Entries by Edmonton Opera

Edmonton Opera Blog

Barber of Seville artist Q & A: Opera introduction

Tuesday, October 14. 2014

Over the course of three performances, Edmonton audiences will become familiar with the stories of Almaviva, Rosina, Bartolo, Basilio and Figaro, along with other characters that they pull into the drama of The Barber of Seville (Oct. 25, 28 and 30). But what about the stories of the opera singers behind these characters? Through a series of blog posts, we'll share some of the most interesting answers that members of the cast have submitted.

What first interested you in opera?

I have loved expressing myself through singing since I was five years old and I have always admired people who have the courage to be performing on a stage. I saw my first musical at age eight and knew I wanted to be up on stage someday. The grandeur of the sets, the costumes and the orchestra is what drew me into the opera world. The ability of the human voice to convey so much emotion is what astounds me in opera and keeps me interested. - Sylvia Szadovszki, Rosina

The natural way of projecting the voice. -Alexandre Sylvestre, Bartolo

When I first went to college for music, my instructor loved opera and shared her love with me. -Cara Brown, Berta

I first became interested in opera mid-way through my BMus, around the time when I took my first voice lessons. If I were to pick a moment when I realized how great opera can be, it was on my first-year listening exam for music history. The surprise excerpt, which turned out to be Birgit Nielsen singing the Liebestot, from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, had me weeping, completely overwhelmed. - Phillip Addis, Figaro

Opera got under my skin at age 16, after seeing Carmen in Vancouver. I disliked it, actually! But a few years later, my college music history teacher suggested I join the chorus at Pacific Opera Victoria for their production of Eugene Onegin. I'd never spoken in Russian before, much less tried to sing it, and here I was, dancing Russian folk dances and living in Pushkin's world. The opera bug bit, and continues to bite me every time I open a score. -Aaron Durand, Fiorello/Sergeant

I started singing in musicals and school choirs when I was a kid. But when I started my music degree in university, it was a piano major. I discovered opera in my school's music library, watching opera films and recordings of live performances — Theresa Stratas in La Traviata and Salome, Placido Domingo in Carmen. Seeing the video of The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano, which the Metropolitan Opera commissioned in the early '90s, had a big impact on me. I was immediately struck by the theatrical possibilities of opera, which I had never been exposed to before. When I finally heard a recording of Jussi Bjorling singing Una furtiva lagrima (the famous tenor aria from l'Elisir d'amore), I got hooked on the sound of the operatic voice. Something about it just resonates deeper inside of you than any other type of singing or instrument. And when it's coupled with great acting, opera is just a phenomenal experience. -James McLennan, Almaviva

Barber of Seville Q & A: previous endeavours

Thursday, October 9. 2014

Over the course of three performances, Edmonton audiences will become familiar with the stories of Almaviva, Rosina, Bartolo, Basilio and Figaro, along with other characters that they pull into the drama of The Barber of Seville (Oct. 25, 28 & 30, 2014). But what about the stories of the opera singers behind these characters? Through a series of blog posts, we'll share some of the most interesting answers that members of the cast have submitted. 

Did you have a former career?

I used to be a guitarist and a song writer. -Alexandre Sylvestre, Bartolo

Yes, I was in office administration and was a legal secretary. - Cara Brown, Berta

This is the only career I've ever had. - Phillip Addis, Figaro

Not unless you count scooping ice cream and singing for tips at my mother's store! - Aaron Durand, Fiorello

I actually have a current second career. I have a degree in French translation and I freelance a translator specializing in academic writing, public administration and corporate communications. I love working with languages, which is partly why I went into opera, so it's a great fit. -James McLennan, Almaviva 

Barber of Seville artist Q & A: Dream roles

Tuesday, October 7. 2014

Over the course of three performances, Edmonton audiences will become familiar with the stories of Almaviva, Rosina, Bartolo, Basilio and Figaro, along with other characters that they pull into the drama of The Barber of Seville (Oct. 25, 28 & 30, 2014). But what about the stories of the opera singers behind these characters? Through a series of blog posts, we'll share some of the most interesting answers that members of the cast have submitted.

