Recently we were inspired by an interesting article in The Grid TO about taking children to live performances, and it begged the question, what was your first live opera? Read on for some of our answers, and share your own experiences in the comments!
Nikki Tremblay, Assistant Ticket Services Manager - I remember my first operas vividly, it was the night before my interview for this job at the Hummingbird Centre, October 2001; Bluebeard's Castle and Erwartung. These two productions clinched my desire to work here. I loved Bluebeard's Castle and fell in love with Erwartung. Both were so modern and full of tricks and mind games.
Andrea Salin, Associate Ticket Services Manager - My first live opera was a student dress rehearsal of Boris Godunov at the Hummingbird Centre in 2002.
Cameron McPhail, Ensemble Studio Member - I'm slightly ashamed to confess that my first live opera was Don Giovanni, but I was singing the role in Prague; so I guess I had great seats! I hadn't been to an opera before which was probably why I agreed to do it in the first place. In hindsight, I might have sung something different as my first role, or at least gone to see a few first – the downside of business school!
Claire Morley, Communications Assistant - My first live opera experience was actually a concert performance of Fidelio in 2003 in Berlin. Conducted by Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic, the performance starred Angela Denoke, Jon Villars, Alan Held, Laszlo Polgar, Juliane Banse, Rainer Trost and Thomas Quastoff. It certainly set the bar high!
Katherine Semcesen, Associate Director, Education & Outreach - One of my favourite first opera experiences at the COC was in 2004 when I fit the measurements to be a super in Lucia di Lammermoor. I stood in for Lucia at the top of Act III when Enrico visits Edgardo to challenge him to a duel. While Enrico and Edgardo battled it out downstage, I was directed to walk up a small flight of stairs behind the scenery and then smear “blood” (which was actually cold molasses) on a scrim to represent Lucia going mad and killing her arranged bridegroom Arturo. The first rehearsal was intense. We had to test out several cartons of molasses (each at different temperatures) so that we found the perfect consistency for the “blood.” (See image to right.)
Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager - That’s an easy one… it was a production of La Traviata at Mohawk College in Hamilton (my hometown) when I was about 10 years old. It would have been put on by the precursor to what is now Opera Hamilton. I hadn’t really had any exposure to opera up until that point except for perhaps some Gilbert and Sullivan LPs my mother used to borrow from the library, but I remember being quite mesmerized by the costumes and the big choral numbers in Act I. I wouldn’t say I was “hooked” at that point, but I was intrigued and it provided the starting point for my life-long opera obsession!
James Baldwin, Ticket Services Representative and Chorus Member - The first opera I saw professionally done live was Don Giovanni in 2000 at the COC, during my first year of university. It was a great production and beautifully sung, but I started clapping after the Don gets dragged down to hell, only to be shushed when the morality quintet started! I still don't think that's the way to finish Don Giovanni.
Danielle D'Ornellas, Digital Marketing Assistant - The first live opera I ever saw was one a very popular opera that I had somehow never listened to before, none other than Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro! Despite being a huge fan of The Magic Flute as a child, all other operatic works by Mozart had eluded me up until that point. My favourite part of the opera was watching my first pants role, the delightful Cherubino, and realizing that mezzo-sopranos have all the fun.
Gianna Wichelow, Senior Communications Manager, Creative - I was five and my nonno took me to see Aida at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. They were built around 212 AD. I slept through some of it but still found the ending sad.
Ali Kashani, Associate Director, Development - I had watched a few operas on TV and loved them, but was hesitant to see one live, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to understand anything. Once I learned about SURTITLES™, I jumped at the first opera that came my way. It turned out to be Verdi’s Otello, which is not necessarily the best first opera to see live. Still, I didn’t know any better and I bought a ticket. I told my high school librarian that I was going and she lent me her opera glasses, happily encouraging my budding love of the art form. I remember the exhilaration of entering the O’Keefe Centre, now the Sony Centre, and making my way up to my balcony seat. The performance riveted me from beginning to end; I could hardly believe the sounds that were emanating from the stage and orchestra pit, and it probably didn’t hurt that two great Canadians, Ermanno Mauro and Alan Monk, were portraying Otello and Iago (though I had no idea who they were at the time).
Keith Lam, Ticket Services Representative and Chorus Member - I don't remember exactly how it started but I came across a recording of Puccini's La Bohème with Maria Callas as Mimì, and Giuseppe di Stefano as Rodolfo, and was completely overwhelmed. I later found out that COC was putting on La Bohème at the Hummingbird Centre and I just had to go see it. I remember being on the phone with a ticketing representative telling me how limited the availability was, and that the only tickets left were over $100, which was a definite splurge for a young university student but I knew that I had to see it. Walking into the Hummingbird Centre was a nervous and exciting experience. I sat down by myself, about three rows from the stage and felt like a schoolgirl seeing a Justin Bieber concert for the first time. It's one thing to listen to a recording but seeing my first opera, my favourite opera, La Bohème live was not like anything else; an experience I'll never ever forget.
Neil Craighead, Ensemble Studio member - I was in La Bohème as a member of the Calgary Boys Choir when I was 13, but my first opera as an audience member was The Barber of Seville at Calgary Opera. I remember enjoying it and laughing.
Photos: (top) Peter Fried as Duke Bluebeard and Sara Fulgoni as Judith in a scene from the Canadian Opera Company's 2001 production of Bluebeard's Castle; (middle) Russell Braun as Enrico in the Canadian Opera Company’s 2004 production of Lucia di Lammermoor; (bottom) Bülent Külekçi as Rodolfo and Elena Kelessidi as Mimì in the Canadian Opera Company's 2005 production of La Bohème. Photos: Michael Cooper
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001