Edmonton Opera Blog

Meet Les Feluettes (Lilies) librettist Michel Marc Bouchard

Thursday, May 18. 2017


Arguably one of the biggest names in Canadian theatre today, playwright Michel Marc Bouchard has written over 25 plays that have been translated into several languages, performed internationally, and have even seen award-winning cinematic adaptations.

A recipient of the Order of Canada and Order of Quebec, Bouchard has also been recognized with a National Arts Centre Award, Chalmers Award, Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Awards and Toronto’s Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Some of his notable works are Les Feluettes (1987), The Orphan Muses (1988), and more recently Tom at the Farm (2011), which was turned into a film by Canadian directing prodigy Xavier Dolan.

The themes of Bouchard’s plays are varied, but are often immersed in myth and allegory, with inherent lyricism and larger-than-life characters. Many of his works explore queer identity against the backdrop of strict socio-cultural norms, as is the case in Les Feluettes.

When asked what interests him in opera, Bouchard replies it is “the sheer magnitude of the emotions, which – through singing and music – touches the most intimate aspects of our being” (Opéra de Montréal program, 2016). This grandeur of storytelling is intrinsic to Bouchard’s play Les Feluettes, lending itself quite naturally to his first operatic commission by Opéra de Montréal and Pacific Opera Victoria.

Les Feluettes received widespread acclaim at its Montreal premiere in 2016, validating Bouchard’s highly anticipated foray into opera. He is already working on his next project, a commission of Christine, la reine-garçon (The Girl King) by the Canadian Opera Company with composer Ana Sokolovic.

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Experience the Alberta premiere of Les Feluettes (Lilies) at the Jubilee Auditorium October 21, 24 and 27, 2017. Season tickets to all three operas are now available from just $99!

Photo by Damián Siqueiros

A beautiful mother-son bond in Les Feluettes (Lilies)

Friday, May 12. 2017

Our season opening production Les Feluettes (Lilies) tells the story of two young men in love in early 1900s Quebec. As they struggle to find acceptance in a world where being openly gay is not even within the realm of possibility, Simon and Vallier have only each other to rely on. When Simon’s father suspects his son is getting too close to his male classmates, he beats Simon ruthlessly and drives him to find a woman to marry.

Vallier, on the other hand, has a special bond with his mother, Countess Marie-Laure de Tilly. The two of them were abandoned by Vallier’s father and had to move to Quebec from Paris and start a new life on their own. As a result, Vallier and his mother are very close. Marie-Laure accepts her son for who he is and doesn’t bat an eye when he tells her he’s in love with Simon. She even convinces Vallier to crash Simon’s engagement party and profess his love!

The relationship between Vallier and his mother doesn’t have the happiest ending, however. As the opera progresses, Marie-Laure’s grief at being abandoned by her husband grows to an unbearable level. In the ultimate moment of understanding between mother and son, Vallier knows he must end his mother’s suffering. He kills her.

Now because Les Feluettes (Lilies) is presented as a play within a play, the role of Marie-Laure is actually performed by a male prisoner in women’s clothing. This creates a very interesting, but no less loving, dynamic on stage.

On behalf of the mother-son duo in Les Feluettes, we wish you a Happy Mother's Day!!! Bring your mom to Les Feluettes (Lilies) at the Jubilee Auditorium October 21, 24 and 27. Season tickets to all three operas are now available starting from $99. 

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Photos by David Cooper from Pacific Opera Victoria's production of Les Feluettes in April 2017 starring Jean-Michel Richer (Vallier) and Aaron St. Clair Nicholson (Countess Marie-Laure de Tilly). 


Ignite your passion this opera season!

Wednesday, April 19. 2017


This 2017/18 opera season, we are pleased to bring three compelling new productions to the Jubilee stage. Ignite your passion for opera with Les Feluettes (Lilies), HMS Pinafore, and Don Giovanni!

A lush, romantic bouquet of Lilies

We begin our season with Les Feluettes, a new Canadian opera based on the play Lilies by acclaimed Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard. The narrative of Les Feluettes unfolds around a moment in 1912, when a group of college boys in Quebec rehearse Gabriele D’Annunzio’s sensual play The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. As a love triangle develops, the young men struggle through their feelings with tragic consequences. Years later, one of the boys (who is now a bishop), is forced to look back at that devastating moment in a reenactment by prisoners.

