Edmonton Opera Blog

Elektra: Richard Strauss's hellish masterpiece

Saturday, February 18. 2017




In just three weeks, Edmonton Opera will present the Alberta premiere of Richard Strauss’s groundbreaking theatrical triumph Elektra. Based on an ancient Greek play by Sophocles, this opera follows the terrifying tragedy of its protagonist as she becomes consumed with lethal revenge.

Devastated by the murder of her beloved father, Elektra takes justice into her own hands and pursues the killer, who happens to be her own mother Klytämnestra. But when calculated revenge turns into overpowering obsession, Elektra can no longer maintain her grasp on reality — in a spine-chilling climax, Elektra’s fragile psyche shatters completely.

Intrigued? Here is more of what you can expect in our new production set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. You do not want to miss seeing the axe-wielding protagonist of Elektra in action.

There will be blood.

Elektra was born into a family ripped apart by war and chaos. Her father, King Agamemnon, had chosen to sacrifice his oldest daughter Iphigenia as a way to appease the gods before heading to battle. This decision was fiercely opposed by his wife Klytämnestra, and she swore to avenge the spilling of her innocent daughter’s blood.

When Agamemnon returned home victorious after several years at war, Klytämnestra and her lover Aegisth murdered him and took over the kingdom. Elektra and her sister Chrysothemis became prisoners in their own home, while their brother Orest was banished for threatening to ascend the throne that was rightfully his.

All of this happens before Elektra even begins, setting the stage for an opera that could only end in more tragedy.

Honour thy father, not thy mother

Elektra is beyond furious at the killing of her beloved father; the only thing on her mind is revenge. She also misses him with an intensity that affects her physical and mental health, causing her to wander around in grief.

This opera’s greatest aria is Elektra’s 10-minute long soliloquy dedicated to her father. She shouts “Agamemnon, Agamemnon!” almost like an incantation, praying for his return from the dead.

Elektra’s anguish soon transforms into rage — now all she wants is revenge. Her mother Klytämnestra needs to die. Nothing and no one can come in Elektra’s path to slaughtering her nemesis.

Opera’s most dangerous woman

The polar opposite of our recent production Cinderella, Strauss’s tormented heroine is determined to take fate in her own hands and pursue the brutal revenge she spends all her waking hours thinking about. From the moment Elektra appears on stage, you know that terrible things are about to unfold in the next hour and a half. With axe in hand and fire in her step, Elektra charges forward to complete her murderous mission.

There’s more to come! Watch for our next blog post where we explore the origins of this opera in a violent Greek tragedy. And learn more about the hair-raising music of Elektra!

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Experience the intense psychological thriller March 11, 14 & 16 at the Jubilee. Tickets from $40! 

Peter McGillivray is Cinderella's mean opera dad!

Tuesday, January 31. 2017

Rossini's Cinderella changes things up from the popular fairy tale in many ways, and one of the big differences is replacing the evil stepmother with a buffoonish father by the name of Don Magnifico! Magnifico is a mean drunk who fears losing his estate, which causes him to push his daughters Clorinda and Tisbe to be chosen by the Prince. Baritone Peter McGillivray portrays this hilarious character in our upcoming production, and he tells us what it''s like to embrace and enjoy his wicked side.

What is so wonderful about Rossini's music in Cinderella?

Probably what is most interesting about Cinderella are the virtuosic set piece ensembles. Rossini masterfully builds so much comic energy into these sections, they are as fun to perform as they are to hear and behold. You don't have to understand Italian in the slightest to understand the comedy of having everyone on stage spouting rapid fire patter as fast as they can.

Don Magnifico is quite a mean character. Any redeeming qualities that you see?

There isn't much that is appealing about Don Magnifico - he's an appalling specimen of humanity. But I suppose he knows how to enjoy a good time - is that a virtue of sorts? And at least he loves two-thirds of his daughters, in his own way. Other than that he's a boorish, snobby and a hideous grotesquerie of a father. Maybe that's why he's so fun to play. Pure, unadulterated id at all times.

Tell us more about playing the buffoon in this opera. Are you anything like that in real life?

Oh heavens, no! I'm a preacher's kid and I've always (well, almost always) been a good boy my whole life. It's fun to play such a nasty character, kind of an opportunity to play out all your most horrible fantasies of misbehavior. The challenge with playing buffoons in opera is to balance singing with good technique and with colourful characterization.

Do you think there's a mischievous scene in this opera the audience might love?

At a point in the first act I am appointed as the Prince's royal winemaker, which of course necessitates a thorough and and shall we say, exhaustive quality control investigation. 

How will Cinderella resonate with a contemporary audience?

The Cinderella story in all its iterations is a familiar tale whether it be from the Disney cartoon or movies like Pretty Woman. It's an easy story to understand and Cinderella is such and easy character to sympathize with that I don't think we'll ever ever tire of her. We all like to cheer for the underdogs and enjoy seeing great injustices put to right, now perhaps more than ever. The more absurd and undeserving the injustices and abuse, the more satisfying it is to see the antagonists receive their just rewards. This is the kernel of human truth that underlies all the madcap, hilarious antics along the way.

Edmonton audiences last saw you in 2014's Die Fledermaus. What do you like about performing here? 

