Hello, world! How is it that we are less than a week from opening night? Suor Angelica has moved into our hearts, houses, and minds, and we can’t wait to open our doors and welcome you to the show. This is by far our biggest endeavour to date, whether you count the number of props and costumes or the size of the cast. Every rehearsal brings out an emotional reaction in me as I watch our brilliant performers bring this re-imagined opera to life. It is moving, heartfelt, and incredibly beautiful to see, hear and feel.
Sopranos Sarah Templeton and Jacqueline Ko embody the title character on alternating nights, each of them unique but equally fabulous. Sarah, whose soaring dramatic soprano brings a whole new level of sweetness and sadness to Mariposa’s stage, has won three separate, extremely prestigious awards as a singer – and as soon as you hear her, you’ll know why. She’s fresh from Vancouver Opera's production of Carmen, and I cannot say enough about her voice, her musicality, and her performance as a whole. Go see her on October 18th and 24th.
Then there’s Mariposa veteran (and, in fact, our co-founder) Jacqueline Ko, whose emotional and affecting performance is also a must-see! At a recent rehearsal, I witnessed her performing Angelica’s iconic aria ‘Senza mamma’ with tears streaming down her face, and it never once interfered with the dark, rich vocal colour. On top of that, when she sang the final scene, a production member leaned in to me and muttered, “Her high Cs are to die for!” And you know what? They were absolutely right. Jacqueline is singing on October 17th and 25th, and frankly, seeing either cast would be a night to remember.
Once you’re there, you’re in for an emotional roller-coaster ride – so make sure you bring tissues. Another familiar Mariposa face, tenor Sergio Augusto Flores, is making his directorial debut with this show. When he came to us with his vision, we knew it was something new and special. We can’t divulge too much – spoiler alert! – but suffice it to say that moving the action to war-torn 1940s Europe isn’t the only important change he’s made to enhance the drama. He reveals his vision, his strong feelings about Angelica as an operatic heroine, and how the music inspired him as a director in a fascinating article in The Charlebois Post, Canada’s online opera and dance magazine. You can read the whole story right here!
Puccini considered Suor Angelica his finest score, and listening to this gorgeous music, it’s not hard to see why. Even so, the opera isn’t the only treat in store for music lovers with this production. Since Suor is one act long, we’re also bringing you an amazing concert of Italian opera arias, with highlights from Madama Butterfly, La bohème and many more. This gives us a chance to feature a few of the other outstanding performers in Suor Angelica, as well as bringing you a couple exceptional voices who are performing only in the concert!
I’m both excited and so, so exhausted from the intense production process. What a cast; what a show! We still have a huge number of things to do – our dress rehearsals are coming up, and we’re working around the clock to finish literally hundreds of props and costume pieces, not to mention solidifying all aspects of the staging and making sure every note is pitch-perfect. It’ll be a long week, and a ton of hard work.
But so, so worth it when you come.
…but here we are! Despite the (rather insane) heat inside our poor old venue, The Telephone was an undisputed success! Our soloists were on point, each one brilliant in their own way, and the opera itself was “laugh-out-loud funny” (The Vancouver Project) and truly a “high quality performance” (Review Vancouver). We’re so lucky to get the positive reviews we get, but I can’t help but feel that with the kind of talent we’ve been able to work with, each artist well deserves their positive feedback!
For example, one reviewerhad a lot to say about our very own Jacqueline Ko on opening night, writing that “Jacqueline Ko’s sophisticated delivery of “Afraid, am I afraid?” from Menotti’s The Medium was thrilling. Ko knows exactly what to do with an absolutely gorgeous voice, and her acting as the haunted Baba can send chills up the spine” (Review Vancouver). Now, isn’t that quite the quote! There’s more, too; my own Ben (pictured left), Riley McMitchell, may not have sung the opera with me that day, but his “rich and lyrical baritone lent sweetness to Menotti’s “When the Air Sings of Summer”” (Review Vancouver) in the concert portion of the show. Soprano Claire McLaughlin, too, was “insanely stunning” (The Vancouver Project), and Opera Mariposa veteran Sergio Augusto Flores was “another clear highlight of the evening” (The Vancouver Project) - and I was even called “sparkling” (Review Vancouver) in my and Jason Cook’s bizarrely silly piece, “The Song That Goes Like This”from the musical Spamalot. And that was before the opera even began! What a concert.