Les Feluettes stages two different time periods and locations simultaneously — the story is set in 1952 (at a Quebec prison) and 1912 (in the small town of Roberval, Quebec). To achieve this dual narrative, the production uses lots of spectacle and theatrical tricks. You’ll see skillful projection design, a large all-male cast and chorus of prisoners playing multiple characters, and thrilling pyrotechnics on stage.

At its Montreal premiere in 2016, Les Feluettes earned tremendous praise, establishing itself as a “rare case of a full-size and full-length contemporary opera that holds the stage while remaining artistically true to itself” (Montreal Gazette). Kevin March’s lush and romantic score, featuring musical excerpts from Debussy, was hailed as “a pure masterpiece” (Boucle Magazine), invoking “the feel of 19th century French opera composers Gounod and Massenet” (Times Argus). 

Les Feluettes was originally co-commissioned by Opéra de Montréal and Pacific Opera Victoria, and is currently playing in Victoria. Edmonton Opera’s production will be only the third run of Les Feluettes ever, and the very first in Alberta.


HMS Pinafore gets jazzed up!

In the winter, we bring you a delightful new production of a beloved Gilbert & Sullivan operetta — sail the high seas with the crazy crew of HMS Pinafore! This musical comedy adds a nautical spin to the classic ‘boy meets girl, boy can’t get girl because of her higher social station’ narrative. When young Josephine, daughter of the Captain, falls in love with a lower-class sailor Ralph Rackstraw, mayhem ensues as the two lovers try to elope… while at sea!

The Cinderella dream team of director Rob Herriot, conductor Peter Dala, and designer Deanna Finnman reimagines this worldwide favourite in the Jazz Age, giving you an extravagant taste of the roaring twenties. Not only that, we are adding new orchestrations by Ed Windels to make HMS Pinafore jazzier than ever!

A stylish and seductive Don Giovanni

To conclude our season of passion and drama, opera’s most notorious bad boy takes the stage in a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In the never-ending quest to inflate his own ego, this promiscuous, rule-bending, handsome vagabond leaves a trail of broken hearts. But what happens when Don Giovanni faces a mysterious force he cannot charm, outsmart, or conquer?

Don Giovanni is widely considered the biggest accomplishment of Mozart’s Italian repertoire and seamlessly blends elements of comedy, tragedy, and the supernatural. Yes, there is a ghost in this opera!!

Baritone Philip Addis (an audience favourite in 2014’s The Barber of Seville) takes on the title role, promising a stellar and seductive performance. The scenic design for this productionwill be created by internationally renowned designer Bretta Gerecke (2015’s The Magic Flute, resident designer of Catalyst Theatre) with costumes by Deanna Finnman. Our Don Giovanni is going to be bold, edgy, and stylish — just like the opera’s devious protagonist!

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We hope you’ll join us for this incredible lineup during the 2017/18 season. Season tickets to all three operas start at just $99! Special pricing is available for patrons under 40 and under 30. Single tickets to each production will go on sale in the summer. 

Les Feluettes photos by Yves Renaud, Opéra de Montréal 2016.

Message from Elektra conductor Alex Prior

Thursday, March 9. 2017


Ready? There's no experience quite like Richard Strauss's Elektra! You will be pinned to your seat, overwhelmed, disgusted, delighted, feel like head banging, be blown away by the sheer power of the orchestra's sounds, taken aback by the lush melodies, and amazed at what the human voice can do... all in under two hours. 

Elektra represents both the absolute climax of the Romantic operatic tradition and the beginning of dark clouds smouldering in the horizon – clouds of a bleaker time for the world, and a time of music that is rougher and more visceral. Strauss wrote Elektra in the early 20th century, when Europe's gentlemanly heyday was giving way to forces of evil and society was falling apart all around him. This ancient Greek tragedy of decay and the danger of an obsession with revenge thus touched him very personally.

Elektra is in many ways the hardest opera in the repertoire to pull off for everyone involved, and tonight’s Alberta premiere is an epic testament to Edmonton Opera's ambition, vision, and strength.

The powerful score of Elektra is certainly a tough listen, but one with amazing rewards to be had. I invite you to let the music completely envelop you, to be entirely absorbed by the drama and become part of it.  Forget everything around you and let the opening orchestral scream of the "AGAMEMNON!" theme usher you straight into this brutal world. 