Growing up in northern Saskatchewan in the 1980's, Edmonton was the great metropolis of my childhood dreams and the home of our heros, Wayne Gretzky & the Oilers, not to mention the mythic West Edmonton Mall. Edmonton was where the cool kids got to go on vacation. Maybe that's why the mere mention of the city still makes my adult heart skip a beat or two.

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Come see Peter McGillivray as the wicked but funny Don Magnifico in our production of Rossini's Cinderella! The show opens this Saturday February 4, and also plays February 7 & 9. Tickets are selling fast! Get yours today from $40.

Krisztina Szabó returns to Edmonton Opera as Cinderella

Wednesday, January 25. 2017


And here she is — Cinderella herself! Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó performs her role debut in our upcoming 1950s-inspired production of Cinderella. Here is a little Q & A with Krisztina ahead of her undoubtedly spectacular performance as Rossini's enchanting heroine! 

We are so excited to have you back at Edmonton Opera. What are you looking forward to the most about performing in Edmonton again?

I love working with Edmonton Opera – I think it’s a very smart, forward-looking company that has been doing some wonderful, interesting productions. We have a great cast, director and conductor for Cinderella – with a great company, great people involved and amazing music, I think Cinderella will be a fantastic show!

You’ve been in The Barber of Seville and will now be taking on Cinderella. What makes Rossini's music unique?

I don’t think anybody writes quite so many notes and words as Rossini does… it’s quite a challenge. But I love Rossini – he writes beautiful, memorable melodies – so there are beautiful arias and duets. He also has a wonderful sense of comedy and those ensembles are pretty amazing. Its great fun to sing Rossini and I’m excited to take on Cinderella for the first time.

What is the most prominent characteristic of Rossini's bel canto composition?

Bel canto literally means “beautiful singing” – its all about the voice, the melody, the beauty of the line. And the Italian language lends itself perfectly to the expression of this beauty of line.

The most difficult/rewarding part about singing bel canto?

I think I mentioned all the many notes and words? That would be the difficult part. The payoff is the music is amazing – I get a beautiful aria, a gorgeous duet and those ensembles are so challenging – rapid-fire fast and full of words, but so much fun when they come together.

What makes Cinderella a compelling character to portray?

I’ve been playing a lot of crazy people lately, so playing Cinderella will be a total change of pace and a breath of fresh air. She is essentially just a good and kind person – she has no malice towards those that mistreat her, though she longs for them to treat her better, to have a better life. And in the end, her goodness, her virtue is rewarded with true love and “happily ever after” with a Prince. It’s a rare and true happy ending in opera.

Is there a particular scene, aria, or duet in Cinderella you’re especially excited about performing?

I don’t think I could pick one thing that I’m most excited about performing – the entire role is a real gift! But, if I had to pick just one thing, I am pretty excited about singing that epic, famous final aria.. Cinderella gets her happy ending, and so will I!

As a whimsical fairy tale, Cinderella lives in its own world. But do you think this opera resonates with any contemporary conversations (social/political/cultural)?

I can think of three things in the opera that would resonate with contemporary conversations: 1. the empowerment of women, 2. status (Don Magnifico’s attitude towards the Prince vs. Valet), and 3. forgiveness.

Name something Edmonton has that Toronto does not (or something Edmonton does better than Toronto).

I have worked with Edmonton Opera 3 times and each time I come, the contract is in January/February. So, I would have to say that Edmonton does winter better than Toronto! Edmonton winters are good and cold and so very Canadian. Oh, and I have to say that I got the greatest winter boots in Edmonton last time I was here… fashionable, funky AND warm and water-proof. And Edmonton has a great LRT. So, you beat us on that as well!

Use 4 words to describe Cinderella.

Fun, beauty, joy, love.

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Tickets to our fabulous, vintage 1950s style production of Cinderella are selling fast. Get yours today from just $40!



Caitlin Wood stars as the quirky Clorinda

Tuesday, January 17. 2017

Soprano Caitlin Wood has had a great couple of years, starring in operas across Canada and winning the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s 2016 Emerging Artist award. Now, she’s back in Edmonton to perform the role of Clorinda in our upcoming production of Rossini’s Cinderella. Cait gets to explore her mean side as one of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters, all while sporting more than a few extravagant high fashion costumes. What could be better?!

Tell us all about growing up in St. Albert and deciding to pursue a career as an opera singer. What have been your challenges during this journey?

I loved growing up in St. Albert as it was a really nurturing place to develop my love of music. My parents put me in local choirs when I was young and later I got my first real solo chance at performing in my high school’s music theater productions. After graduating high school I moved away to Winnipeg and later Toronto to pursue university schooling in opera and I really missed home.

Working in opera can be a tough business because you are frequently away from family and loved ones. Luckily this business is also filled with some pretty exceptional people who are all dealing with similar things and therefore you can create a family on the road. I count myself as lucky to say that I have dear friends all over Canada. I’ve also learned a lot about the joys of technology that can keep me connected to my family in Edmonton. Thank you WhatsApp and Skype!!!!

How does it feel to be performing for your ‘home crowd’ here in Edmonton?