The show itself? Well. Review Vancouver proclaims the opera “sparkles” with Allison Cociani and Ed Moran in the main roles, and that “[b]oth performers are not only fine singers but also excellent singing actors, neatly matching their vocal and dramatic characterizations”. Bravi!
If you were there, you know that that wasn’t even all! Fraser Valley Stage loaned us four of their great musical theatre performers to help us finish off the show with the title song from Sondheim’s Company, a massive, fifteen-role piece that filled the room with the sort of “rousing” (Review Vancouver) sound you just don’t hear every day in this city. It was a brilliant run - and we’re still waiting on two more reviews!
Whew. It was a joy.
With all that news, you’d think that was it, right? Wrong! Here, let’s itemize this to make it easier for us all to follow:
1) This year, Opera Mariposa was also invited to perform at the annual Marpole Summerfest celebration on Granville Street, right in the middle of our Telephone run. Three of our soloists from the concert sang, and definitely made a splash at the wonderful family festival! We hope to be involved in many more Summerfests to come, so keep your eyes peeled for us next year, too!
2) Our friend Brian Horstead at The Vancouver Project wrote not just the review of The Telephone, but also an in-depth study of opera in Vancouver, the future of the art form, and why young people don’t think opera is cool anymore - and what Opera Mariposa in particular is doing about it! The image at left is from the article’s accompanying video interview with Ed Moran post-opening night about where opera is headed. We want to know what you think! Drop us a line!
3) Last, but certainly not least… on Telephone's opening night, we announced our two big operas this season on our Facebook page!
Our third season opener is a biggie. Opera Mariposa is proud to present Puccini’s Suor Angelica, OM’s first-ever mainstage dramatic opera! It, like many of our pieces, is a one-act, and will be accompanied by a concert of some of the best Italian repertoire there is to be heard, sung by some of the greatest singers from across the US and Canada. On October 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th, 2014, Marpole United Church will be home to an all-new, completely reimagined production of this masterwork, spearheaded by visionary new director Sergio Augusto Flores - a name that is by now very familiar to OM’s audiences in performance!
Our next opera will go up only a few short weeks after Suor closes - our first winter opera, and our first to ever go on tour of the Lower Mainland! Dates to come, but we are so thrilled to announce an English-language production of Humperdinck’s Christmas classic Hansel and Gretel. You know the story - now watch it happen, performed by the best emerging artists around! This story is kid-friendly, shortened, and a great time, so don’t miss it.
Wow! What a great past few months! And now, with the amazing auditions to look forward to (we are totally booked up on audition day, and have been absolutely flooded with recordings from young artists as far away as New York, Philadelphia and Nova Scotia!), we know it’ll be an awesome season to come. Thanks for coming on the wild ride that was the 2013-2014 season, everyone… this one will be even better!
The Butterfly took flight on May 17th, and all I can say is, wow! A huge thank-you to every person who turned out to support us – and there were many indeed. We had a packed house, with people lining up out the door, and the crowd included both Mariposa regulars and lots of new faces. It was fantastic to see so many people join us to benefit ME/CFS & FM awareness, and speaking as a singer, it was a treat to have such a warm, enthusiastic audience.
The Butterfly was probably our most unique and personal show yet, so we couldn’t be more thrilled at the response. Hello Vancity declared that “watching Jacqueline and Robin perform…felt like watching the Sun and Moon,” while Review Vancouver offered “a big round of applause for such voices and such hearts.” It was incredible night full of laughter, tears and standing ovations – “there was possibly not a dry eye in the house,” according to Review Vancouver - and to top it all off, we managed to surpass last year’s fundraising total. Our 2013 benefit concert The Singer raised $10,000 for the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation; this year, we raised over $13,000!
A huge number of people lent their time and talents to this show, and The Butterfly owes its success to them. Besides a multitude of volunteers and private donors, we were lucky enough to receive support from local companies including Choices Markets, City Opera Vancouver, Colour Time Printing & Digital Imaging, Dancey Studios, Kathryn Nickford Photography, Machuca Photography, Metro Theatre and Michelle Doherty Photography. Thanks to their generosity, we were able to give away more than a thousand dollars in raffle prizes, so I have to offer them a huge round of applause.