I believe you'll find that in spite of the extreme distortions this opera presents on various fronts, you will recognize and identify with many elements in a very personal way. Have we not all at times wanted family drama to be trumped by forgiveness and love? Have we not all yearned to go back to some non-existent good old day of childhood nostalgia? And, in addition to all of that, I know that this unique, extraordinary music that lies somewhere between German folk tunes and hardcore heavy metal, will leave an unforgettable impression on you and touch you to your very depths – perhaps in a way most music doesn't.


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Elektra plays March 11, 14 and 16. Get your tickets from $40!

Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is Elektra

Monday, March 6. 2017


Internationally acclaimed dramatic soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is an unstoppable force of nature. Widely known for her powerful portrayals of opera’s ‘madwomen’, Elizabeth previously took on the immensely demanding role of Elektra at Teatro Comunale di Bologna in 2015, earning rave reviews for her performance:

Elektra could be defined as a "one woman show", and Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs truly succeeds in drawing the spectator to her with a charisma that makes one want her monologues and scenes to never end. Her interpretation is breath-takingly fascinating, based on a declamation and use of text that would make a Shakespearian actor jealous. Her lirico-spinto voice, warm and convincing, fits the role perfectly, and the great professional knows how to keep her sound bright and smooth in the center of her voice, and in the beautiful high register, and then to obtain the maximum dramatic effect to darken the low, and medium low parts without taking away the musicality in this difficult role rich in quasi spoken, whispered, and loud passages, heading almost to screams. (Liricamente).

Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is an Elektra who is well suited in every way to take on the difficulties of the part: the voice has the proper volume, the color shows a beautiful old style darkness appropriate for the role, the high notes are solid and brilliant, and the character is vividly and intricately drawn in its lucid madness cloaked by a fury that is more interior than exterior. (Teatro)

Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs was superb in the title role. Her Elektra was expressively strong, thanks also to her voice which leaned toward the dark, but was well projected; her performance was sublime, perfectly illustrating the character, knowing how to show her tragic and mad side, and also her passionate and romantic one. (Opera World)

Elizabeth has also had various stints with strong characters like Lady Macbeth and Tosca (both at the Metropolitan Opera), Turandot, and Strauss's other tormented heroine Salome. Edmonton audiences will be treated to this remarkable soprano's undeniable talent in the performance of a lifetime as Elektra. This complex role requires exceptional vocal agility because Elektra never leaves the stage and rarely does she stop singing. Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is more than up to the challenge, bringing incredible vocals, strong acting instincts, and world stage experience for her Edmonton Opera debut. She will arrest you with her presence.



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See Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs as Elektra March 11, 14 & 16. Tickets start from $40 and are selling fast! Get yours today.  

Director Michael Cavanagh on Elektra

Monday, March 6. 2017

It's been said that every relationship and, especially, every family is dysfunctional; it's just the degree that differs. Even the healthiest inter-personal dynamics have tensions and issues that get in the way. When your father is butchered with an axe in the bathtub, by your mother and her new lover no less, the emotional challenges for your family relations become rather amplified. And what art form does amplified emotions better than opera?

This incredible score, which Richard Strauss has imbued with a darkness and intensity like almost no other, along with a libretto by one of the towering poetic talents of the Romantic period, Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, embraces the horror of this ancient myth of gods and mortals bent on revenge in a way that allows an audience a wonderful and rare experience: catharsis.

From the Greek for "purification", it denotes a release of emotions through any extreme change that results in renewal and restoration. The genius of Elektra is that the catharsis that's anticipated for the whole story, that of vengeance through bloodshed, is not that which is actually experienced. The revenge Elektra lusts for all night comes to pass, all right, yet she enjoys no release. Rather, she is brought down – as we must all surely be – by this darkest of desires. Instead, the catharsis comes through a dual epiphany: the only way to break the cycle of death is to embrace life; the only way to get past a wrong is to forgive. Elektra realizes this too late. The other witnesses, on stage and in the audience, realize it through her horrific ordeal and (we hope) learn to apply it to their own lives.

The big, loud lives of queens, princesses, gods, and heroes echo through the ages and resonate with our own, smaller, quieter lives. No art form makes this point more powerfully than opera. No opera makes a stronger statement of it than Elektra. This week, I invite you to embrace and enjoy the catharsis.