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

I would love to sing Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier because the music is drop-dead gorgeous. On a completely different note, I would also love to play Carmen. I think that is a dream role for a lot of mezzos.  (Editor's note: since this production of "The Barber of Seville" is set on a movie studio backlot, the film star Rosina is shooting scenes for a movie version of the opera "Carmen.") -Sylvia Szadovszki, Rosina

I would love to sing the role of Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd. I used to maintain and sail on tall ships as a teenager and I have sung Britten's music at practically all stages of my life, from his children's songs to the War Requiem. This story of a tragic dreamer aboard a ship of the line really resonates with me and the music fits my voice like a glove. -Phillip Addis, Figaro

I'd love one day to play Rigoletto. You run this gauntlet of emotions, playing a father, a jester and a vengeful employee. - Aaron Durand, Fiorello

There are a few! One of the greatest tenor roles Mozart ever wrote is Tito in La Clemenza di Tito. He's a Roman emperor who gets betrayed by his friends and has to reconcile his conscience with his duties as king — the plot reads like an episode of Game of Thrones. His music is just thrilling and it's one of those roles that my voice just loves to sing. I also love the role of Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore. On the surface, he's a simple guy, but his too-beautiful music and the words he sings reveal a really deep character with enormous heart. It's a role that's both comic and dramatic in its scope. What's not to love? Finally, I'm not sure what this says about me but I really like playing bad guys. There are only a few opera villains written for tenors — it's mostly baritones who get to be mean on stage! I'd love to play Begearss in The Ghosts of Versailles. He's hilariously evil and I completely adore him. Seeing that show was also a big part of why I went into opera! Herod in Salome is another great role. I don't know that I'd ever fit it vocally, but a guy can dream! - James McLennan, Almaviva

Barber of Seville artist Q & A: favourite composer

Thursday, October 2. 2014

Over the course of three performances, Edmonton audiences will become familiar with the stories of Almaviva, Rosina, Bartolo, Basilio and Figaro, along with other characters that they pull into the drama of The Barber of Seville (Oct. 25, 28 & 30, 2014). But what about the stories of the opera singers behind these characters? Through a series of blog posts, we'll share some of the most interesting answers that members of the cast have submitted.

Which composer is your favourite, and why?

My favourite composer is Richard Strauss. I am enamored with Der Rosenkavalier, and could listen to the closing trio on repeat all day. I also love Mahler for his Symphony No. 5. -Sylvia Szadovszki, Rosina

Puccini. So many beautiful stories. -Alexandre Sylvestre, Bartolo

Probably Mozart, because not only do I enjoy singing his repertoire, I find his intrumental music comforting and it often makes me smile. -Cara Brown, Berta

It's hard to name one; there are so many giants in the pantheon. Greatness comes when a composer finds their own voice and a new way to make a lasting statement. -Phillip Addis, Figaro

My favourite composer never wrote an opera. George Butterworth. He can say so much with so little. -Aaron Durand, Fiorello

That's such a hard question, but I'll stick to opera composers to narrow it down! Mozart is glorious, but for the sheer fun of singing, Rossini can't be beat. I also love Richard Strauss. He writes music on a galactic scale. -James McLennan, Almaviva 

Barber of Seville artist Q & A: Interesting facts

Tuesday, September 30. 2014

Over the course of three performances, Edmonton audiences will become familiar with the stories of Almaviva, Rosina, Bartolo, Basilio and Figaro, along with other characters that they pull into the drama of The Barber of Seville (Oct. 25, 28 & 30, 2014). But what about the stories of the opera singers behind these characters? Through a series of blog posts, we'll share some of the most interesting answers that members of the cast have submitted.

Is there anything we should additionally know about you that would be interesting to audiences?

I'm a keen (hobby) photographer, dabbling in subjects astronomical to microscopic, as well as on the human scale. - Phillip Addis, Figaro

I'm an avid hiker, a sucker for breakfast food and Breaking Bad, and if you saw my iPod playlist you wouldn't believe I sing opera (read: way too much classic rock and rap on there!). - Aaron Durand, Fiorello

I studied improv at the Second City Training Centre in Toronto for two years. I still take classes and clinics when I can. I say it's the best training for opera! It was also where I developed my killer impression of Morgan Freeman. - James McLennan, Almaviva 

Seven reasons to go to the opera this season

Wednesday, September 24. 2014

If there's a silver lining to the end of the summer, it's that Edmonton's performing arts organizations are once again getting into the swing of things! Here's seven reasons why you should join us at the opera this season.