I’m thrilled to be performing for my home crowd!! I haven’t had the chance to perform in Edmonton for a long time and I am so grateful for the opportunity. Being able to share what I do with my family, childhood friends, and mentors at home is going to be exhilarating. Something that I am really excited about is that my high school music teacher is bringing some of her current students to see the show. It feels like yesterday I was in the music room at Bellerose Composite High dreaming about having a career as a singer. Now many years later it is something really special to show her and her current students that that dream is possible.

What do you love about Cinderella?

I love how pure, kind, and honest Cinderella is compared to all the other characters in the show. Every other character is hiding their true identity behind a disguise, inebriation, or in the case of the wicked sisters some pretty fantastic clothing. With Cinderella, what you see is what you get.

Are you excited to play a mean girl?

The fact that Clorinda is a mean girl very much appeals to me as an actress because it means she is complex. I don’t believe that Clorinda is bad to bone, instead I think her actions are just a reaction to the pressure she feels from society, her sister, and of course her awful father. Her outlandishly bad behaviour is fantastically fun to play as there is nothing subtle about her. Only onstage as a character could I get away with throwing a full on hissy fit, pouting like a toddler, and being a complete brat! I’m also really enjoying exploring what it is like to be an older sibling. In real life I am the younger one and I am certain I annoyed my brother by following him around and wanting to copy his every move. As Clorinda it is a lot of fun reacting to this annoyance in an especially catty way.

What can the audience look forward to?

This is a pretty exciting show so I think there are many things the audience will enjoy. I won’t give any spoilers away but this show is chalk full of high energy, comedy-filled, ridiculous scenes. Many of these are the big ensemble numbers that not only delight with their visual madness but also with Rossini’s music. Hearing the singers patter in Italian as the orchestra plays at break neck speed will most definitely be a highlight.What message can the audience take away from Cinderella?

Cinderella’s moral of ‘good prevails over evil’ is a theme that I definitely think today’s audience will respond to. Although this saying borders on cliché, with all the horrible things happening in the world right now it may be comforting to be reminded of this fairy tale’s theme. In this version I absolutely love that by the end the wicked stepsisters are so touched by Cinderella’s kindness that they themselves become kind. I hope that audiences take from this that one small act of kindness in their lives can impact another person in a positive way.

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To see Caitlin Wood throw tantrums on stage in fabulous costumes, make sure you attend our high fashion production of Cinderella on February 4, 7 and 9 at the Jubilee Auditorium. Tickets start from $40!

Meet mezzo-soprano Sylvia Szadovszki

Tuesday, January 3. 2017



You may remember Sylvia Szadovszki as the charming Rosina from our production of The Barber of Seville in 2014. She's now back as the hilariously wicked (or wickedly hilarious) stepsister Tisbe in our upcoming Cinderella. Read this New York-based mezzo-soprano's thoughts on Rossini's bel canto masterpiece!

After 2014’s The Barber of Seville, you are now returning to Edmonton with another Rossini masterpiece. What do you love about performing in Edmonton?

I was born in Calgary, Alberta, so it’s always great to be back in my home province. The audience in Edmonton is reactive, which as a performer on stage, I love! We want you to laugh when something is funny and we want to know you’re enjoying your time in the theatre. You can truly feel the energy from the audience when you’re on stage and during Barber I always felt an electric energy from the audience. I’m sure it will be the same with Cinderella! Another thing I love about Edmonton, or Edmonton Opera in particular, is the company itself. Everyone at EO is so kind and supportive, it really makes the rehearsal and performance process a lot of fun!

What do you find fascinating about the opera Cinderella?

I find the whole fairytale world fascinating. The fact that these stories have been around for hundreds of years and that they are familiar to everyone all around the world is amazing! I love stories that bring people together, and of course I love a story that ends happily. Although there are a couple of differences in the plot of Rossini’s Cenerentola v.s. Disney’s Cinderella or other operatic versions, like Massenet’s Cendrillon, the basics are the same. You really feel for Cinderella; she is kind-hearted, yet mistreated. You’re really rooting for her to find love and happiness. I think the best stories make you root for the main characters. Rossini is such an expressive composer, he really knows how to showcase the sweetness of Cenerentola, the chaos at the ball, the desperation of the step-sisters, and the excitement of love at first sight.

Which aspects of Tisbe’s character appeal to you?

First of all, I have to say that playing a sassy or mean character is so much more fun than playing a nice one! Tisbe and Clorinda are hilarious to me. They say the most ridiculous things, they are always trying to “one up” one another, and their scenes with the “Prince” are so comical. I think you have to find humor in their unkindness. When people are spiteful, as these girls are, it is always coming from a place of their own insecurity. The sisters really play off of each other’s insecurities. They are very self-centered and although it takes them almost the entire opera to come around and admit to Cenerentola’s worthiness of happiness, they do eventually show that they too have kindness in their hearts. Maybe just a bit deeper down than we would have hoped for!

Is there a part in the opera you think the audience might particularly enjoy?

I find Rossini finales so fun! The music is always completely chaotic but very organized at the same time. My husband hates listening to me practice them, but he can always tell when I’m working on a Rossini finale so there is definitely something distinctive about them, even to a non-musician’s ear. My favorite part in the opera, musically, is when Cenerentola is pleading with Don Magnifico to go to the ball. I usually find another character’s music to be my favorite part of an opera!

