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!
La serva padrona opens today. Writing that seems so final - for a stage director, the process ends when the show goes up, and it is officially in the hands of the (in this case, incredibly capable) performers: the superhuman Allison Cociani, the hilarious Damon Morris and the greatest clown Opera Mariposa’s stage has ever seen, Astrid Varnes.
I am so thrilled with how this opera has turned out. I directed the piece, carefully thought through the jokes, and yet seeing them in context on the stage the night before last at dress, I found myself laughing so hard that I nearly cried. As a director, it is a huge blessing to work with a cast who take a comedic moment and run with it like that, taking a direction’s vision and making it even better in reality.
I am singing one aria in the Handel concert portion of the show, as well, as of only three days ago - the lovely Montreal-based soprano Samara Wiseman had to back out due to illness, and I picked up her aria so we could still include it! What a wonderful surprise to be able to briefly share the stage with the performers I’ve come to love and admire so much over the course of our rehearsal period. While I’ve never sung O care parolette (from the lesser-known Handel opera Orlando) before, it’s a beautiful piece, and learning it this past week has been a blast. Thanks so much to our music director Ian Dives for insisting I give a crack at it!
While I’m in preparing-for-performance mode, it’s also a time to scramble to get any last remaining loose ends tied up with a bow. I keep having to edit and reprint the will-call list for tonight’s tickets, as the phone is ringing off the hook with people trying to make last-minute ticket reservations! (The will call list is getting longer and longer; remember to reserve your tickets by phoning 778 918 9498). Even now, as the countdown to curtain goes down by the hour instead of by the day, it’s still a thrill ride leading up to the very moment the show begins, and I set up and host the livestream on our Ustream channel, beginning at 7:25PM PST.
I wouldn’t trade this process for anything. My cast is spectacular, our musicians are brilliant, and the show in and of itself is a complete riot. I can’t want to see you all there!
Well, The Singer has been sung, and all I can say is: thank you everyone for making it a phenomenal success! We had a great turnout and a spectacular audience response, and we raised $10,000 for the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation and the Complex Chronic Diseases Program. It was an incredible night for all of us, and for me personally: it was wonderful to share the evening with such terrific performers and such a responsive crowd, and to not only receive a standing ovation but see many audience members literally moved to tears (including you, the gentleman trying to remain stoic near the back – yes, I saw you!)
I can’t say I was exempt from tearful tendencies myself; from the moment I started talking about my own experience with ME/CFS and saw audience members nodding along in recognition, I knew it would be a very special night. Several of our audience members had – or knew someone with – a chronic neuroimmune disease, and many of them came up to us afterwards telling us how grateful and inspired they were that we’re helping to raise awareness. This concert was an intensely personal one for me, but to connect with so many others affected by life-altering illnesses – and to meet other people who were learning about these diseases for the first time because of our show – was an amazing privilege.
Of course, a huge array of people contributed to making The Singer a success. Our crew of volunteers ranged from friends and relatives – and, indeed, the singers themselves – to the reigning Miss Canada Galaxy, the lovely Natalie Allin. Our partners and sponsors included North Vancouver shipyard Allied Shipbuilders; fellow Lower Mainland opera company DragonDiva Operatic Theatre; and the fabulous Lumiere Studio, who donated $100 gift cards for every single audience member! Carmen Sit with BCIT Broadcast News did a feature news story about the show, while members of the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation and ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia organizations worldwide worked tirelessly to help spread the word. Most of all, we were joined by a fantastic audience not only at the performance venue, but via livestream from around the globe!
It was an unforgettable way to honour International Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. (And by the way, if you ever visit the Complex Chronic Diseases Program, be sure to check out our plaque in the reception area!) But of course, at an opera company there’s no resting on your laurels. Hot on the heels of The Singer, we’re bringing you our second fully staged opera: Pergolesi’s La serva padrona, in a double bill with a concert of Handel favourites! For the first time ever, our singers will be accompanied by chamber orchestra – including an exquisite harpsichord on loan to us from Roland Canada – and with both a concert and a short opera in store, we’ll be introducing many great new performers to our audiences!