7. This is the season to be impressed by opera. Listen live to some of the most difficult arias in opera, as each production has one aria listed on the Top 10 Horrifyingly Difficult Opera Arias.

6. Hear bel canto twice, with The Barber of Seville and Lucia di Lammermoor. With bel canto style opera, every song starts easy but then gets hard, challenging the audience to listen for musical statements and vocal colour, as Seattle Opera explains in this blog post.

5. Introduce someone else to the opera. Explorers members (18-29) can purchase a $25 membership  and receive two $20 tickets to each production this season, while encore! memberships (30-40) are free, and offer great discounts on subscriptions! An outing to the opera is a great reason to have a stylish night out with some friends or as a date. (And, might we add — if you're hoping for a fun night out where no one dies, The Barber of Seville is exactly that!)

4. Canadian soprano Simone Osborne, who was recently named by CBC as one of 30 outstanding classical musicians under 30, will make her role and company debut in the title spot of Lucia di Lammermoor in April. An intense drama, this classic opera explores madness and the dark edges of beauty.

3. Experience a really, really cool set for The Magic Flute, where, in the style of an exotic pop-up book, the audience is constantly confronted with something popping up, sliding down or dropping in to change the setting and mood. (By the way, our tech director keeps tweeting top-secret photos of the set design and build!)

2. Rossini's chattering rhythms in The Barber of Seville are infectious, plus, the melodies have been made famous by one particular wascally wabbit. Allison Grant (Die Fledermaus, February 2014) returns to direct this stylish comedy set on a movie studio backlot in 1940s Seville.

1. Subscriptions offer a great way to save on all three operas (up to 30 per cent compared to single tickets) and single tickets are also affordable, starting at $40 on the main floor. However you choose to escape to the opera with us, be sure to leave enough time to once again take advantage of the complimentary parking in the Jubilee parkade! 

Less-liked arias

Thursday, July 11. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on their 30-question challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff 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 your own opinions about the question, either on the blog or via social media.

Week 26:

Name an aria you dislike, and why. Is it because it's an earworm, or too long, maybe?

Mickey Melnyk, stewardship officer: Interesting question. The aria Nessun dorma from Puccini's Turandot was popularized by the Three Tenors who sang their debut concert on the eve of the 1990 World Cup. Unfortunately, when I hear Nessun Dorma, this soccer visual is what I remember. Having not seen Turandot itself, I am afraid when I do get the chance, the drama will be lost as I will visualize soccer fans, Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti singing "vincero!" (I will win!)

Michael Spassov, artistic administrator and chorusmaster: I'm not too fond of Rodolfo from La bohème. Think about it: this guy's girlfriend is dying of tuberculosis, and all he does is sit around writing poetry and complain that she's cheating on him. The poor girl isn't, of course, and she might have had a chance of beating the TB if he'd actually gotten a job and bought her some medicine. Maybe some firewood to heat their freezing apartment. Instead, all he does is sing an aria about how cold her hands are. (Che gelida manina)

What opera did you have to give a second chance to?

Thursday, June 20. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on their own 30-question challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff 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 your own opinions about the question, either on the blog or via social media.

Week 25:

Is there an opera you initially didn't like but now enjoy? What made you finally come around to it?

Clayton Rodney, technical director: Falstaff. I didn't find it funny the first few times I saw it. Now it cracks me up when staged well.

Jelena Bojic, director of community relations: Fidelio. I saw it on DVD first, and didn't like it too much, but then I saw Houston Grand Opera's production that changed my mind, and finally, when we did it last season (2011/12), I fell in lovewith it!

Catherine Szabo, communications coordinator: This is judging a book by its cover, but I was sure I wouldn't enjoy Eugene Onegin. Turns out there were a lot of things I really, really enjoyed about it (especially the second act). 

Opera in unexpected places

Friday, June 14. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on their own 30-day challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff 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 your own opinions about the question, either on the blog or via social media.

Week 24:

What's the most memorable or most unique place you've seen an opera? Why that place?

