantic Film Festival, and was accepted by the Louvre in Paris.

It has Mark McKinney and Barbara Hannigan as a young couple whose marriage disintegrates around an argument over a capless tube of toothpaste. The creative team includes composer Alexina Louie, librettist Dan Redican, director Larry Weinstein and Hornburg as producer.

“There is a bit of a dark element to these vignettes, in the twisted way that they look at the impact of mundane things in our lives, but they also poke fun and mock some of the things that we all do in relationships,” described Hornburg.

The Esprit Orchestra, one of Canada’s foremost new music ensembles, will perform Burnt Toast’s original scores, featuring the countries’ greatest opera singers and comic actors.

“Though modern, the score will draw on the conventions of traditional grand opera,” said Hornburg, noting that some of the most famous opera arias will creep in, but in a deconstructed manner – always to humorous effect.

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