Social commentary at the opera: New opera tells story of Robert Dziekanski, pre-Tasering

Upset with how the Canadian media dealt with the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski five years ago? There's an opera for that. And it's set to premiere at the Scotia Festival of Music in Halifax on Thursday.

The one-show-only concert opera — vocalists don't act or wear costumes — chronicles the life of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died in 2007 after being Tasered repeatedly by Mounties at the Vancouver airport.

"Quite frankly, I got tired of seeing Robert Dziekanski die," J.A. Wainwright, a poet and author, told the Canadian Press.

"I wanted to see him live."

Dziekanski's death was captured on camera by an onlooker. The footage brought the story international attention.

Wainwright, who wrote the opera's libretto, says he wanted to treat Dziekanski as a human being and to give both Dziekanski and his mother a voice:

"It doesn't focus in any direct way on the Taser, although it's alluded to metaphorically and very powerfully in the music."

"He was a man filled with hopes and aspirations, coming to a new country to live with his mother, and they were destroyed," he added.

Dziekanski's mother will be arriving in Halifax to hear the opera that honours her son.

Opera as social commentary isn't new, but, as of late, it does seem to be becoming a trend among young artists.

Last year, Kommilitonen!, a student-protest opera, was jointly commissioned by the Julliard School and the Royal Academy of Music in London — a timely piece considering the 'Occupy' protests at the time of its premiere.

Closer to home, a Rob Ford opera from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music reflected disgruntled Torontonians attitudes towards their mayor this January.

"We had no idea that it would catch fire as it had," stage director Michael Patrick Albano told The Star. "Ford is a lightning rod for political discussion, which is a great thing. I think it's fantastic that Torontonians are talking about their city and where it's going."