Tim Yakimec, interim business manager & director of production: Verona, Italy. Saw Turandot. The outdoor coliseum opens to the air, and utilizing the architecture of the stadium to house the stage at one end, and the tiered stepped seating behind to hold minor set pieces and chorus, etc., was amazing. The sound, incredibly, was excellent, and what they did with literally hundreds of singers and supers was extraordinary. The ceremony at the beginning where 20,000 people all lit a candle to start the production was unifying and really lent itself to a ritual that connected you to the spectacle in itself created. Cool walking around the coliseum prior to see the large set pieces for the other shows in rep lying about. I would love to go again.

Amanda MacRae, education and community outreach manager: My most memorable experience was seeing a performance at the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil. It is located in the heart of the rainforest and we were lucky to catch a performance during their annual opera festival after a 10-day trek in the Amazon. After sleeping in hammocks with was quite a culture shock to be in a lavish theatre.

On social media, it was very cool that someone else mentioned the Verona Amphitheatre as their most memorable place to see opera (sounds like they saw Aida there, while Tim saw Turandot). We also had submissions of the Sydney Opera House and a school gym in northern Alberta. 

Want to hear more opera in unexpected places? Be sure to join us for Opera al Fresco on June 21, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Devonian Botanic Garden. There'll be wine, appetizers, and four different performances throughout the gardens!  

Lots of choices for first-time opera-goers

Thursday, May 30. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on their own 30-day challenge. Each week, we'll post answers from staff 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 your own opinions about the question, either on the blog or via social media.

Week 23:

What's the best opera for a first-time opera-goer?

Ha Neul Kim, company and stage manager: The Barber of Seville. Many people know the tune from Bugs Bunny and it's fun.

Catherine Szabo, communications coordinator: I think it depends what someone in particular likes, determines what a good opera is for them. Any of the 2012/13 operas were good first-time operas, if they had the right appealing elements for someone: Aida was a fairly simple storyline with grand staging, Hoffmann was more complicated but there was so much to constantly look at with all the circus characters, and Onegin was wonderful music and Russian culture. Same thing for next season: Salome has the literary and historical connections, Fledermaus is an operetta with a mix of spoken and sung parts and lots of comedy, and Butterfly has traditional Japanese elements with a heartbreaking, universal story.

On Twitter, we had answers of The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro as good first operas to see. We also had a great discussion on Facebook, with answers including La Bohème, La Traviata, Tosca, The Magic Flute, Madama Butterfly and Carmen.  The common theme? That these were all familiar operas, with music that was easily recognizable. Another interesting pattern also appeared: often, people's favourite opera was also their first opera. 

Supertitles: built-in translation

Thursday, May 23. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on a 30-question challenge of their own. 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 an open-ended question about what they would do if they could direct, sing, conduct, etc., an opera.
We welcome your comments with your own opinion on the question, either in the comments or via social media.

Week 22:

During the Opera America conference in Vancouver at the beginning of May, Opera Omaha did a great job of tweeting during the conference (especially, and understandably, during the social media sessions, using the hashtag #operaconf). One of the questions they brought up was

Supertitles — yes or no? Do they affect how you hear the music?

Ha Neul Kim, company and stage manager: Yes, you need supertitles. Without it you sometimes do not get what the story is about.

Lauren Tenney, marketing and fund development co-ordinator: Yes. It's nice to have the option of them there to read, and if you don't want to read them or if you get caught up in the music, you don't even notice them.

Catherine Szabo, communications co-ordinator: Yes and no. I'm really glad that I saw Aida twice, because the first time I was so overwhelmed trying to take everything in — the cast, the staging, the set, the music and the supertitles — it was really nice to go a second time and just enjoy everything, and watch the supertitle screen for the lines that I really liked and thought were really beautiful translations. I think supertitles are essential because even if you know the story, it's nice to have direct translation, but at the same time, you have to be able to ignore them sometimes. 

Amanda MacRae, education and community outreach manager: I do appreciate supertitles, but find getting informed beforehand allows me to enjoy the music more and not be always looking up. Read the synopsis, attend a pre-opera talk before the show, search wiki — it all helps to better understand the opera from all sides. 

Did you know? The Canadian Opera Company's production of Strauss' Elektra on Jan. 21, 1983, was the first opera in history to be titled. 

Memorable opera

Thursday, May 9. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on a 30-question challenge of their own. 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 an open-ended question about what they would do if they could conduct, direct, sing, etc., an opera.
We welcome your comments with your own opinion on the question, either in the comments or via social media.

Week 21:

What's your most memorable opera experience?