Pergolesi’s La serva padrona, or The Maid Turned Mistress, is unique in the operatic repertoire. The piece came to life as a comic intermezzo, meant to entertain audiences at intermission during a longer, more serious opera. However, it was such a hit that it soon overtook the “official” opera in popularity, going on to enjoy success across Europe and even igniting a legendary years-long war of words between supporters of “serious” French opera and fans of the new Italian comedy! Historical significance aside, it’s a brilliant and hilarious piece, with everything an audience could want: zany humour, comic pathos, and a sassy, modern heroine who doesn’t seem to realize she’s living in 1733! Serva also features some of Pergolesi’s most beautiful music; the gifted composer died at twenty-six, leaving all too few compositions behind, so you won’t want to miss your chance to see a rare full staging of his signature opera!
If that’s not enticement enough, the first-act concert each evening will feature beautiful music by George Frideric Handel, including beloved highlights from Rinaldo, Serse, Giulio Cesare and more. The performances will be directed by our very own Managing Director Robin Eder-Warren in her staging direction debut, and conducted from harpsichord by Music Director Ian Dives; I’ll be making a guest appearance myself, singing alongside many other fabulous and award-winning artists! There are three performances only, so check out the show details and reserve your tickets now.
I couldn’t be more excited about the success of The Singer, or about our upcoming show! I hope you’re looking forward to La serva padrona as much as I am, and I’ll look for you in the audience!
Hello everyone! First of all, I’d like to thank all the people who attended our debut opera The Impresario and made it such a success. It was great to receive such a positive response from audience members, not only at the performances but through messages afterwards telling us how much you enjoyed the production. A lot has happened since then; we had a wonderful round of auditions for our next two operas, and we’re very excited that our Managing Director Robin Eder-Warren was recently named one of Richmond’s ‘Top 30 Under 30’ by the Richmond Review for her work with Opera Mariposa.
I’m delighted to announce our next performance: a special concert event on May 12th, just in time for Mother’s Day! The Singer will be a gala fundraiser in honour of the International Awareness Day for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia, and 100% of ticket sales will go to the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation in support of the Complex Chronic Disease Program. Alongside Robin Eder-Warren, tenor Zeus Ghadban and pianist Angus Kellett, I will be presenting some of my favourite opera and Broadway songs, including everything from classics by Mozart and Puccini to songs from hit shows like Sweeney Todd and Wicked. The evening will include a small reception and a prize raffle; you can read the full concert details here.
This cause is very close to my heart, because I’ve lived with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) since the age of six. ME/CFS affects more than twenty-eight million people worldwide, and studies report it can cause disabilities in daily life comparable to late-stage AIDS or lupus and more severe than diabetes, multiple sclerosis or congestive heart failure. Best known for causing crushing fatigue unrelieved by sleep, the disease affects all body systems and can cause symptoms ranging from cardiac, respiratory and digestive problems to intermittent dyslexia and short-term memory loss. Fibromyalgia is a related illness which shares several traits with ME/CFS, though it is particularly characterized by chronic, widespread pain.
The newly opened Complex Chronic Disease Program assists people living with illnesses such as CFS/ME and FM. In addition to providing treatment and care, the program includes a strong research component, supporting clinicians and researchers in their pursuit of causes, diagnosis and potential treatments. Every cent of the proceeds from The Singer will go towards the program, so I hope you’ll join me in supporting a great cause by coming out for a night of beautiful music!
Looking ahead, we have several other fantastic shows in store: on June 28, 29 and 30, we will be presenting Pergolesi’s La serva padrona (The maid turned mistress) alongside a concert of Handel music, and this fall we’ll be bringing you a sassy, modern new take on Donizetti’s delightful opera Don Pasquale. In the meantime, you can reserve your tickets for The Singer here, and keep up to date on all the latest news by following us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. I look forward to seeing you in the audience on May 12th!
Hello everyone! As Opera Mariposa’s artistic director, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Opera Mariposa’s 2012/13 Season – our first opera season ever! It’s been a busy summer for us, building a production team, casting singers, translating and revising dialogue, working on concept designs and so much more; and I’m delighted to see it all coming together now, as we finally get our debut opera production underway!
