The first opera from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen I ever saw was the last one, Gotterdammerung, at the Canadian Opera Company. When it comes to this epic series, you try not to be picky about seeing it in the sequential order of the story, and get it while you can. Luckily, since last Saturday, the Opera de Montreal is bringing to life the first opera of the cycle, Das Rheingold.
The shortest opera of the cycle
For Gotterdammerung, I arrived about 45 minutes after the performance began. I had missed my 9 am bus from Montreal to Toronto (I seriously thought it left at 9:30 am....) But that opera lasted over 4 hours with the intermissions, so overall, it wasn't the end of the world. Not so much the case for Das Rheingold. This 2.5-hour long opera has NO intermission. Sounds like the end of the world maybe, but in all honesty, it's pretty much the same length as a movie. And rest assured, the first time I glanced at my watch, 90 minutes had already gone by.
Pro tip: I brought a protein bar (unwrapped! wouldn't want to cause a commotion!) and ate it half way through the performance. Plus, I saw a few patrons walk in the concert hall with their drinks.
This fall, the Canadian Opera Company will present the world premiere of the opera Hadrian by composer Rufus Wainwright and librettist Daniel MacIvor. The latest COC commissioned opera is highly anticipated (the last one goes back to The Golden Ass in 1999!) and will feature noteworthy Canadian artists, notably director Peter Hinton, soprano Ambur Braid, as Hadrian's wife, and tenor Ben Heppner, as Dinarchus. Heppner, host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Music, actually comes out of opera performance retirement for this special occasion! And of course two opera legends, American baritone Thomas Hampson in the title role, and Finnish soprano Karita Mattila as the former empress Plotina, bring international talent to the opera.
For this article, I really wanted to have a fresh look into not only the opera itself, but also into what creating and staging a new opera production entails, and how it contributes to the operatic repertoire. Luckily, a friend of mine, Russell Wustenberg, is working on the production as an Assistant Director, and he agreed to answer some questions that I had!
I first met Russell when he was working on (and singing in!) opera performances by Opera McGill, in Montreal
"I HAVE TRIED MANY POSITIONS IN OPERA, I FIND THAT DIRECTING IS ONE ELEMENT OF BEING AN OPERATIC ARTIST."
If you were to name two ballets, chances are The Nutcracker and Swan Lake would be among the first to come to mind. However, Tchaikovsky did not only write for the ballet, he also composed eleven operas. The Canadian Opera Company will present in the next few weeks Tchaikovsky's most famous opera, Eugene Onegin. Composed in 1877-1878, and premiered in Moscow, the 3 act opera is an example of Russian lyric opera. Before you head to the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts, here are a few key features about the production you should know.
In almost every industry, women often find themselves at a disadvantage professionally, whether they face less growth opportunities or overall decreased incomes compared to their male equivalents. And although the debate is hot at the moment, especially in the classical music industry, we can only notice a few minor improvements backstage or on stage.
In opera, this discrepancy is not as noticeable on stage. The common gender bending roles aside, a role for a high voice requires a high voice, which is more often than not, performed by a woman. But what if we look to composers, conductors and instrumentalists? The Metropolitan Opera 2018-2019 season showcases absolutely no female composer or conductor, same goes for Opera de Montreal and Houston Grand Opera (who received funding in 2017 from Opera America for their support for female composers!?!). It's not that women artists should be prioritized over men regardless of quality requirements or that we can't appreciate the numerous talented male musicians, past and present; it's simply that still today, we must give more these women more opportunities to create and perform in order to expose their talent and create role models for the next generation.
The 4th Edition of Festival Stella Musica
What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with some opera? I know, I know, you can probably think of many different ways to spend quality-time with your significant other on February 14th. You can make reservations at that fancy restaurant he's been hinting at for the past month, or you could cook her a fabulous dinner set on a Pinterest-worthy decorated table. Sounds familiar to what you did last year?
So how about something you've never tried, something you've always postponed to later, or maybe something you never thought as a viable option? Or maybe it's the perfect opportunity because you've always wanted to do it! Every year, I get calls and messages asking me what operas I would suggest to bring a date to, whether they are trying to initiate their SO to join them once again or they've begun dating someone and want to impress.
Your mother approves, you need something to Step it up
I am passionate about opera. I choose to see the best in the things around me. I make the most out of every situation. I am an enthusiast. I don't pretend to be a critic, and I certainly am no snob. These are my thoughts, highly influenced by too many high note vibrations and good wine.