Edmonton Opera Blog

Entries from February 2013

One aria is good, but two's a duet

Thursday, February 28. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at the Edmonton Opera have taken on their own 30-day challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff members about various aspects of opera, whether it's their favourite aria, an opera house they'd like to visit or their opinion on a genre. We welcome comments about your own take on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

Name your favourite duet, and why it's your favourite.

After noticing a trend with Lakme being named often, we asked the same question on social media. Not surprisingly, Lakme was mentioned, but we also had some out-of-the-box thinkers, including mentions of Scherzano sul tuo volto from Rinaldo ("because no one wrote duets like Handel"), Creuse and Jason's duet from Charpentier's Médée, the duet scene Signor deh non partire from Monteverdi's Incoronazione di Poppea, Nocturne at the end of Le Roi Malgré Lui, the duet between Don Jose and Escamillo in Carmen, and of course the flower duet in Lakme. Here's the other thoughts our staff had to share ...

Ha Neul Kim, company and stage manager: The flower duet in Lakme, because it's so famous. Also, the Pearl Fishers' duet — such a beautiful piece.

Michael Spassov, artistic administrator and chorusmaster: The final scene of Eugene Onegin — it's an incredibly powerful confrontation between two people who love each other and can never be together. It's amazing music.

Jelena Bojic, director of community relations: The flower duet from Lakme and Belle Nuit in Hoffmann. Both are so beautiful and moving. Last year we performed the flower duet at Opera al Fresco, and in the Devonian Botanic Gardens among all the gorgeous flowers, it was one of the nicest things I've heard!

Amanda MacRae, education and community outreach coordinator: My favourite duet is the flower duet from Lakme. It's beautiful and what made it my favourite was hearing Cathy Daniels and Iren Bartok sing it at the Devonian Gardens at last year's Opera al Fresco.

Mickey Melnyk, Stewardship Officer: Ah quelgi occhi, qual occhio al mondo from Puccini's Tosca. It's a beautiful love duet between Tosca and Cavaradossi. The subject of passion and the arts resonates with me very much, and this was my first Puccini opera. 

Mapping the characters of Eugene Onegin

Monday, February 25. 2013

Unlike The Tales of Hoffmann, the characters in Eugene Onegin are much easier to keep track of. In this map, we have tracked the interactions that they have with each other, and how those unfold over the course of the opera.


Deciphering opera

Friday, February 22. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at the Edmonton Opera have taken on their own 30-day challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff members about various aspects of opera, whether it's their favourite aria, an opera house they'd like to visit or their opinion on a genre. We welcome comments about your own take on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

Name an opera that is confusing, and explain why it was so hard to understand.

Sandra Gajic, CEO:  I'm no help in this case ... I don't find opera confusing, ever. 

Amanda MacRae, education and community outreach coordinator: For me it really depends on the synopsis. Sometimes they are dry and confusing to read, which can make for a confusing opera. Multiple love interests and relationships can also make it hard to follow.

Catherine Szabo, communications coordinator: Maybe it's because of my role here, but the more I work through an opera — compiling the playbill, writing copy about it, tweeting links about it — the less confused I am by even the most confusing operas. But the first thing I always do is draw character maps (usually four or five times until I have all the interactions right) when I'm reading the synopsis for the first time. For an opera like Tales of Hoffmann, where there are plenty of characters with nearly unpronounceable names, that's the best (and safest) place for me to start!

A different kind of date night

Wednesday, February 13. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at the Edmonton Opera have taken on their own 30-day challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff members about various aspects of opera, whether it's their favourite aria, an opera house they'd like to visit or their opinion on a genre. We welcome comments about your own take on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

With Valentine's Day today,we asked our staff for suggestions on which opera would be good for a date night. Need some last-minute plans? A home-cooked meal and a DVD of one of these operas sounds good to us! On Twitter, we also received suggestions of Fidelio, La Traviata, Don Giovanni, Marriage of Figaro and Dialogue of the Carmelites. La Bohème seems to be a fool-proof choice, since it was mentioned twice on social media and another time by our staff. When we noted that on Facebook, however, someone suggested their choices of Daughter of the Regiment and Barber of Seville, because they're "pieces everyone knows and loves, plus no one dies. ...Bohème is a lovely story and the music is fabulous, but it kind puts a damper on the date when the title character dies and you're a crying mess at the end."

Whatever you do today, happy Valentine's Day! 

What's the best opera for a date night, and why?

Ha Neul Kim, company and stage manager: La Bohème, because although it is sad, it has a beautiful storyline and music. It makes you feel very emotional, and has a good vibe of the Bohemian lifestyle and date night, so I think it goes well together.

