Somehow “We’re going to the opera!” doesn’t even just mean the building or the performance. It’s about both, and the alchemy of the immersive and transformative experience we anticipate. We go to the opera for the music and for the story, familiar or not. We go for the visual stimulation of the sets and costumes. But we also go for the shared experience and the shared excitement, and because one way or another, the experience is always larger than our own lives.
This time last year, the opera community was celebrating as companies large and small started to announce their first “normal” year of programming. Even as live performance began creeping back after the initial lockdowns, opera presenters struggled to balance reduced seating capacities and ticket sales, and shutdown-related revenue loss with the budgets needed to mount full scale productions – especially those presenters whose audiences have grown accustomed to productions with full operatic scale.
In our February/March issue, Wendalyn Bartley previewed Rodney Sharman and Atom Egoyan’s Show Room, their first operatic collaboration since Elsewhereless in 1998. Presented by new music ensemble Continuum, Show Room ran for two performances this past March 18 and 19, and Lydia Perović was there.
Probably the most melancholy production of The Marriage of Figaro around, the Claus Guth-conceived Salzburg production first seen in Toronto in 2016, is back at the Canadian Opera Company for another run from January 27 - February 18, with a different set of principals, other than its Cherubino, Emily Fons, an American mezzo-soprano best known for Handel and Mozart trouser roles.
Stratford: On April 29, 1875, a fire in Ballycroy, Ontario took three young lives. Several buildings went down in this probable arson, but the only human casualties were the three women trapped in their second floor room of the Small’s Hotel. Recent immigrants from Ireland, Mary Fanning, Bridget Burke and Margaret Daley had just started working in the millinery trade. They belonged to a Catholic parish in Colgan, one town over. Nothing else is known about them. Reasons for the arson, if indeed it was, remain unknown. The once vibrant all-Irish town, Ballycroy itself is now a ghost town.
Something about this story deeply touched composer and writer Marek Norman who, upon coming across an article about it in a local paper, felt called to imagine and write these women’s lives. The result is Ballycroy, his two-act play with music in which the three women come back as ghosts to recount their lives. Stratford-based INNERChamber Ensemble with its artistic director Andrew Chung on violin and Norman conducting from the piano will perform a condensed concert version of the play on November 5 in Avondale United Church in Stratford. The piece is scored for three voices, piano, violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet and percussion. Directing the production: one of Canada’s theatre legends, Marti Maraden.