How might Cinderella resonate with a contemporary audience?

I think people love a sweet love story with a happy ending. I know I do! This show has a bit of everything - first love, disguises, swapped identities, jealousy, cruelty, kindness. You go through so many emotions in this show, there will be a moment (for me there are quite a few moments) that every person in the audience will relate to, no matter what age they are. I think for our younger audience members who unfortunately have to deal with bullying in many shapes and forms these days, they will be able to relate to Tisbe, Clorinda and Cenerentola. Whether it’s from the bully’s perspective or the person being bullied, hopefully seeing how these girls behave with one another will shed some light on how hurtful bullying can be.

So Tisbe is kind of a mean girl in this opera. Have you ever been like her, or at the receiving end of mean girl behaviour?

I think anybody growing up has been bullied or has been the bully, in some form or another. Luckily I never really had to deal with mean girl behaviour in my school. In high school my best friends were guys, so maybe that’s why! I have definitely said mean things that I wish I could take back, but I’ve learned from those experiences. Nobody can take back what they’ve said or done in the past, but we can all work toward being kinder, more understanding and more forgiving in the future.

Now tell us more about New York City living. What does your average day look like?

I could not love New York more! An average day for me consists of doing my workout in the morning, taking my dog Mint Julep to Central Park, practicing, possibly doing an audition, catching up on emails at one of the many coffee shops in the city, and if it’s a weekend - checking out a new restaurant. There is usually shopping involved at some point during the week as well! I walk around a LOT and I try to walk down different streets each day so that I see as much of the city as possible. There are always new spots to discover, which is one of the things I love most of about New York. Things are always changing. If you’ve never been, you have to visit! It’s an invigorating city.

On a scale of one to Tisbe, how much are you into fashion/looking good?

I’m a full on Tisbe and a shopaholic.

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Enjoy our 1950s-inspired high fashion production of Rossini's Cinderella at the Jubilee on February 4, 7 & 9. Tickets start from $40 and are selling quickly, so get yours today

Michael Nyby's Favourite Things

Thursday, December 22. 2016


Since it's the holiday season, we've decided to present an operatic version of "my favourite things" featuring baritone Michael Nyby! If you remember, this talented singer last made an appearance as the hilarious Count Danilo in 2015's The Merry Widow. He will soon be back to spread even more cheer as Dandini, the prince's valet in Cinderella. So here are a few of Michael's favourite things!

Favourite composer: I'm torn between Mozart and Verdi. I think Mozart is probably the composer I most love to listen to, but Verdi is the one I most love to sing. It can't be denied that Verdi crafted the best baritone characters in the operatic canon. Macbeth, Rigoletto, Germont, Rodrigo, Iago, Falstaff, and Ford are all iconic, fully-fleshed, dramatically compelling characters. But I can listen to Le Nozze di Figaro all day every day and never grow tired of it.

Favourite opera you've seen live: The first production I ever saw of Turandot changed my life. I had been to the opera before, but never had I been so riveted to my seat by the music, sets, singing, or action. Everything came together as one grand spectacle in that production, and it opened my mind as to what opera can be.

Favourite opera character: Verdi's Falstaff is the greatest opera ever written, and I am of the opinion that the title character is the greatest character in all of opera.

Favourite aria to recommend to people: "Ella giammai m'amò", King Phillip's monologue from Don Carlo is unparalleled in its showstopping dramatic force. But for vocal fireworks, Marilyn Horne singing "Furibondo spira il vento" from Händel's Partenope is hard to top.

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To see Michael in action as the exuberant Dandini, get your tickets to Rossini's Cinderella starting from $40!

The Merry Widow photo by Nanc Price.

Holiday recipes from Rossini

Monday, December 19. 2016

It is no secret that Cinderella composer Gioachino Rossini was a musical genius, having written over forty operas by the time he retired at the age of only 37. But what most people don’t know is that Rossini was also quite passionate about fine cuisine! After moving to France and befriending many famous chefs, Rossini spent a lot of his time tasting various dishes and even had some created for him. In fact, there is a whole line of recipes named “alla Rossini”, which speaks to the composer's status as the connoisseur supreme!

So here are some “alla Rossini” recipes we have put together for you to impress your guests and friends with over the holidays. These recipes are very unique and can be excellent conversation starters too! 

Fun fact: most of Rossini’s recipes included foie gras and truffles, two very expensive ingredients. Rossini, of course, had a lot of money to spend on these indulgences thanks to his blockbuster operas. The dishes mentioned below are some of the few that don’t require truffles or foie gras in their preparation.

By the way, these recipes are generously adapted from the originals and would probably earn a comic frown from Rossini himself... but we encourage you to put your own spin on them by adding seasonings and flavours you like! There are also suggestions to make them vegetarian or vegan.


The Rossini cocktail

Ditch your Bellini for a Rossini! This cocktail is super easy to make and will become everyone's party favourite, guaranteed. 

Ingredients:

Prosecco

Strawberries

Sugar

Directions:

Just macerate halved strawberries in sugar for about an hour, then blend them up. Put a couple tablespoons of the puree at the bottom of each glass, and then pour your Prosecco over top. There you have it — bubbly and sweet, just like Rossini's melodies in Cinderella

Macaroni alla Rossini

This recipe offers some cheesy, comfort food goodness that will have your guests asking for more. There's always time to get back to your diet in January, right?