It was an unforgettable way to honour the International Awareness Week for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia – and the show didn’t mark the end of it. Right after the performance, the Richmond Review decided to feature Opera Mariposa’s founding directors (a.k.a. me and Robin) as the faces of their ‘Best of Richmond’ special edition. Not only did the newspaper do an article about The Butterfly and a wonderful writeup about “the creative minds behind Opera Mariposa,” but they took us on an amazing four-hour photo shoot touring the city’s loveliest locations. Check out the digital issue to see the photos – and don’t miss the interview with Robin, where she dishes on her personal Best of Richmond.
It’s truly been a whirlwind, and the excitement still isn’t over. To conclude Opera Mariposa’s epic second season, we’re bringing you our first English-language opera. The Telephone is a hilarious tale of love and (mis)communication from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Gian Carlo Menotti. This delightful one-act comedy is our first opera by a North American composer, and we’re lucky enough to have some phenomenal performers to bring it to life.
Robin will share the role of Lucy with award-winning soprano Allison Cociani, who received rave reviews last year in our production of La serva padrona. Lucy’s love interest Ben will be portrayed by two brilliant baritones: Riley McMitchell, who also performed in our season opener Don Pasquale, and Ed Moran, a Mariposa newcomer fresh from the world premiere of the Margaret Atwood/Tobin Stokes opera Pauline with City Opera Vancouver. The talented Roger Parton will conduct from the piano, while Jason Cook – a fabulous baritone who appeared in our Pasquale - will make his operatic direction debut.
If that’s not enticement enough, The Telephone will be presented alongside a concert of English arias, including music by Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Bernstein and more. I’ll make a guest appearance along with many other fabulous artists, and the show will feature a special appearance by the performers of Fraser Valley Stage. There are only four performances over three days, so be sure to check out the show details, and get your tickets now!
I couldn’t be more delighted at the success of our second season, and I hope you’ll join us for its exciting conclusion!
I can’t believe how time flies. It seems like only yesterday we were gearing up to tackle Don Pasquale, our biggest opera yet. Dashing back and forth between meetings, rehearsals, photo shoots and costume fittings, it seemed that there was never a moment to rest - or to blog! It was a crazy, wonderful whirlwind, and happily, all the hard work paid off.
Pasquale was an incredible success, and we can’t thank you all enough for the rave reviews and exuberant audiences. Opera Canada praised our “priceless” performers for their “verve and panache,” pronouncing the show “an excellent harbinger of more well-cast and well-directed operas to come.” The Voice Online declared that we “breathe[d] new life into an old opera.” Audience members expressed the intention of returning for repeat performances, and people who’d never seen an opera before declared themselves fanatics of the art form!
We had two dream casts, and it was truly an incredible experience working alongside them. I can’t believe how much dedication, energy and sheer hilarity each person brought to the table, and I can’t say a big enough thank-you to everyone who made the production possible. I freely admit that Pasquale will be a hard show to beat; I can only hope that our future comedies will be as zany, fun and confetti-covered as this one! (Well, maybe with less confetti. I’m still finding the stuff in my clothes.)
Of course, Don Pasquale was only our season opener. On May 17th, we’ll unveil our next show: The Butterfly, a musical theatre revue for charity. Written, directed and performed by Robin Eder-Warren (our managing director) and myself, The Butterfly will honour the International Awareness Week for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM) and other chronic neuroimmune diseases. The evening features some of my all-time favourite Broadway music, and 100% of ticket sales will go to the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation in support of the Complex Chronic Diseases Program.
This cause is very close to my heart, because I’ve lived with ME/CFS since the age of six. The disease affects more than twenty-eight million people worldwide, and causes terrible debilities that are often lifelong. The Complex Chronic Diseases Program is a groundbreaking initiative that provides sorely-needed treatment and research for ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia and tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, and it’s the first program of its kind in Canada. Those of you who are longtime Mariposa fans will remember that we held a benefit concert for them when they launched last year; thanks to your support, we succeeded in raising $10,000.
We hope that you’ll support us again this season, and help make The Butterfly an even bigger success. In this show, we’ll literally tell our story through music, combining Broadway showstoppers to create a musical journey about our lives, our friendship, and the founding of Opera Mariposa. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind production, so I hope you’ll join us in celebrating Awareness Week and supporting a wonderful cause.
You can get all the show details here, and grab your tickets here. There’s an early bird discount (which you’ll find via Facebook and Twitter), as well as special rates for students, seniors, groups, and those on disability benefits. Thanks to our generous sponsors – including Choices Markets, Machuca Photography, Dancey Studios, Kathryn Nickford Photography, Metro Theatre, Michelle Doherty Photography and City Opera Vancouver – we’ll be giving away over $1,000 in raffle prizes, and the evening will include a small reception where you can meet the artists.
