Edmonton Opera Blog

Entries from January 2013

Spotlight on male arias

Friday, January 25. 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 male aria.

Michael Spassov, chorusmaster & artistic adminstrator: Nemico della patria, from Andrea Chenier, the monologue from Boris Godunov, News from Nixon in China or Il balen del suo sorriso from Il Trovatore.

Jessica McMillan, administrative assistant: Mine would have to be Rossini's Largo al Factotum from Barber of Seville — the flute part is hilariously fun to play! 

Sandra Gajic, CEO: Kuda, Kuda, which is Lenski's aria from Eugene Onegin. It breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. 

Catherine Szabo, communications coordinator: I can't remember who commented that Celeste Aida was a hard aria, because it occurs so early in Aida. And for some reason, I didn't expect to like it — but I can't believe how pretty it is and how much I do like it. 

Jelena Bojic, director of community relations: The legend of Kleinzach, in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. It's so catchy and gets stuck in my head.

Behind the curtain — Hoffmann rehearsals

Thursday, January 17. 2013

In a few short weeks, the constant activity upstairs in the Jubilee rehearsal hall transforms into Offenbach’s dark fairytale, Les Contes d’Hoffmann.

By the time it gets on stage, all the moving parts — stage managing, costume and makeup, direction of the concept — will be neatly hidden behind the scenes, but for now, it’s all on display as the opera comes together.Concept designs and set designs displayed on one wall at the rehearsal hall

And it’s fascinating.

For those who are at the rehearsal hall day and night — literally, because some of the most interesting social media content from rehearsal comes across the Internet at ridiculous hours of the night — the process may seem a little more gradual.

But for those of us who commute from the admin offices at the Winspear Centre to the rehearsal hall on a semi-regular basis, every other night or a few days a week for a couple of hours, the changes are inspiring and exciting.

At the beginning of January, Edmonton Opera staff met the cast and creative team at the airport as they arrived on a handful of flights. It was nice for both parties — staff got a chance to talk to the artists when they weren’t busy with rehearsal, and artists could ask questions about the city they’d be living in for the next four weeks. Even things as simple as grocery stores, good radio stations and arts spaces can be important.

Though rehearsals for both principals and chorus started by sitting in chairs and singing the following Monday, those chairs weren’t for long. Two-thirds of the rehearsal hall is now a duplicate of the Jubilee stage, complete with props; the principals and chorus are learning staging, where to move, when to move and how to move.

As he’s explaining things, director Joel Ivany will shadow the principals, demonstrating where in the scene he wants more emphasis or an added gesture. He also asks questions of the cast, about the feeling of a certain line or moment; they reply and ask questions of their own.

For casual onlookers, the process is really smart — since Antonia, the ailing singer, doesn’t wear a watch, soprano Ileana Montalbetti removes the timepiece on her left wrist. Alternatively, tenor Steven Cole arrives at rehearsal wearing regular shoes, but sometime between then and stepping on the “stage” for his scene, he’s replaced them with overly large, red clown shoes. It’s all part of the character Frantz, who slumps with bad posture because, as Cole says here, “My posture (for Frantz) kind of says, ‘He’s seen better days.’”

The same methodical approach applies to the chorus too: at one point, chorus members have time to list, on paper, the backstory of their character(s); before staging the epilogue Ivany talks through the principals’ parts for the chorus, alternating the French libretto with English translation.

Only so much can happen in the rehearsal hall, however, so some of the effects that Ivany is imagining for the final scene — and explains to the chorus — won’t happen until they move on to the Jube stage.

What is the final, memorable scene? You’ll have to go to the circus to find out. 

Photos courtesy Joel Ivany, Twitter (@joelivany)

Opera wish list

Wednesday, January 16. 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 one opera you really want to see but haven't seen yet?

Stacy Young, special events coordinator: Carmen. It seems like such a well-known opera and a favourite for many.

Tim Yakimec, director of production: An opera I haven't seen but would like to is The Ring Cycle, by Robert LePage at the Met. I am intrigued by the set and costume pictures I've seen, that he came up with to stage such a piece. He is always so inventive to support the story, not just for spectacle sake.

Michael Spassov, artistic administrator: Either L'heure espagnole, by Ravel, or Einstein on the Beach by Phillip Glass.

Jessica McMillan, administrative assistant: I have always wanted to see a Janacek opera, but if I had to choose one it would probably be The Makropulos Affair.

Lauren Tenney, marketing and fund development coordinator: Carmen is one opera that I'd like to see, because it has some of the most recognizable music. So, knowing the music, I'd like to hear it while seeing the whole production.

Catherine Szabo, communications coordinator: Someone on our Facebook page mentioned Rusalka, and after reading a little bit about it, it sounds really interesting. And, after the discussion Satyagraha created for another blog post, I think I'd really like to see that one too.

Sandra Gajic, CEO: For me, it's The Demon by Russian composer Anton Rubinstein. I heard it live in concert a number of years ago but have never seen it staged. 

Little-known opera

Friday, January 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.

Name a not-very-famous opera that you love

Sandra Gajic, CEO: Ero S Onoga Svijeta and Splitski Akvarel, two Croatian operas/operettas that were so much a part of my early childhood. I am sure no one has ever heard of those on this continent or outside of former Yugoslavia!

Amanda MacRae, education and community outreach coordinator: Platée by Rameau that I saw at the Opera de Paris in 2006. It's a comic opera based on Greek myth.

Clayton Rodney, technical director: Iphigénie en Tauride. I saw it at the COC and loved it. The theatricality of it won me over, and the COC scenery and lighting was amazing. It's not my most favourite, but I don't think it's very well known and I liked it.

Jelena Bojic, director of community relations: I really like Svadba - Wedding (part of Edmonton Opera's 2012/13 ATB Canadian Series). It's sung in Serbian, which I understand, and it's neat to see and hear something that was inspired by traditional Serbian music and culture. 

Edited, Jan. 14, 2013