School starts next week (or may have already started for some), and a course in French literature at Queen's University started a "lifetime joy" of opera for one person.
When I was attending Queen’s University in about 1960 I took a course in French Literature from the late Dr. Shortliffe who was a wonderful teacher. He was playing La Bohème one day when we walked in for his lecture. It was beautiful and he responded to our interest by telling us about the opera, describing the characters and pointing out the recurrent musical themes. It was transporting, unforgettable. Now I am a psychiatrist, and finding the themes of opera everywhere in the stories I hear. I attend the COC as a loyal subscriber and make trips to the Met as well to listen to what I love. It’s a lifetime joy.
Above: A scene from the COC's 2013 production of La Bohème
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Photo credits (top - bottom): A scene from La Bohème (COC 2013), photo: Chris Hutcheson
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As we continue closer to the opening of the 2016/2017 season, we have a story of how Handel's Rinaldo on CBC Radio’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera made COC Adult Programs Manager Gianmarco Segato a true blue opera aficionado.
COC Adult programs manager
Like many Canadians of my generation (born in the '60s, grew up in the '70s, started listening to classical music in my early 20s), my introduction to opera was via CBC Radio’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. I can pinpoint the broadcast that really turned me onto the art form—it would have been Handel’s Rinaldo transmitted live from the now late-lamented Ottawa Summer Festival in 1982. I’m quite certain I knew next to nothing about opera at the time but there was something about Handel’s jaunty melodies that grabbed my attention. I remember (and boy does this date me!) subsequently finding a cassette tape of highlights from Rinaldo in my university’s bookstore and listening to it obsessively.
Those fantastic arias are still embedded in my brain, though after 25 years of opera-going, I’ve still not seen Rinaldo live! Little did I know at the time but that Ottawa production was historic: the great mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne was singing the title role; Benita Valente, a soprano I later became a big fan of, sang the ingénue role of Almirena, and legendary bass Samuel Ramey was the villainous Argante.
The production became Canada’s gift to the Metropolitan Opera on the occasion of its 100th anniversary where it played in 1984 with much the same cast. As things have turned out, I wouldn’t choose baroque opera as my favourite style of opera [though there’s still hope!] but it was certainly what triggered my lifelong love of this fabulous art form.
(l-r) Benita Valente as Almirena and Marilyn Horne as Rinaldo in the Metropolitan Opera production of Rinaldo.
Photo credits (top to bottom): Getty Images.
In anticipation of the 2016/2017 season (and with single tickets going on sale this Monday!), we're looking at a special memory of Norma that was part of a very exciting weekend at the Met!
For our 10th wedding anniversary we received a weekend at the Met as a gift. It was a full weekend: The Flying Dutchman, Billy Budd, Norma, and Eugene Onegin. All were good performances, but Norma was the most memorable. The arias were breathtaking. After that weekend I went from being a passive listener to becoming an avid opera fan, endeavouring to become familiar with the operas of a given season. This was good practice because in the production of Werther, the tenor singing the part of Werther couldn’t reach the high notes of his arias. Had I not heard the recording of this opera, I would have considered it a dud, not worth hearing. However, knowing what the results should be, I consider it pleasing, if not great and wouldn’t mind hearing it again.
Photo credits (top to bottom): Marco Berti as Pollione and Sondra Radvanovsky as Norma in Norma (San Francisco Opera, 2014), photo: Cory Weaver.
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001