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Elektra storms the Jubilee stage March 11, 14 & 16. Tickets are selling fast, so get yours today from $40! 

The dystopian fashions of Elektra

Tuesday, February 28. 2017


Edmonton Opera’s upcoming production of Elektra takes you on a thrilling 100-minute journey into the mind of a woman possessed by hatred. Based on the Greek tragedy by Sophocles, this opera delves into the psychological dysfunction of its protagonist both through music and staging. While the story is set in ancient Greece, our new production goes far into the future with post-apocalyptic designs to reflect a crumbling, dystopian world.

Costume designer Deanna Finnman was inspired by the decaying nature of Elektra’s family, rocked by murder and betrayal. The glory of the house of Atreus ended when Elektra’s mother Klytämnestra killed Elektra’s father Agamemnon. Now, their mansion lies in ruins and Elektra spends her days in anguish.

The only person who retains a sense of royalty is Klytämnestra, since she and her lover Aegisth have taken over the kingdom after murdering Agamemnon. Klytämnestra is the queen bee of this post-apocalyptic world, and her costume is easily the most glamorous and colourful. Her maids are also better dressed than the other servants.

Elektra’s brother Orest has travelled back home after spending time in exile, and his costume is more desert-inspired. Elektra herself perhaps looks the most disheveled in the entire cast, considering that she no longer has any sense of self. Having spent her time dwelling outside the palace, her clothes are frayed and she appears completely neglected.


Even the scenic design presents a dark, shattered world. The set is based on a real-life house of horrors – Gonjiam Hospital in South Korea, an abandoned psychiatric facility where patients were apparently kept in abhorrent conditions leading to their deaths. The building has earned iconic status as one of the creepiest places on earth, with many reports of supernatural activity and unexplained screams.

The set invokes feelings of abandonment, despair, and rotting foundations to reflect Elektra’s own trapped world. Much like the deserted hospital, Elektra’s family home is no longer a place of humanity.


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Experience the dysfunction and dystopia in our post-apocalyptic production of Strauss's Elektra! Tickets are selling fast, get yours today from $40.

Elektra: 100 minutes of operatic genius

Friday, February 24. 2017


At its 1909 premiere in Dresden, Germany, Elektra left the audience shocked by its sheer brilliance. The New York Times review pictured here is one of many reactions that established this piece’s insane magnificence.

When you consider that “beads of actual perspiration stood out upon many a forehead” in Elektra’s opening night audience, and the reviewer declared “such demoniacal orchestral and vocal effects have never before been set to music”, then Strauss’s status as “a genius and a wizard” is gloriously justified.

The music of Elektra is also particularly inventive because it seeks to both mirror and fuel the protagonist’s emotional states. When the orchestra becomes dissonant, Elektra’s mind descends into chaos; when she runs around the stage frantically, the orchestra keeps up with tremendous pace.

Stylistically, Strauss almost belongs in his own category. Both Elektra and his previous opera Salome (1905) defied the musical conventions of the time, and embodied an expressionism that was not yet mainstream. The orchestra in Elektra is large and produces clashing sounds, which create a dissonant and chromatic landscape for the opera. The music is not always ‘pleasant’, rather it relies on some degree of sensory assault. On the other hand, there are also some moments of lush, lyrical romanticism that reflect Strauss's 19th century influences. 

Elektra runs at a solid 100 minutes with no intermission, taking you along for an intense roller coaster ride through its protagonist’s turbulent emotions. This is definitely not your typical opera, and pushes the boundaries of the art form itself. 

Violence that’s sung, not shown

Often referred to as ‘the bloodiest opera ever’, Elektra goes deeper into the troubled human psyche than any piece before it. In a time when graphic violence on shows like Game of Thrones dominates, Strauss’s opera still has the ability to create hair-raising moments with the sheer force of music.

The horror does not necessarily come from actual depictions of blood and gore, in fact, there is no on stage violence in this opera. Elektra’s words, however, are the true source of terror throughout. She gives the audience vivid descriptions of how her mother will be killed, the rivers of blood that will flow from their house, and how she will stand over her mother’s writhing body to declare her father’s victory. Elektra chillingly illustrates how her father was murdered and ferociously describes the ways Klytämnestra will be butchered by her own son Orest.

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Experience Strauss's intense genius with Elektra March 11, 14 & 16 at the Jubilee. Tickets from $40!


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.