When we were trying to choose our first fully staged opera, Mozart’s The Impresario (known in German as Der Schauspieldirektor) stood out not only for its beautiful music, but for its hilarious – and hilariously apt – storyline. Written at the same time as the beloved Mozart masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro, The Impresario follows the trials and tribulations of an opera director as he attempts to organize a show season while juggling financial woes, temperamental performers and his own existential crisis. The beleaguered impresario finds himself at his wit’s end when two different prima donnas demand he give them the highest billing – as well as the highest salary! Fortunately for audiences, the duelling divas each decide to prove their own superiority – and as they compete to sing the highest notes and fanciest phrases, Mozart treats his audiences (and challenges his singers) to an amazing musical duel featuring some of his most brilliant and creative compositions ever!
In contrast to the misfortunes of Mozart’s poor impresario, we’ve been blessed with an incredible team of people willing to lend their talent, enthusiasm and experience to this production. Our conductor and musical director, Ian Dives, received his conductor’s certificate from Capilano University studying under Lars Kaario, and he has also worked with numerous opera companies as a performer. Our staging director, Sean McQuillan, was the Artistic Director for Burnaby Summer Theatre and currently works with Theatre Under the Stars, as well as pursuing his acting career in theatre, film and television. Also making their debut appearances with Opera Mariposa are tenor Sergio Augusto Flores, who recently sang the roles of Rudolfo in La Bohème and Rinuccio in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi with The Opera Project; baritone William Liu, whose past Mozart roles include Papageno in The Magic Flute and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte; and actor Kazz Leskard, a graduate of Studio 58 who recently starred in, co-wrote and co-directed the 2012 Vancouver Fringe Festival’s Onsite production Smudge. Fabulous pianist Juan Wang will be contributing her skills as an accompanist, and Viennese language expert Birgit Eder’s translating talents have assisted us immeasurably in creating our all-new English version of the opera’s dialogue.
I’m delighted to have so many amazing people on board, and I can’t wait to show you the results of their hard work. We still have a lot to do, of course – everything from staging rehearsals to wardrobe fittings to media interviews – but I’m looking forward to the moment when the curtain goes up and it all comes together. You can check out the show details here, and follow all the latest updates on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; we’ll also be giving you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the production here on this blog. Hopefully you’re as excited about this show as I am; I’ll look forward to seeing you in the audience!
We did it! We did it! We launched the opera company, and the concert went off so incredibly successfully. We couldn’t have asked for more. We had a very nearly full house, and people joined us for the livestream from across town, across the continent to New York and Minnesota and even around the world, as far away as South Korea! How blessed are we?
But perhaps a little bit more of a detailed runthrough of the event is in order. Saturday night gave us one of the happiest, most supportive and most receptive audiences we have ever had the opportunity to sing for. Perhaps most exciting, people who have never had any association with opera before that night came in, curious about the new opera company they’d heard tell of in the newspapers, and came out self-confessed opera converts. We had the wonderful opportunity to reach completely new audiences, and to encourage more people (young people in particular) to give the art form a chance, and that is one of the greatest outcomes imaginable for a concert like this. The night gave us not only subscribers to the newsletter and many audience members eagerly awaiting word of our fall productions, but even a few enthusiastic volunteers for our next event - and some very young operagoers, even ages eight and under, who not only said they had a lot of fun, but some of whom now even say they want to learn to sing like an opera star! What a thrill, to perhaps inspire another new generation of the world’s greatest singers.
We had the opportunity, too, to speak with our audience members at the reception afterwards. Home baking as well as brought-in food plates flew like hotcakes, and though there was a bit of a mishap with the coffee (and one must never be without coffee at an event like this!), almost everyone stayed for a little food and drink and chatter afterwards. There was so much positive feedback about the show, the project, the singing - and the dresses - that we barely got to eat anything! Both of us were stopping for photos with little kids bewitched by the final costumes. And what costumes they were: a massive peacock gown on one side, a kimono complete with giant butterfly wings on the other!
And then, once everything was said and done, once the hall was cleared out and celebrations were had and we all sat down to realize what we’d just accomplished and just how proud we were… that’s when the article from the Langara Voice came out. We couldn’t been blessed with a more favourable review; Stacy Thomas writes incredibly positively on the expressiveness of both performers, and Shirley Walsh comments that “this was a stroke of genius, this whole creation.” What a wonderful cherry on top, to see on paper as well as in the eyes of our audience members just how well we were received.