Ingredients:

Chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

Macaroni

Cheese mixture: grated Parmesan and cheddar cheese (or vegan cheese)

For quenelles:

Breadcrumbs

Salt (or additional seasonings of your choice)

Minced meat (any kind, or vegetarian substitute)

Onions and garlic, finely chopped

Egg (or other binding agent)

Directions: 

To make quenelles, simply mix the meat, breadcrumbs, onions, garlic, and salt, using egg as a binder. Shape into balls and then poach the quenelles in stock.

Cook the macaroni almost completely. In a greased baking dish that is at least 3 inches deep, sprinkle some Parmesan. Spread macaroni across the bottom and layer with both cheddar and parmesan. On this layer, place as many quenelles as you’d like. Now repeat with another layer of macaroni, cheese, and quenelles. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes so that the cheese melts nicely in. Serve in a bowl and top with piping hot broth to get a delicious macaroni alla Rossini! 

Cannelloni alla Rossini

Let the cheese fest continue! 

Ingredients: 

Meat (any kind, or vegetarian substitute)

Cannelloni 

For poaching — wine (of your choice), garlic, onion, butter, and rosemary

Tomato sauce (any tomato sauce recipe you like)

White sauce (any white sauce recipe you like)

Ricotta cheese

Egg yolk 

Grated parmesan 

Spinach

Directions: 

Poach the meat in wine, garlic, onion, butter, and rosemary and then grind. Mix the ground meat with Parmesan and ricotta, egg yolk, salt (or other seasonings), and spinach. This is your stuffing for the cannelloni. 

Lay the cannelloni in a greased baking dish, put in the stuffing, and cover with tomato sauce. Top with Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from the oven and top with hot white sauce before serving.

Elektra: Strauss's terrifying masterpiece

Friday, November 25. 2016


  Soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs stars in a 2015 production of Elektra at Teatro Comunale di Bologna

“If you have done terrible things, you must endure terrible things; for thus the sacred light of injustice shines bright.” — Sophocles, Greek playwright (498-406 BCE).

Clearly, the ancient Greeks believed in revenge. Brutal revenge, to be precise. Their theatre examined the worst possibilities of human nature, reaching into the lowest depths of our psyche to purge us of immorality. The story of Elektra does this in particularly effective (and horrifying) ways.

When Richard Strauss composed his 1909 opera Elektra, based on the play Electra by Sophocles, he wanted to capture the essence of this Greek heroine’s madness — how does a woman cope with the gruesome murder of her father, that too at her own mother’s hand? When does grief turn into anger, anger into obsession, and obsession into a complete loss of control?

The resulting score is undoubtedly one of opera’s most chilling. It not only reflects Elektra’s deep psychological turmoil, but also spurs her on to commit heinous acts. The music keeps you on the edge of your seat, creating both excitement and dread simultaneously. Strauss had first explored this style of composition in Salome, which Edmonton Opera staged during the 2013/14 season, and he really perfected it with Elektra.

At the helm of Strauss’s commanding score will be British conductor Alexander Prior, who has recently been appointed the new Chief Conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Prior is fascinated with Elektra, calling it one of those “pivotal, brilliant, and most exciting masterpieces in the repertoire,” adding that it is any conductor’s dream to work on this opera.

Elektra is a really good opera for first timers and experienced operagoers alike. It is intense, visceral, and immediate. The music is a good head banger at times, which is quite fun, and allows a very physical experience,” he says.

On the other hand, Prior suggests that Elektra can also be “an emotional experience, because it addresses the themes of longing, loneliness, and a desire to find justice when there isn’t any to be found. Like any great opera, it helps us understand ourselves a bit better.”

The role of Elektra can be hugely challenging, which explains the rarity of sopranos who can perform this complex and delicate character. One of the most prominent is dramatic soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, known for her “rapturous sound” (Miami Herald) and haunting portrayal of opera’s famous ‘madwomen’ — Salome, Lady Macbeth, and of course, Elektra.

In yet another first, Edmonton Opera presents the Alberta premiere of Strauss’s riveting and evocative Elektra, promising a live theatre experience that will immerse you in its intensity. This March, strap in for an uninterrupted 100-minute roller coaster ride through the psychological highs and lows of opera’s most dangerous woman. No one is safe once Elektra vows her revenge!

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Tickets for Elektra are now on sale starting at $40. Or combine your experience with Cinderella and get tickets to see both operas from just $72. Holiday gift ideas have never been easier!

Blood of the mother, forcibly taken

Monday, October 31. 2016


The saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” might as well have been in direct reference to Strauss’s Elektra, widely regarded as one of the most chilling operas ever composed. Both the protagonist and antagonist of this opera are brutal, remorseless, and possessed by a vengeance that obscures all their humanity.

The Greek myth of Electra, which is the basis of Strauss’s masterpiece, starts with the murder of an innocent and is written entirely in blood — King Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to ensure victory in the Trojan War, against his wife Clytemnestra’s wishes. Clytemnestra promises revenge on her husband, and upon his return from the war, murders Agamemnon in cold blood.

