Edmonton Opera opens season with high-kicking musical comedy

Media contact: Cameron MacRae, senior manager, marketing; 780-984-3634

A dash of romance, a scoop of comedy and a pinch of schemes is the recipe for The Merry Widow, the musical confection that opens Edmonton Opera's 2015/16 season.

All of Paris' eligible bachelors are vying for a place on the rich widow Hanna's dance card, but it spells financial ruin for the small nation of Pontevedro if she falls in love with a foreigner. In their own way, each of the characters strives for a happy ending, but it's Hanna (sung by Canadian soprano Sally Dibblee) who skilfully guides and nutures the huge emotion known as love throughout the story.

"The iconic role of Hanna requires an individual who can wear her heart on her sleeve, yet confidently convey the emotion that lies within the demanding and beautiful score," said Tim Yakimec, Edmonton Opera general manager and artistic director. So I was thrilled when Sally said this role was not only one of her favourites, but one she had been wanting to perform. 

Yakimec has certainly found a perfecet Hanna in Dibblee, who is able to skilfully weave her voice between moments of grandiose comedy and tenderhearted romance. Singing opposite Dibblee as her long-ago love interest Danilo is Canadian baritone Michael Nyby, singing in his third production of this opera, but the first in 10 years. Edmonton-based tenor Jacques Arsenault is singing the role of Pritschitsch, who is part of the Pontevedrian embassy, but in his spare time, he has dusted off his accordion and hopes to bring it out in performance again soon, as he studied the instrument for 14 years. Mezzo-soprano Barbara King also brings a vasst background to her role of Olga, as King was a former Quebec Provincials Gymnastics Champion and competitive gymnastics coach. She also has a long history of opera in her family and founded the Calgary Concert Opera Company with her husband in 2011. Of final note, audiences will recognize Jason Hardwick (playing the role of Njegus), prominent in the Edmonton theatre community and often seen in Varscona's Die-Nasty improv sketches.

After the first day of rehearsal, "the cast has already lifted the piece off the page," Yakimec continued. The 14-person cast brought astounding energy and excitement into the Jubilee rehearsal hall, and embodied their characters almost immediately.

Audiences will be drawn into a flurry of schemes and heightened emotion Saturday, OCt. 24 (8 p.m.), Tuesday, Oct. 27 (7:30 p.m.), and Thursday, Oct. 29 (7:30 p.m.) at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. Tickets start at $40, and special pricing for patrons under 40 is available. The media dress rehearsal will be Thursday, Oct. 22, at 11 a.m. 

Interview spots with any of the artists are available between Tuesday, Oct. 6, and Wednesday, Oct. 14. To schedule an interview, please contact Cameron MacRae, senior manager, marketing, at or 780-984-3634.


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