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Friday, April 15, 2011

End of Opera McGill 2010-2011 Wrap-Up

So -- I feel bad.

I'm not in Montreal right now and many of my students are leaving town early, way before graduation (which is at the end of May... no comment...) and when we'd usually be doing a year-end party I'm not there and neither are many of my students once I get back to Montreal.
So I thought I'd do a public wrap-up on my blog.

It goes without saying that this year was simply EXCELLENT. A student said it was a "hat trick" (which is a hockey reference I don't understand) or as they actually put it "Patrick's HatTrick". I guess it has something to do with all THREE productions being huge successes, artistically, pedagogically, and critically.

We produced Hänsel und Gretel in November, 2010. It was an extremely cute production and in case you hadn't heard, the sets were projections of Montreal elementary students' artwork of the house, the forest, the angels, the gingerbread house, etc.

In January came our production of Puccini's La Bohème, a massive undertaking with a double cast, 40 member chorus, 12 member children's chorus, and the full orchestration ONSTAGE behind the singers. All was coordinated by Julian Wachner, the conductor, via video screens. It was also recorded by Grammy award winning sound engineers and captured on High Definition video by 6 cameras in the audience and behind the scenes. There's even a documentary that's being put together on "The Making Of La Boheme". All of the footage is currently being edited and the sound is being mixed (they dropped 30 some mics into the space and in the set). We're expecting all to be completed by the start of the school year in August. I can't even begin to express how proud I was of the whole show. As one of our patrons put it "This is the best thing I've seen in Montreal in a LONG while and I'm talking ANYWHERE in Montreal"!

This March we collaborated yet again with Hank Knox and his Early Music program at McGill (his orchestra plays on period instruments - gut strings even - and period tuning) to produce Handel's little-known Imeneo. To say that it was beautiful is an understatement, and to say that it was elegant and emotionally riveting is also an understatement. Frankly, it was an artistic release that I've been waiting to have happen both from me as a director but also from a student cast - all of whom really went down the rabbit hole with their director and created a really special production that could have been a success at a Glimmerglass or C.O.T. or frankly anywhere. Special Bonus: I got to wear a mohawk for about three weeks and scare the locals, befuddle some of my colleagues, and be the "cool" professor on campus. It might come back... Just Sayin'!

SO -- Some Thank Yous:
A huge massive thank you to my assistants in the Opera McGill office: Veronique Coutu, Garry McLinn, and Lucas van Lierop. There is just no way for anyone to know the myriad of tasks that they are responsible for - from programs to supertitles, from communication with students and faculty to dealing with ticket requests from audience members - they are indefatigable! I certainly couldn't have done it without them. Veronique graduates with her Masters degree this year and I'm going to miss her at McGill. She was an amazing Nancy in the first production I directed at McGill, she gave a beautiful performance of Knoxville Summer on a recital a few years back that I played, was wonderful as Anne Trulove last year, sang brilliantly with Frederica von Stade down at Brevard in June, and brought audience members to tears during her death scene in Boheme. She received her bachelors and masters degrees from McGill and if I had more students who sang with her musicality, vulnerability, and passion, I'd be a lucky professor! Thanks Vero for everything!!

Also a special thank you to the team who worked on and are continuing to work on the Boheme DVD: Shelley Stein-Sacks, Michelle Hugill, George Messenberg, Richard King, Martha DeFrancisco, and their team of cracker-jack students in sound recording! Thanks to Liz Wirth for her tireless support of Opera McGill, Schulich School of Music, and McGill University. Thanks to Ewa and Harold Scheer who run the Austrian Ball for continuing their support as well. A big thank you to my comrades in arms: Julian Wachner and Hank Knox. They are the BEST colleagues a guy could have, both are terrific conductors and both are great GUYS to hang around!

There's no way to thank my team of designers - Serge Filiatrault on lights, Vincent Lefevre on sets, and Ginette Grenier on costumes. I am a very, VERY lucky director and each of them has taught me sooooooooooo much about being a better person. They are REALLY talented and Ginette is simply a genius!

Finally, Thank You to ARIA UMEZAWA! She's been my assistant director for half a dozen plus shows at McGill, plus she spent last summer at Brevard doing the same AND creating the daily schedule. She'll someday be famous I'm sure and I'll be applauding her productions. Aria is smart, has an aesthetic all of her own that I admire, and is deeply committed to making ART. I'm really going to miss her!!

Speaking of missing, I'm going to miss Jana and Philippe A LOT! Together, they've been in almost every show I've done at McGill - that's 15 shows, fyi. I've been really lucky to have such talented students over these past four years and Jana and Philippe really represent the best of my McGill students. Good luck to both of you!

And now... for a few End of Year Opera McGill awards (or the "OM"s as we call them):
For Best use of a Prop:
Jordan de Souza throwing the broom in H&G from the pit
Gordon Bintner eating the chicken with his mouth open in Boheme
Myriam Leblanc breaking the sword in Imeneo
Garry McLinn and Kevin Myers dealing with the bow and arrow in Imeneo

For Best use of Hair:
Lawrence Shirkie as Schubert in H&G
Rebecca Woodmass and Estelì Gomez getting dragged by their hair in Imeneo
Patrick Hansen's mohawk before and after Imeneo performances
The Imeneo faux hawks
Philippe Sly's fake facial hair in La Boheme

Best Onstage Moment:
The Water Cistern breaking and spilling a bathtub of water all over Pollack's floor in Imeneo
The opening of Act Two in Boheme
The end of Act One in Imeneo
The Mosh Pit during the kids matinee in Hansel und Gretel

Feel free to leave your own nominations in the comments!
I'm off to finish staging act one of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment for Wichita Grand Opera.