Meet Jim Lucas, supernumerary-extraordinaire! Supernumeraries, a.k.a. supers, are the extras of the opera world and play a variety of non-singing roles. Jim has been a “super” with the COC in approximately 60 productions, beginning with Der Rosenkavalier in 1990, in which he recalls having to navigate a tricky spiral staircase dressed as a lackey while holding a sword. He remembers his hands trembling with nerves when he shared a scene with the Marschallin, sung by soprano Carol Vaness, but that initial experience got him hooked. Jim had been a COC subscriber prior to trying his luck as a super, but it was a conversation at a house party with a COC staff member that inspired him to audition for Rosenkavalier. He is a visual artist, and already had an interest in both theatre and opera, so he thought to himself, “Why not?”
That first opera led to dozens of appearances in productions spanning 23 years. He considers the highlight of his time with the COC (so far!) an experience in Don Pasquale when the director didn’t like what an onstage actor was doing in his role, and so decided to replace him at the last minute with Jim, who then spent the entire day in rehearsal with the director, and was on stage that evening at the dress rehearsal. Another particularly memorable moment of Jim’s super career occurred in Idomeneo, when Jim had to "play dead" on stage – something he considered a personal challenge because of how exposed he would be, lying absolutely still for several minutes onstage. The experience proved to be tremendously moving for Jim. He had just lost his grandmother, and when the music of Idomeneo began, he was so incredibly moved, but continued to lie still as the tears came and the music washed over him.
During the COC’s 2013 spring run, Jim appears in both Salome and Dialogues des Carmélites, so his spring is absolutely jam-packed with opera excitement!
Whether he is on stage or in the audience, opera is clearly part of Jim’s life blood. Though an avid opera fan before all of this super fun began, Jim’s love for opera has grown with his experiences. “Being part of the COC family, you discover a great understanding about the art form, especially if you’re working with a great director,” he says. “It’s not like you just show up and stand there; you develop your own story and your own character. Opera seems bare and minimal at the beginning, but then you get on stage, in costume, and it all comes together in live performance. Sure, it’s a hobby. But a very rewarding hobby.”
Congratulations, Jim, on your 23 years with us! The COC is proud to have you as part of the family.
Photo: (top) (l – r) Alan Held as Gianni Schicchi and Jim Lucas as the corpse of Buoso Donati in the COC’s production of Gianni Schicchi, 2012. Photo: Michael Cooper; (middle) Jim Lucas. Photo by Douglas J. S. Hamilton; (bottom) Jim Lucas in the COC's production Madama Butterfly, 2009. Photo by Douglas J. S. Hamilton
Posted by Claire Morley / in Behind the Scenes / comments (2) / permalink
For Episode 11, the very special “It ain’t just trills, bel canto” edition, our panel chats with conductor extraordinaire, Stephen Lord. Joining him are Opera Canada editor, Wayne Gooding, together with Gianna Wichelow, the COC’s Senior Communications Manager, Creative (A.K.A. the Opera Whistler!). Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s Adult Programs Manager, is your host.
Here are just a few highlights from our chat:
Are you out there listening? Do you like our new introduction? What would you like us to talk about next? Let us know by sending us your ideas/comments by commenting here, on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail (email@example.com).
Posted by Gianmarco Segato / in The Big COC Podcast / comments (0) / permalink
By Suzanne Vanstone, Senior Communications Manager, Editorial
The story of Salome has always been a shocking one. Be it the biblical account, Oscar Wilde’s play, or Richard Strauss’s opera, the subject matter is erotic and brutal. The young girl Salome, to the horror of her stepfather Herod, demands the head of John the Baptist in return for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils. Acclaimed film director Atom Egoyan first mounted Salome for the COC in 1996, and subsequently in 2002, and brings his searing production back this spring. Joining him for this remount is shadow designer and performer Clea Minaker, whose work with shadow and light will further unveil the abuse and violence at the opera’s core.
An artist’s work is influenced by so many factors and Egoyan discusses his thoughts about when he first directed this work. “I see this production as originally part of a trio of projects I had where I was dealing with the notion of abuse. In Exotica (1994), Salome (1996), and The Sweet Hereafter (1997), young women had been traumatized by a history of abuse. Each of the characters – Christina in Exotica, Salome and Nicole in The Sweet Hereafter – react differently, but it is clearly an abusive situation. I don’t understand how you can’t address that in the production – it’s there.
“Salome was a work that came from a certain period in European literature and music where there was the idea of the temptress, the female character having an unbridled sexuality that leads to ruin. We are not mounting it in that period, and while we have to observe that this is a brilliant piece of text by Wilde, it is open to all sorts of interpretation. To fix it in that period seems limiting. In the 1990s there was a whole wealth of literature that was exploring the theme of abuse and this production was inspired by that. It would be very difficult to present Salome with anything but a dark portrayal of a supremely dysfunctional family. The violence that is extended to Salome – and the violence that she very naturally inflicts on Jochanaan – does not come out of nowhere. We see this with abused victims, especially when they are young – there is a repetition of the way that they have been treated.”
In the original production Egoyan made use of multi-media elements, including film and video projections to heighten the opera’s impact. The Dance of the Seven Veils was performed behind a screen using elements of shadow and light and Egoyan’s theme of abuse further uncoiled as Salome fell victim to rape while Herod watched with relish. “Now that we have a chance to perform it again I want to refine the storytelling in the Seven Veils scene. We know that Salome is being gang raped but we don’t need to see it all – just glimpses. We need to integrate it into the drama of the piece. At the time it was a pretty bold way to approach the dance, but now I feel we can take this whole section to another level and reinterpret it.”
Enter Clea Minaker. Egoyan first saw her shadow puppetry at a Feist concert and thought she would bring something very special to Salome. “I was excited by her work and loved what she was able to do with storytelling in a very childlike yet immediately identifiable way. The shadow play in the dance was a little long and needed something more. It is one of the boldest parts of the opera with that amazing eight minutes of music that Strauss provides.”
Minaker says, “Atom wanted to explore what the world of shadows could bring to the piece, not only during the dance but the moments with Salome leading up to it.” They discussed focusing on the world of childish play, perhaps Salome sitting while she fashions paper doll chains, with separate inspirations of toy ballerinas rotating on turntables – a world of innocence gradually collapsing into a world of violence. Minaker continues, “As we reach the dance, the atmosphere becomes more nightmarish, and we will add different layers of light to create multiple shadows; a montage effect. For instance, one light comes on and there is a shadow of the forest or the undergrowth; another light shows a close-up of a hand on Salome’s body; another light reveals the entire scene; then it all disappears and we’re back in the forest. We have gone back to the original production and pulled out these worlds and extended them.”
But the real work begins in the rehearsal hall where the ideas are fleshed out. “Puppetry speaks through its imagery,” Minaker says, “and you have to explore what the images are and let them tell you what they can do. You can know what you’re looking for, but if you try to anticipate it or plan it, it won’t work. The important thing for me is to create a space for the shadows to tell their story. Shadow theatre is unlike any other theatrical language and I am thrilled to bring it to this production.”
This article is published in our Spring 2013 issue of Prelude magazine. Click here to read the issue online.
Photos: (top) Dancer Carolyn Woods in a scene from the Canadian Opera Company production of Salome, 2002. Photo: Michael Cooper; (middle) Atom Egoyan. Photo: Anthony Woods; (bottom) Clea Minaker. Photo: Nick Bostick.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in 2012/2013 / comments (1) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001