Edmonton Opera Blog

Entries from October 2011

A day in the life of...Aaron St. Clair Nicholson

Thursday, October 20. 2011
How does an opening night look like? What does he do to prepare for the role? Read in our new blog!

Aaron St. Clair NicholsonI try to rehearse the way I perform so performance morning is the same as rehearsal morning. Get up and make coffee. Read the newspaper and answer emails. My wife Brooke and I have breakfast - 2 soft boiled eggs - 2 pieces of toast - sliced tomato and cheddar cheese with bubbly water - every morning.

I also use morning affirmations about my life and my day to prepare me to be positive throughout the day. Negative energy can be strong so I try to affirm what I am grateful for and maintain an attitude that my day will be productive and fulfilling.

I always try to fully warm up in the day and then just rest until show time. Depending on the length of my role I will review my music and staging. Silvio is a very small but vocally demanding role so being warm is the priority for show time. To get warm I sing through the entire role after some basic vocalise. When I arrive at the theater I enjoy the ritual of being in the make-up chair and getting all prepared as the character with wigs and costume. I will take 10 minutes or so to gather my thoughts and prepare for a good performance. My attitude towards going out on stage helps my performance. Like a horse just before the race.

I am a bel canto singer and my teachers were old school Italian taught and they helped prepare me for Silvio. I love singing Leoncavallo but I rarely get the opportunity to sing his work so I am embracing this chance and would like the chance to do more in the future! I can relate to the character of Silvio easily because his passion is great. It ultimately leads to his demise but i can relate to that kind of fervent love.

I try not to rely on ritual so that if something goes wrong I am able to perform at a high level and not be distracted by what might or might not happen throughout the day of performance. Of course I need to be warm and well prepared but beyond that it's just little things like not eating to heavy before the show and taking time to collect my thoughts and energy.

It is important of course that my wife is with me when I am performing. Over our last 4 years a together we have made many sacrifices to be with one another when so often couples in performance especially opera are separated for most of the year. It is always great to get Brook's feedback about my performing and I love having family and friends in the audience for a show. I feel supported knowing that people are routing for me.

Pagliacci is the quintessential Italian Spaghetti and meatballs opera! The music is as Schmaltzy as it gets and I mean that in a good way. The most payoff per note out of any opera ever!

To see the upcoming production of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, please contact Edmonton Opera Box Office at 780-429-1000.

Aida at the Arena di Verona

Monday, October 17. 2011

The magic of sharing the experience of grand opera under the stars of Veneto in a 2000 year old Roman Arena in Verona with 14,000 people in the audience is unique in the world.  The moment when everyone lights their little candles at dusk as the orchestra tunes is one that still leaves me in awe..... Ever since I heard in one of my family sagas how my great aunt remembers going as a little girl with her mother to the first Aida there in 1913!

So when I heard that this year's Aida was actually the attempt to stage as close to the original 1913 Aida, I had to go and experience this grand spectacle myself.  And grand it certainly was in every possible way - a huge spectacle that got everyone in the audience cheering.  Vocally - I did wish that some of the lead singers were chosen differently, but then again - you can't have it all! I thought as I drove all day today back to Rome.  I believe that everyone needs to experience Aida in the two settings here in Italy at least once in their lives... Arena di Verona is one and the other is the restored Terme di Caracalla in Rome. 

The highlight for me this year was seeing two productions designed and directed by the Argentinean super star Hugo de Ana.  I love the way he deals with the challenge of staging operas created for small, closed spaces in a gigantic space like the Arena where it is not easy to conduct intimate affairs.  His first production for the Arena di Verona was Nabucco in 2000 which was amazingly like the spaceship from "Star Wars".  Then came Tosca in 2006 - where in spite of the concept of abstract and focusing the opera on the symbolic, on the atmosphere and the characters' intentions, the run was sold out and in huge demand even by the patrons so used to the traditional way of presenting opera at the Festival in Verona. This year his 2008 Il Barbiere di Siviglia was remounted and it was such a huge treat to see this grand scenic game within a complex miming and choreographic movement.  The Greek baritone Aris Argiris was wonderful and stole the "show" as great Figaro! 

I had a chance to see the new La Traviata also designed and directed by Hugo de Ana.  He used for this opera the concept of huge frames, empty of their mirrors - they help do both - fill the large spaces, reflect luxury but also help us experience the world of degenerating emotions.  I saw the Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho who had to use the sheer force of her voice to play her role.  I wish I was there when her co-patriot Inva Mula did the role.  I have seen Inva do the role of Violetta when she both sang and acted it beautifully.  The strongest cast member here was Geroge Gagnidze as Georgio Germont.

La Boheme....the concept of this production.... very stark, white, almost empty stage with Nicola Benois wanting us to share in the feeling of profound emotions and not be burdened by the often bothersome and heavy scenery that take away the reason why we are so moved by what we hear.  Marcelo Alvarez was the soul of the opera as Fiorenza Cedolina pushed herself out of her comfort zone... she is a wonderful dramatic soprano (I have seen her as an amazing Tosca) and one wonders why she was cast in the role where we wanted to hear a lyric soprano match Marcelo Alvarez's voice and timbre.  All I could think about was how I wanted to hear her in Un Ballo in Maschera!

Nabucco - the grand, opulent sets where the Verona Opera's chorus was the biggest star.... Although some of the lead singers were fabulous - Marco Vratogna as Nabucco and Vitalij Kowaljow as Zaccaria deserve a special mention.  But the chorus was certainly something else...... they "reinforced" the usual 162 members of the chorus with the additional 60!  After they sang "Va Pensiero", the audience lost it... so - what happens next?  The conductor rewinds that film.... and they do the whole scene again!  The custom of the place allows the audience to sing along when it's an encore!  Tears and all!

The power of opera at its best!

Production Blog September 13, 2011

Thursday, October 13. 2011

Saturday morning the trucks unload at the Jube and in goes the scenery for Cav/Pag! It’s always an adventure to get the set together. It was so long ago that the trailers were loaded , so once everything is pulled out, it is like a giant puzzle to familiarize oneself with all the pieces, sort things out and get everyone working to put it all together. I am always amazed at the co-ordinated teamwork with our TD (Clayton) and the IATSE crew (25+ members) – while lights are being swapped out or changed onstage, the trailers are being unloaded around them and side-stage, bits and pieces of the set are being constructed, the wardrobe crates are being moved into place, the costume maintenance shop is being created – all with a sense of purpose and genuine calmness. Incredible that it all happens in such a short time. With this set – we will have most of the scenery together the first day and a half (within 16 hours) – ready to be lit and be inhabited by the singers for Monday night rehearsal onstage.

It could be chaos at any moment – but because I am in charge of getting donuts for coffee breaks – we avoid any calamities. It’s all good!

Sir Francis Price Talks Edmonton Opera

Friday, October 7. 2011