Ha Neul Kim, company and stage manager: Bluebeard's Castle and Erwartung — Robert LePage's productions. We did this with his assistant a while ago, and it was such a cool concept.

Cameron MacRae, creative manager: My most memorable opera experience was my first visit to the Opera national de Paris at the Bastille. I had the chance to see Janacek's Makropulos Affair, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski. The staging and design made allusions to Hollywood, and the brilliant soprano Angela Denoke played the leading role of Emilia Marty. In one scene she wore a Marilyn Monroe-inspired dress complete with updraft, and later carried onstage by a 10-metre tall King Kong bust.

Rebecca Anderson, box office supervisor: I spent some time in Europe just after high school and decided last minute to go to the opera in Vienna. It was a performance of Salome and as a student of German I confess I was a bit confused. 

On Twitter, it was nice that users named a couple Edmonton Opera productions as most memorable — the 1974 production of Carmen was one user's first introduction to opera, while more recently, Tales of Hoffmann was another's most memorable opera experience. Photographer Nanc Price named her backstage experience shooting Eugene Onegin as most memorable, and we can certainly understand that — it's a chance that not a lot of people get! Someone else also named the 2007 Met production of Lucia di Lammermoor as most memorable ("I've signed my death warrant" — ink appeared as blood).

Operas with good characters

Thursday, May 2. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on a 30-question challenge of their own. 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 an open-ended question about what they would do it if they could sing, conduct, direct, etc., an opera.
We welcome your comments with your own opinion on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

This is the 20th question in a series of 30 — thanks for sticking with us!  

Which opera has the best characters?

Jelena Bojic, director of commuity relations: Satyagraha. Based on Ghandi's life and philosophy of non-violence, the opera has three acts and each act is based on people who changed the world — Tolstoy, Tagore and Martin Luther King. These characters are so compelling and thought-provoking, and you want to memorize everything they say because it's so powerful.

Sandra Gajic, CEO: So many operas have great characters, but I am simply going by my first association and come up with Don Carlos, where history and Shiller get both re-written. Having said that, on second thought, the multi-layered relationship between Wotan and Brunnhilde and how it evolves during Die Walkure is my favourite.

Catherine Szabo, communications coordinator: Just of the three operas this season, I think Tales of Hoffmann has the best characters, especially because of the four villains, who reappear in each of the acts in different forms. To separate direction from character description, however, I think I would have to see different versions of the same opera to determine which characters I really liked the best. 

See-it-again opera

Thursday, April 25. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on a 30-question challenge of their own. 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 an open-ended question about what they would do if they could sing, conduct, direct, etc., an opera.
We welcome your comments with your own opinion on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

Which is the opera you've seen the most often?

Mickey Melnyk, stewardship officer: Carmen. At least three times.

Amanda MacRae, education & community outreach manager: Tales of Hoffmann. When we presented it in February I saw it four times. The singing was wonderful!

Jeff McAlpine, assistant technical director: La bohème.

On Twitter, Aida got a mention as the most-viewed opera, because "our opera house loved producing it ... plus, the triumphal march is the music played at our graduation ceremonies. It just means a lot. I was happy to see it in #yeg."

Love at first aria

Thursday, April 18. 2013

Inspired by the 30-Day Opera Challenge done by Austin Lyric Opera, the staff at Edmonton Opera have taken on a 30-question challenge of their own. 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 an open-ended question about what they would do if they could sing, conduct, direct, etc., an opera.
We welcome your comments with your own opinion on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

What was the first aria you fell in love with?

Rebecca Anderson, box office supervisor: Mozart's Magic Flute Queen of the Night aria. I ran around the house as a kid squeaking and mimicking that song. (There was a popular film in the '80s about Mozart and that was on the soundtrack.) I loved the craziness of it all. This woman was magnificent. And the fairy-tale-like story of that opera was very appealing to a kid in Grade 1.

Sandra Gajic, CEO: For me it was Vesti La Giubba at the end of the first act of Pagliacci. I couldn't have been more than three years old when my grandmother played it for me, sung it and cried as I sat under her piano full of wonderment. Maybe that's why I cry at so many of emotionally strong operatic performances — came to it honestly.

On Twitter, users mentioned that the Flower Duet from Lakme and Carmen's Habanera ("I still remember where/when/who/why details first time hearing it like a first kiss.") were some of their favourites.