Edmonton Opera Blog

Entries from April 2013

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.

Onegin Opera 101: love, duelling & translation

Monday, April 15. 2013

By the time a production finally opens, Edmonton Opera staff can usually recite the storyline forwards, backwards and sideways. But what about all the context talking about the time period the opera was written in, the nuances of the language used and insight into how Edmonton Opera will put the work on stage?

That’s what Opera 101 is for.

Moderated by Stephan Bonfield, musicologist, the panel on Wednesday, April 10, featured panelists including Edmonton Opera artistic administrator and chorusmaster Michael Spassov, Edmonton Opera CEO Sandra Gajic, and two Russian language and literature professors at the University of Alberta, Dr. Jelena Pogosjan and Dr. Peter Rolland. 

Is love an illusion?

It was the first question Bonfield posed to the panel, and Spassov countered that the whole opera is about this set of characters and their relationship to love. Plus, maybe it’s not necessarily an illusion, but fate at work — an idea that Tchaikovsky was obsessed with. Sometimes the right person comes along at the wrong time in your life, Spassov continued. He asked, what if it’s maybe the wrong people who are together? Would things have worked out differently if Lenski’s fiancée was Tatiana, and Onegin fell in love with Olga?

As a neuroscience researcher, Bonfield explained that neurons in the brain can be programmed to do two completely different tasks. “You can fall in love with two different people, stay with one person, be in love with that one person, but the memory of decades ago will come back,” he said. This explains why Tatiana feels that when she re-encounters Onegin at Gremin’s ball, “it’s as fresh as yesterday,” because she still remembers being in love with him, which we saw in the first act.

The duelling tradition

Every opera has a love story, and Bonfield compared the storyline to that of Verdi, with an added twist — duelling. It just ups the ante that much more. At this time in Russian history, duelling was an important and common practice, and not always deadly. Pushkin was involved in 29 (known) duels before he was killed in one himself, but the intent of duels was to defend honour, to wound or to miss, not to kill. Before he died, Pushkin had never killed anyone in the duels he fought.

A crash course in the Russian language

There are 42 different English translations of Eugene Onegin, a novel in verse that is roughly 150 pages long. Pogosjan’s favourite version, however, is four volumes in English, as each piece of vocabulary is defined with all the possible variations and meanings. Still, she, as a native Russian speaker, described English versions as flat and two-dimensional, adding that “I don’t have enough language (in English)” to talk about the poetry of the original text. The general feeling of the panelists was that despite the number of translations of Eugene Onegin available, there is invariably something lost in translation. There has been a lot of talk (understandably) lately about learning the Russian language — though the majority of the principal singers are native Russian speakers, there are still some cast members and the entire chorus who have had to learn the language for this opera. And there are just some sounds that aren’t made in the English language that are common in Russian.

But if you don’t have time to learn Russian in the next week, don’t worry. We always display English supertitles above the stage, so that everyone knows what’s going on. For what it’s worth though, reading every slide isn’t essential — the cast is that good that if you’ve read the synopsis beforehand, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. And as Sandra Gajic paraphrased director Tom Diamond: “All of these singers have Onegin in their DNA.”

Eugene Onegin moments

Thursday, April 11. 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 create, sing, conduct, etc., an opera. 
We welcome your comments with your own opinion on the question, either on the blog or via social media.

What's your favourite moment in Eugene Onegin?

Ha Neul Kim, company and stage manager: I love Act 2, Scene 1 when Lenski gets so mad and sad about Olga dancing with Onegin. It's so sad to watch.

Mickey Melnyk, stewardship officer: One of my favourite moments in Eugene Onegin is Tatiana's yearning theme in her letter during her aria in Act 1 — one of the most powerful solo scenes for the soprano voice. However, my heart breaks for the young poet, Lenski, when he sings Kuda, kuda in Act 2.

Jelena Bojic, director of community relations:  Definitely when Onegin falls in love with this beautiful woman, and then realizes it's someone who loved him and he rejected her years ago. I just it's the first moment he regrets rejecting Tatiana's love.

Sandra Gajic, CEO: My favourite moment in this opera is when Lenski waits for an hour for Onegin to show up for the duel. In that winter scene of desolation when Lenski sense that his life has come to an end and those first few notes that will open his aria Kuda, kuda — a sense of wasted youth, life right there in those moments.