Sandra Gajic, CEO: Madama Butterfly, because it is very emotional and breaks your heart. (If Jelena hadn't picked Onegin, that would be another choice.)

Kelly Sheard, grant writer: Romeo and Juliet.

Jelena Bojic, director of community relations: Eugene Onegin, because it is beautiful and heartbreaking — perfect to see on a date night! And it's full of sentimental quotes such as "My whole life has been pledged to this meeting with you..." Pair that with marvelous music, and you've got a great romantic date.

Cameron MacRae, creative coordinator: Donizetti's bel canto comic opera L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love) makes for the perfect date night. Nemorino desperately tries to win the hand of beautiful Adina with the help of Dr. Dulcamara's love potion; simply a half-empty bottle of Bordeaux. The opera features beautiful music (including the famous tenor aria Una furtiva lagrima), plenty of laughs, and the perfect excuse to go for wine afterwards. 

Favourite composers

Monday, February 11. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at the Edmonton Opera have taken on their own 30-day challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff members about various aspects of opera, whether it's their favourite aria, an opera house they'd like to visit or their opinion on a genre. We welcome comments about your own take on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

Who is your favourite composer?

Jelena Bojic, director of community relations: Philip Glass — I love his music and could listen to it over and over again.

Jessica McMillan, administrative assistant: Shostakovich is my favourite.

Rebecca Anderson, box office supervisor: Rachmaninoff and Henryk Gorecki are some of my favourites. Both are so passionate! I also love Yann Tiersen, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - all excellent composers of music in film, in addition to performin in crossover alternative music groups.

Jeff McAlpine, assistant technical director: Beethoven.

Sandra Gajic, CEO: For me, it's Wagner — need I say more?

Mapping the characters of Hoffmann's tales

Monday, February 4. 2013

As Hoffmann tells the stories of the three women he has loved, he gets progressively more drunk. That, combined with the fact that there are just some crazy characters he associates with, means that it's sometimes hard to keep track of who's who in the circus that is his life. So, we've mapped out the characters of the Tales of Hoffmann, as well as their relation to each other. As you can see, lots of artists appear in different incarnations in different acts.

There is discussion about whether the three women Hoffmann has loved are really facets of one woman, Stella, or if he's really just that unlucky with four different women. We have four artists in the four different roles, though occasionally one artist sings all four roles.

Despite the bizarre turns that Hoffmann's stories can take, there is still a certain pattern to his tales: he loves a woman, who is kept from him by a villain (all four villains are sung by Daniel Okulitch), and a valet who adds a bit of comic relief to the high drama.

The kind of love that Hoffmann experiences progresses through the acts however, as Ileana Montalbetti explained in this interview with Vue Weekly: "You see Hoffmann progress through love in each of the three stories. It's new, kind of fascinating love with Teiya's character (Olympia, the mechanical doll), and then ours (Hoffmann and Antonia) is very pure, very innocent and real, and then because I die, his heart is broken and he kind of moves into this sexual love with Giulietta."

Opera for the first time

Friday, February 1. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at the Edmonton Opera have taken on their own 30-day challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff members about various aspects of opera, whether it's their favourite aria, an opera house they'd like to visit or their opinion on a genre. We welcome comments about your own take on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

What's the first opera you saw, and what were your impressions?

Stacy Young, special events coordinator: Aida was my first opera. I loved the costumes and set, and the chorus numbers were great! We had such great performers for our version as well.

Sandra Gajic, CEO: My first opera was Pagliacci — I was no more than 3. I went with my grandmother who prepared me by playing and singing the entire opera for me time after time. What I remember most is that I cried together with my grandma during and long after Vesti La Giubba! I can still cry the moment I even think about it! The next one she took me to was La Traviata a few months later, and there all I could remember was the gowns. 

Cameron MacRae, creative coordinator: My first opera was Edmonton Opera's 1999 production of Puccini's La Bohème. My Grade 6 teacher brought our class to the education dress rehearsal, and I was captivated by the music and spectacle. Musetta's Quando me'n vo remains one of my favourite arias. It's great to see that our education dress rehearsals continue to expose a new generation of patrons to the art form.

Jeff McAlpine, assistant technical director: My first opera was Edmonton Opera's La Bohème in 2005.

Catherine Szabo, communications coordinator: Aida was the first opera I saw, and I don't know if it's because it's the first scene I saw in rehearsal, but my favourite scene is when Ramfis declares Radames a traitor. With Les Contes d'Hoffmann coming up, it's really interesting to see all the differences between the two, and I love different aspects in this opera — but I definitely think the chorus is always one of the highlights. 

Edited Feb. 4, 2013