Edmonton Opera Blog

Entries from May 2013

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.