Last year, Opera McGill came up with an Opera B!nge Festival where they presented 7 different operas in 24 hours. I thought at that time, what are they gonna come up with this year? I attended the first dress rehearsal of their first opera of the season, Ariodante by Handel, and it was buzzing with action. Stage director, photographer, orchestra tuning, the second cast sitting in the hall, two singers practicing swordfighting on stage, everyone who participated to this production gathered in one place, ready to bring it. And bring it they did. Check out the 10 reasons you should go see Ariodante presented by Opera McGill this week.
1. It is so not a bark-and-bark party
Park-and-bark is often something you expect (and dread!) from a baroque opera. But as stage director Aria Umezawa explained, Opera McGill comes very close to recreating a professional opera house environment and throughout the rehearsals, the singers you will see on stage have been given the autonomy to be artists and not just singers. They were encouraged to take ownership of the production and of the interpretation of their respective characters while having the support of a complete staff of dedicated professionals.
2. You've received one text message that created intense drama in your life
Ariodante immediately decides that he wants to kill himself after simply hearing the words ''Oh mio signor'' which he believes are sung by his one true love Ginevra to Polinesso. He immeditaly think she's unfaithful and never stops to question if it was actually Ginevra who said those words. This tiny bit, made everything go crayy. So basically this opera seria (serious opera) is more like soap opera. It's like one text or one tweet that's had a major impact either in your life or worse, in society.
3. Bending the Rules.
Men (castratos) used to play women, and today women often play men. Opera actually turns out to be more avant-garde than many give it credit for! Trouser roles for the win, especially when they are performed with such confidence.
4. You Like Chaos.
This opera was composed before the Age of Enlightenment, and Aria questionned that thinking. ''Can you only be governed by rationality and be completely disconnected from your emotions?'' During a coffee break (coffee is vital a few days before opening night), Aria explained that the set is a visual metaphor of Ariodante's life falling apart. As the characters reject their identities, not only do their costumes come off, but the set is also destroyed!
5. You miss your emo teenage self.
This is the first time that Opera McGill sets a Scottish-inspired opera, so the first time for tartans and kilts. The gothic modern looks gives it a young and kind of an edgy and dangerous feel, which is what Aria wishes to put forward in this show.
A upside of having a university production, the singers are active on social media and come up with very original content. When I first saw this hashtag on Instagram, I wasn't sure what it meant. Fighting? Dancing? Did I mention this opera takes place in Scotland? If this doesn't give you a hint...
7. The McGill Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Hank Knox
As I've mentionned above, the singers have been given the opportunity to take ownership of this production, but I feel as though this can also be applied to the musicians in the pit. During the dress rehearsal, I overheard Hank Knox saying to the musicians ''See you on the other side ladies and gentlemen!'' A light and funny way to begin the rehearsal that meant ''We've practiced and practiced, and now it is the time to give it all you got.'' Work hard, but play hard too.
8. If you didn't know by now, Schulich School of Music is one of the top performing arts university in Canada.
Often ranked highest in the Times or Maclean's, the Schulich School of Music has trained a tremendous amount of today's professionnal musicians that we see on the greatest stages worldwide! To name a few, opera singers include Gordon Bintner, Philippe Sly and Rihab Chaieb. This is your chance to see future opera stars!
9. Joyce Didonato says so.
Some day, maybe sooner than we think, the singers you will see on stage in Pollack Hall will be posting pics like Joyce, live from their dressing room in Carnegie Hall!
If you can't make it physically to the hall, know that the performances on November 10 and 11 will be webcast!