I just wanted to take this chance to say how excited I am about how the chorus is already shaping up this year. After a meet-and-greet with the chorus and opera staff at the production facility in late August, we have started right in to Aida — one of the operas with some of the heaviest load for the chorus imaginable. The choral part is also hugely complex — at one point in the opera, it divides into as many as nine parts. It’s wonderful to be able to welcome back so many veterans, as well as to welcome so many new members, who we found through the auditions we held last May.
Our chorus for this show is much larger than what we usually have: 54 members compared to our usual 25 to 40. They also dominate the scene that many consider the crowning achievement of the opera: the Triumphal Scene, where the Egyptian populace celebrates their victory in the war against Ethiopia. The chorus play so many different roles: cheering crowds, soldiers, priests, dancing girls, boudoir attendants, prisoners of war, etc., etc. — often at the same time. It’s exceptionally demanding — I was telling the first tenors the other night that a lot of first tenor lines in Verdi are, in some ways, more demanding than the principal tenor parts, as they just have to sing high all the time for the whole opera. In any case, the sounds they are making are glorious.
The chorus is a huge part of Aida — it really doesn’t have a supporting part, but takes a real role in the action. The chorus acts as the priests who collectively condemn Radamès to death; the chorus is also the people collectively who successfully plead for mercy for the Ethiopian prisoners of war. In fact, the priests form one side of the central conflict of the opera — the conflict between young love and a state at war. There are few operas where the chorus is able to play so many different parts, though it necessitates a lot of costume changes. I can’t help but mention here how excited the men of the chorus are about wearing dance belts for the show. I also have to give a special mention to Andrae Marchak, who wore his dance belt, not only at rehearsal, but also on the trip over, while riding his bike through the streets of Edmonton!
I have to say that I have been so impressed with the dedication and the skill level of our chorus here in Edmonton. So many people have brought their own recording devices to rehearsals in order to tape the proceedings. All in all, we are having a wonderful start to a season full of operas that feature the chorus prominently.