Electra — Clytemnestra and Agamemnon’s other daughter — is completely devastated by her father’s death. She cannot forgive her mother’s deeds and becomes obsessed with plotting revenge. Colluding with her exiled brother Orestes, Electra avenges her beloved father and kills Clytemnestra.

When Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal adapted the story of Electra in 1909, they put a magnifying glass on her descent into madness. Influenced by the recent wave of psychoanalytic studies by Freud, Elektra incorporates dissonance and chromatic music to create the psychological landscape of its protagonist. As Elektra becomes frenzied, so does the music. As the orchestra’s pace becomes feverish, Elektra begins to drown in her own turmoil.

Elektra is a solid 100-minute dose of non-stop intensity, and will bring some hauntingly dramatic music to the Jubilee in this Alberta premiere. Starring soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, acclaimed for her portrayal of opera’s famous ‘madwomen’ (Salome, Elektra, Lady Macbeth), this production also welcomes Alex Prior, newly appointed chief conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

Do you dare to face the wrath of Elektra? Tickets are on sale now starting at $40

Photo: Soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs in the 2015 production of Elektra at Teatro Comunale di Bologna.

Meet baritone Dion Mazerolle

Friday, October 21. 2016

Baritone Dion Mazerolle was last seen as Bogdanowitsch in Edmonton Opera's The Merry Widow. He is now back as the Mandarin in Turandot!

What are you looking forward to most about performing in Edmonton?

This is my second time in Edmonton and I have been lucky enough to be here during the season change from summer to fall. The colours in and around Edmonton are just breathtaking.

What do you find fascinating about the opera Turandot

Puccini’s music has always been a favourite of the Verismo composers especially for his soaring music that just lifts your heart. Puccini’s music has always been there to serve the dramatic story. He leads us into a world that we do not want to end even though we know it will.

Is there a particular part in the opera that you’re especially looking forward to, or that you think the audience might particularly enjoy?

Probably the most awaited moment of the opera is the famed “Nessun Dorma” and rightfully so, but I also particularly enjoy the dark comic relief that Ping, Pang and Pong characters bring to the storyline.

How does Turandot resonate with a contemporary audience?

Through all my years being part of this ultimate art form which is Opera, I have always said, it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the language. Anyone from a first time opera lover to a seasoned opera listener will love this opera. Puccini always tells a magnificent story. Everyone must come to the opera with an open heart to let their imagination run wild and how can you not be drawn in by the set and costumes of this production.

Use 4 words to describe Turandot:

Powerful, obsession, uplifting, sumptuous.

Which character would you love the opportunity to play in an opera?

Scarpia! I have always loved the second act of Tosca. Every time I hear Scarpia screaming “piu forte, piu forte!” for the torture of Cavaradossi while Tosca pleads him to stop, I get goosebumps. He is a larger than life character that is driven by his attraction towards Tosca and that game of cat and mouse of the second act make for great opera.

Which movie would make a great opera and which character would you play?

That is a difficult question, but I think The Help would make a great opera. Its almost like a different take of Beaumarchais’ Marriage of Figaro with the differences in classes within society.  I’m not so sure there would be a character in there but the character of Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark is a strong character that I would love to play in a different life.

Which aria would you recommend that people search on YouTube because it is so impressive?

I would recommend to listen to the last act of Gustave Charpentier’s Louise. On YouTube, it is the Opera National de Paris, with Jose van Dam playing the father and Mireille Delunsch as Louise. The father’s aria in Act 3 is magnificent and heart wrenching.

What is your favourite opera that you have seen live?

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

James McLennan is Pang in Turandot!

Wednesday, October 19. 2016


Now a regular face at Edmonton Opera (last seen in The Barber of Seville and Eugene Onegin), tenor James McLennan is back this time as Pang in Turandot. Along with tenor Chris Mayell and baritone Geoffrey Sirett, McLennan is part of a comic trio that promises some great laughs! Read below to learn McLennan's thoughts on the upcoming production:

Having performed with Edmonton Opera in the past, what are you looking forward to most about performing in Edmonton again?

I love the people in Edmonton. Their enthusiasm for opera and for the arts in general is palpable. And the folks who work at EO are really dedicated. It’s great to be surrounded by people who love what they do.

What do you find fascinating about the opera Turandot?

It’s his last opera, and Puccini is in full command of his art. But he’s also experimenting and exploring new directions. The score is extremely cinematic. Audiences might think they’re hearing an epic MGM film score at times.

What aspects of the comic trio Ping, Pang, Pong intrigue you? What purpose do you think they serve in an opera like Turandot?

Ping Pang Pong are the comic relief, but they also are the most down-to-earth characters in the show. They provide a gateway for the audience into the fantastical world of mythical ancient China. While the other characters sing about passion, sacrifice, and honour, Ping, Pang and Pong just want to keep their jobs and maybe enjoy some time off from decapitating over-confident princes. Pretty relatable, really!

Is there a particular part in the opera that you’re especially looking forward to, or that you think the audience might particularly enjoy?

