Edmonton Opera presents a new mini-opera at Opera al Fresco

May 5, 2014

Media contact: Jelena Bojic
Director of community relations and assistant general manager
780-392-7837; jelena.bojic@edmontonopera.com

As part of a new mini-opera in the Devonian Botanic Garden, Opera al Fresco audiences will be greeted on June 20 by a Japanese demon, a bridge builder who can’t build bridges, and a group of children who can’t cross the river.

The 15-minute opera, The Carpenter and the Oniroku, has been specifically written for the Edmonton Opera Children’s Chorus, based at Victoria School of the Arts, with the Devonian’s Japanese Garden in mind.

Composer Samantha Semler is a student at the University of Alberta, and was one of two 2012 Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composers. She has also won prizes provincially for her music.

The librettist is Mark Morris, who has written 11 operas that have been performed in eight countries, including major music festivals in Banff, Mexico and Ireland, and in venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London.

“This is such fun to do,” Morris said, “though I was a bit stuck at the beginning, because I was having difficulty finding a story that would suit the Japanese Garden, and would use the river and bridge there. Then one of my Children’s Literature students at the university wrote an essay comparing Rumpelstiltskin to a Japanese folktale I hadn’t heard of. That Japanese folktale has a river, a bridge and children in it. Serendipity.”

For Semler, writing an opera like this is a new experience.

“It’s such a great opportunity to work in a genre I haven’t done before,” she said. “I love kids, and being able to write for them, meet them and attend rehearsals is inspiring me to think about writing more choral works and works for children.”

Children’s chorus director Janice Tole added it’s exciting to have something created specifically for the chorus and for the occasion.

“The new opera is extending the children’s arts education in music, movement and storytelling, and as one of the chorus said to me, ‘I’m so excited to sing in our own production,’” Tole said.

Opera al Fresco features soloists at each of the different gardens, which audiences rotate through over the course of the evening. This is the second time the children’s chorus has performed at the event.

“It is rather incredible that all the forces coming together to create and perform a new opera will be realized in such a short time,” said Tim Yakimec, Edmonton Opera general manager. “I can fully understand how the positive energy in working with children has ignited and propelled this project forward so well.

“This performance is also a new venture that will help us to evolve Opera al Fresco, in addition to being a unique highlight for audiences that evening.”

Iain Gillis, general manager at Cantilon Choirs, will sing the role of the carpenter, while the role of the demon will be sung by Bertrand Malo, who has sung in previous Edmonton Opera mainstage productions.

“My character the carpenter doesn’t believe that the demon can build the bridge,” Gillis said. “So foolishly he is prepared to give up his eyeballs if the demon succeeds. To find out if I can still spell my name with both i’s by the end of the opera, you’ll just have to come and see it!”

Opera al Fresco celebrates summer in the Devonian Botanic Garden on June 20, starting at 7 p.m., and is sponsored by Raywalt Construction. To arrange interviews, please contact Jelena Bojic, director of community relations and assistant general manager, at 780-392-7837 or jelena.bojic@edmontonopera.com.

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