Edmonton Opera Blog

Entries from January 2017

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.


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.


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.


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.


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