It’s always fun to see an audience react when they hear a well-known aria sung in context. Nessun Dorma is probably the world’s most famous opera tune thanks to its popularity as a talent show staple, but nothing beats hearing it in the context of the opera’s story. It’s always fun when people don’t know it’s coming. The aria is a real show stopper and David sings it like nobody’s business!

How does Turandot resonate with a contemporary audience? Are there any social, political, or cultural themes that might strike a chord with them?

I think Edmonton Opera hit on the right tag line with “The answer is love.” Politics is getting nasty these days. In Turandot, you get to see the leader of a country opening up to love and letting go of hate, which has a transformative effect on her entire nation. I think there’s something to be learned there.

Which character would you love the opportunity to play in an opera?

Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Serail and Bégearss in The Ghosts of Versailles.

Which movie would make a great opera and which character would you play?

I think the world needs more opera comedies! So maybe a farce like Noises Off or Clue. I’d play the butler, of course!

Who is your favourite composer and why?

That’s so hard to answer! But to list a few…Mozart for the breathtaking beauty and honesty of his music, Strauss for his expansive, galactic orchestration, Rossini for the sheer joy his music exudes!

Which aria would you recommend that people search on YouTube because it is so impressive?

Graham Clark singing the Aria of the Worm from Ghosts of Versailles…it’s a phenomenal performance. He was actually nominated for an Emmy for that!

What is your favourite opera that you have seen live?

Salome is always a great ride and I’ve seen a couple of productions that just blew me away.

Use 4 words to describe Turandot:

You’ll be blown away!

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To see James McLennan and the comic trio of Ping, Pang, and Pong make mischief on stage, buy your tickets to Turandot starting at just $40. 

Pronouncing 'Turandot': the fourth deadly riddle

Tuesday, October 18. 2016

Confused about how to pronounce ‘Turandot’? Don’t worry, we’re right there with you! Everyone from our production crew to the General Director has gone through at least three different pronunciations of Turandot since we started working on this opera. Our box office staff receives countless variations on a daily basis, with many patrons waiting for them to say the name first, referring to it simply as “the first show” or “the Puccini opera” until then.

So what is the right way to say Turandot? Truthfully, there is no consensus. The originating conductor had his own way of saying it, which Puccini’s family members have disagreed with, and since then there have been intense face-offs among scholars and opera lovers! The correct pronunciation of Turandot has been as mysterious and unforgiving as the princess herself. But let us go over a few options:

Too-rahn-dough — This eliminates the final hard ‘t’ sound, and seems to make sense as a more smooth, effortless delivery of the name.

Too-rahn-dote — “Why doesn’t Turandot dote on her suitor Calaf?” This pronunciation is actually the most popular among our operagoers, and works well because of it allows a harder ‘t’ at the end, but still manages to sound delicate and nuanced.

Too-rahn-dott — This version starts and ends with strong ‘t’s making it the most cut-and-dry. It is also a fairly North Americanized pronunciation and fits in well with our dialect. Within the Edmonton Opera cast, crew, and administrative staff, we seem to have uniformly arrived at this pronunciation.

The above options are, of course, not the only ones. There are several other variations that soften the initial ‘t’ and honour the etymology of this name, a combination of the Persian word for daughter (dokht) and Turan (region of Central Asia). In the opera itself, the name is usually sung with a gentler Italian ‘t’ at the top and no ‘t’ sound at the end.

The trick, now that we have sampled a few pronunciations here, is to pick one and say it with absolute resolve, as though it has never been pronounced any other way!

Hopefully this post has helped relieve some of your anxiety before coming to see Turandot. Now you can sit back, enjoy the show, and tell the whole world about your experience! 

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Turandot tickets are selling fast! Get yours today and witness this year's most anticipated theatrical event. 

Photo by Reed Hummell, Nashville Opera's Turandot

Message from Turandot conductor David Stern

Monday, October 17. 2016

To say that Puccini is one of the greatest and most important opera composers is an absolute understatement. It is surprising, however, to learn that Puccini had a tremendously low opinion of himself; he always felt that his music was not as brilliant as other composers, especially his German colleagues.

Puccini grew up in a poor family, did not receive the most rigorous musical education, and also started making music quite quickly to earn money and support his family. While for us this adds to our impression of him, to Puccini it manifested as a constant need to substantiate his existence. Though he embraced the concept of versimo, Puccini was always afraid of his intellectual side not coming through in the music.

Puccini wrote great melodies, as is evident in Turandot, but his music is much more than that. Indeed, there are great emotions and melodies in his operas, but those are secondary to the actual construction of each score. Puccini’s true brilliance is found in the level of subtlety and sophistication between aria and recitative, the very interesting architecture he puts into his work, and how he balances arias with their respective characters.

In a few of his most revered operas such as La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Tosca, Puccini demonstrates the height of realism. Then comes Turandot, which is always challenging to categorize as either a romantic opera or a versimo opera. In fact, it is neither.

Turandot is Puccini at his most expressionist. While this opera came towards the end of his life, the world was now beginning to see what would have been the new Puccini. Does Turandot contain versimo? Sometimes. Is it sentimental? No. It contains sentiment without falling into sentimentality. Love in Turandot is not love in the sense of Pinkerton and Butterfly. This is expressionist love — Calaf represents life and Turandot represents death. There is an inherent feeling that the life in Calaf needs to couple with the death in Turandot to create harmony in nature, like yin and yang. The music of Turandot invites a connection with something greater than oneself, creating a truly spiritual experience for the audience.

