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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Opera 101 provides context, extensive background

Before the curtain rises for Aida this October, the Edmonton Opera presents Opera 101, a panel discussion to break down the intricacies of one of Verdi’s most well-loved and grandest operas.

Five panelists, including Stephan Bonfield, Dr. Julián Castro-Rea, Dr. Magdy El-Shamma, Dr. Benjamin Garstad and Dejan Miladinovic, will discuss Aida on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m., at the Art Gallery of Alberta in the Ledcor Theatre.

Matinée programming adds flexibility to opera schedule

Opera is even more accessible during the 2012/13 season, as the Edmonton Opera has made changes to its production schedule to allow for matinée performances.

In addition to three nighttime performances, there will be a 2 p.m. performance on the Sunday during the production run. This earlier performance allows for out-of-town opera enthusiasts to enjoy the performance without making an overnight trip, or for families to expose their children to the art form and still make it home at a family-friendly hour.

Season starts with grand opera

One of the grand operas, Aida will grace the Edmonton stage for the first time in over a decade when the Edmonton Opera opens its 49th season next month. Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth, Edmonton Opera joins other opera houses around the world honouring the great composer and his works.

The Verdi masterpiece will be presented in its full splendor, with roughly 100 performers, including principal artists, chorus members, supernumeraries and Brian Webb dancers on stage together at any given time.

Artists announced for Opera Art Project

The exclusive launch of the Opera Art Project will happen later this month, as the Edmonton Opera and the Alberta Craft Council come together for a new arts venture.

Local artists have created opera-themed fine craft, offering opera patrons a chance to take home memories of the 2012/13 mainstage season performances. The works will be on display and available for purchase for the first time on Sept. 28, prior to the opening of Aida.

Artists involved in the project come mainly from the Edmonton area and offer a wide variety of fine craft.