And now on to the next thing, of course! The translating and beginnings of the cutting down of the dialogue forThe Impresariohas already begun, for it’ll be a long and arduous process that needs doing before speaking-role audition time. And there’s a lot that needs doing before then, too - but for the moment, just sitting down and taking the time to appreciate the magnitude of what we’ve just accomplished is good enough for me. We reached new people; created a new platform for young artists; sang an incredibly successful concert; and received glowing reviews for our work, some of which can be carried through for use in resumes and bios in future.
Just at the moment, I couldn’t be happier.
The last few weeks have been an utter whirlwind. Since the last blog post, we’ve really begun to see the response, and it’s been greater than we could have hope for or imagined. Two separate newspaper articles were published about Opera Mariposa, first in the Richmond Review and then in the Courier, and then the Review’s article was printed again (with some less Richmond-centric modifications) by the WestEnder the very next day. We’ve been so blessed, not only by that kind of support, but by the support we’ve been getting from callers and emailers interested in reserving or buying tickets to the show. The list grows every day, and almost every time I get a call for reserved tickets, I can hear the smiles of the people at the other end. More often than not they say they saw the articles and were so happy to support a company like ours, and are excited to see the show and where we go from here. The love for this kind of music that total strangers have been sharing over the telephone line is just overwhelming, in the very best of ways.
In the meantime, we’ve been rehearsing our buns off, blocking a few of the arias with full direction for some variation. The prop list grows as the reserved tickets list does, and suddenly we’re at the point where we require a desk with a mirror, a feather boa lies about onstage and Norina from Don Pasquale becomes a little bit of a lush (spoilers!). We discover these new possibilities and ideas every day we rehearse, and that’s what is great about small companies run by artists - the enthusiasm fuels the creative process, and elevates each rehearsal, bringing new ideas to the board with every go around. I can’t wait to expand this process to the full casts of our next two shows.
Not that I can think beyond a vague hope for that future right now. The concert is in less than a week, and we’re in the stage where problems can seem to pop up out of nowhere and we have to troubleshoot something new every few seconds. But that’s part of the process - and once we’re at Saturday night, all of those will resolve or be resolved, and the only important thing will be performing and having a fantastic time sharing the music.
I’m so excited to finally, after all this work, launch Opera Mariposa. I hope we all are. I hope we see you there, and I hope you love the result of our dedication and hard work; I think I speak for Jacqueline as well when I say that we are so very proud.
Whew! Hello out there - it’s nice to finally get to sit down and blog a little about this amazing, whirlwind process that has been getting Opera Mariposa live, both online and with Witches, Waifs, and Wives. Lots has been happening all within a short time, and there’s been really very little time to think too hard about it until now. It didn’t seem quite so large until I stopped and took stock of all the rehearsing, coding, planning, and even photoshooting we’ve done…
And, of course, there’s still so much to do. We’ve still got rehearsals and coachings for our two soprani out the ying-yang, and posters to plaster up all over town. It will always be harder to get people to come out to recitals than it is to get them to come to the opera, but we’re hoping for a solid turnout nonetheless. No one wants to get up on stage and look out on an empty house.
Until then, though, there’s the first joint rehearsal for our two soprano soloists coming up soon, from which there will be live and exclusive updates on our twitter feed, which I’m sure will keep us occupied. Plus there’s the fact that the gala alone will have twelve costumes, most of them big gowns (though there will be a couple wardrobe surprises along the way). Add the organization of that to the setup of the surtitles, mix it in to the whole process of getting a recital ready for performance, and suddenly the number of people in the seats fades from your mind entirely, I’m finding. Instead, what’s important is the completeness of the audience’s experience, and the smiles on their faces when the show is over. It becomes less about how many people you reach, but moving the people who have come; about providing a spectacular show to whomever arrives, and hopefully reaching audiences that will want to return to us for more in future.
That is, of course, why we do this. No matter how proud I find myself feeling of all the technical feats we’ve achieved in getting this baby off the ground, in the end it won’t matter when the curtain goes up. We know we start small as an opera company - very, very small - but with time and patience and the obvious love for the art that is shared by everyone here, I can honestly say that I believe that great things will happen. And I can’t wait to share that with whomever we can.