I can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on, and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the audience!
First of all, I have to extend a huge thank you to everyone who supported us last season! La serva padrona was a huge success, and it earned a fantastic review - and we could never have pulled it all together without public support, so thank you!
But more on that later. I thought it was particularly pressing that I write a blog post now, as I have recently come from our first full-day rehearsal for Don Pasquale, our first show of the 2013-2014 season and Opera Mariposa’s first full-length operatic project. After our opening season, which featured a singspiel and an intermezzo, a full bel canto piece seemed like a dauntingly huge undertaking.
But then rehearsal happened, and my trepidation completely melted away.
Our cast is honestly beyond compare. I mean, I knew that just by knowing these incomparable local artists, but hearing them all come together in this music has created real magic, even in just this second rehearsal. Every voice is uniquely suited to this music in its own way, and staging today felt like these casts melded with an ease that is incredibly special.
In the tenor role of Ernesto, we welcome back the fabulous Sergio Flores (who is pictured left in an unretouched photo by our production sponsor Machuca Photography, and who made his phenomenal first performance with Mariposa in our debut opera, The Impresario), a sparkling tenor in fine form and who has, in my opinion, never sounded better. Double-cast with him is the fantastic Matt Chittick, whose remarkable 8-second long held high C has become a staple of his regular performances with Burnaby Lyric Opera at the Pan Pacific Hotel in downtown Vancouver. They are two of the finest tenors in the Lower Mainland, and we are incredibly lucky to have them.
With our double-cast Malatesta we are very lucky, too - I’m personally thrilled to have two of my very favourite baritones in town bring this enigmatic character to life. Jason Cook and Riley McMitchell, fresh off their double-cast run as Germont in The Opera Project's La traviata, are bringing out the big guns in rehearsal already, both voices so eminently suited to the role that I find myself grinning just as soon as they begin to sing. I simply cannot say enough about these men as performers, musicians, and people, and we’re so happy to have them on our stage in this great work.
Our Don Pasquale is Campbell McLeod, a man who was quite possibly born for basso buffo rolesjust like this one. Even at our first runthrough, his aria was already hilarious, and made me giddy with excitement for the show. He will be singing the role on all four nights, and we’re so happy he is!
Aside from Opera Mariposa Artistic Director Jacqueline Ko and myself double-cast as the savvy Norina (and it’s a joy, as always, to work with her and her positively freaky talent), the cast is rounded out by a fantastic chorus and the help of the insanely hilarious Mark Pepe, who is perhaps the best comprimario tenor I have ever known, and who joins us to play a drunken, fake notary, and whose performance even in the initial staging of the scene left the entire cast in stitches.
I am blessed to have known all of these artists for a long time, and even more so to finally have them all come together in a Mariposa production. That is what most excites me. I cannot stress it enough: this show is simply not to be missed. There is no better group of people I could imagine to sing it. We’re very excited to continue Mariposa’s growing tradition of strong, high-quality shows with this opening opera of the season.
But it isn’t the only opera I’m here to talk about. La serva padrona finished our last season with a huge bang, and I can’t leave that out at all, either.
I’m so happy to report that Elizabeth Paterson of ReviewVancouver.org submitted a fantastic review of the show! Allison Cociani as the wily Serpina was “a delight to watch and to hear. Her light and agile soprano is full of charm and she is coquettish, affectionate and determined by turns.” Congratulations to Allison on a simply phenomenal performance! But the quotable moments in the review don’t end there; as the bumbling Uberto, Damon Schwabach-Morris had “equal skill and stage presence,” and the direction (which I’m especially happy to read, as it was done by me!) called “a masterpiece of controlled mayhem”. Congrats to that stellar cast - I am so proud of them. Take a look at the whole review here!
This work is so fulfilling. We sing great music, work with great people, and support fantastic talent. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
For the moment, though, I do have to trade blogging for walking out the door - it’s time for me to head out, and start preparing for a rehearsal of my own, for a totally separate show! (I’ll be singing the dream role of Laurey in Oklahoma! with Fraser Valley Stage next March, and rehearsals have already begun for this huge musical.) We’ll write again soon, of course, with updates on Pasquale as the show nears. I’m a wordy person, and can always find more to talk about!