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To experience our highly anticipated production of Turandot, purchase your tickets today starting at just $40! Act fast for the best seats in the house. 

David Pomeroy makes his role debut as Calaf in Turandot!

Tuesday, October 11. 2016

You may remember David Pomeroy from our 2013 production of The Tales of Hoffman, in which he wowed Edmonton audiences with his amazing talent! Now this skilled tenor is back at Edmonton Opera, this time debuting the role of Calaf in Turandot. You can see David on the Jubilee stage October 22, 25, and 27 singing the iconic Puccini aria, 'Nessun dorma'!

What do you find fascinating about Turandot?

The opera has amazing music. Puccini was a magnificent composer. He wrote romantic and sweeping melodies that soar and show off the singer’s voice in the most virile and thrilling way. The orchestration is so lush and mellifluous too! Cool plot …I love that I’m portraying a heroic prince who is arrogant enough to play with his own life in a riddle-game! Who wouldn’t?

Is there a particular part in the opera that you’re especially looking forward to?

‘Nessun dorma’ is my favourite aria, so definitely looking forward to singing that! Also the music of Liu and the exciting riddle scene with Turandot.

This will be your role debut as Calaf. What aspects of Calaf’s character do you relate to most?

I relate mostly to the music. The plot and being a prince cannot, of course, really be applied to my own life. But we must be singing actors and allow ourselves to get taken away to another world and time! As a dramatic singer I’m always excited to sing passionate Italian opera. And also to perform one of the most famous arias ever composed!! #NessunDorma

What are you looking forward to most about performing in Edmonton?

Seeing so many friends and colleagues. It’s been a few years since I’ve visited Edmonton and some of my favourite people are there!

Who is your favourite composer?

I have too many to name one! Some favourites are Verdi, Puccini and Wagner. These composers equipped themselves with the greatest libretti and applied their incredible music and melodies for both orchestra and voice.

Which aria would you recommend that people search on YouTube because it is so impressive?

The Pavarotti version of ‘Nessun dorma’ for sure!

Use 4 words to describe Turandot.

Dramatic, mellifluous, loud, inspiring!

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To witness David Pomeroy embody Calaf's thrilling pursuit for love in Turandot, purchase your tickets today starting at just $40! Act fast for the best seats in the house. 

Introducing Turandot's stellar soprano Othalie Graham!

Wednesday, September 21. 2016

This year's highly anticipated production of Puccini's Turandot will be unveiled at the Jubilee in just one month! Our production is complete with incredible sets, costumes, and a cast of superb singers — including acclaimed soprano Othalie Graham. This Canadian has made quite the impression across the US and beyond in her signature role of Turandot, and now she is set to charm her home crowd with an unforgettable debut!

Othalie took some time out of role preparation to talk about her upcoming portrayal of Puccini's most compelling operatic heroine. Enjoy her insights below! 

We are so excited to have your Canadian mainstage debut be with Edmonton Opera. What are you looking forward to most about performing in Canada?

I am looking forward to singing my favorite role in my own country and I am eager to sing for a Canadian audience. Whenever I perform in other countries, everyone always responds positively about how much they love Canadians, so I am very happy to be singing in what is truly my home country.

What makes Turandot such an operatic treat

Turandot is a very challenging role and the opera has some of the most beautiful, soaring lines and heartbreaking moments for all of the characters. I think that Turandots change from what people perceive to be imperiousness (but I interpret as fear within a sequestered woman) to finding love is one of the greatest moments in any opera.

Having played Turandot numerous times, how do you keep your portrayal fresh and inspiring for each new audience? What aspects of Turandots character do you relate to? 

I can relate to her inner fortitude and her devotion to her father. Turandot is very protective of her ancestors and her family. Every time you re-visit a role its different because your fellow castmates, directors, set and production elements are different. Its always exciting and since I love the character of Turandot so much, I look for new things about her character that I can portray and emulate each time. I also enjoy working with a team that helps me uncover something new about the role or helps me see things in a new way, and I am very open to that in my role preparation and rehearsal process.

Is there a particular part in the opera that youre looking forward to performing?

I truly enjoy the entire opera. Its so well written and there are big moments within it that everyone can appreciate. There are also no small roles in this opera and the music is so exciting, from the overture to the last note. Each character has many poignant moments, and with this incredible cast filled with gifted singing actors, I know the audience will be mesmerized!

Personally, when I portray this role, I always look forward to the heartbreaking moment of Lius death and Timurs anguish. The transition that Turandot undergoes when experiencing this moment is riveting. In addition, Turandot pleading with her father in Act 2 really shows her vulnerability and her soft underbelly, and this also makes her transition in Act 3 more believable.

How might Turandot resonate with a contemporary audience? 

Turandot is really a timeless love story about sacrifice and characters willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for love. Everyone loves a story where love conquers all in the end.

Use 4 words to describe Turandot.

Beautiful, imperious, vulnerable, loving.

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To experience Othalie Graham's powerful performance as Turandot, purchase your tickets today starting at just $40! Act fast for the best seats in the house.