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Monday, April 7, 2014

End of Year Wrap Up: Opera McGill 2013-2014

It's been a huge year at Opera McGill. A Season celebrating many things, mostly Shakespeare (450th birthday year is 2014) but also Britten (100 year celebration was 2013), and of course celebrating the amazing, talented, fantastic students who populate the halls of the Schulich School of Music!

After a brilliant start with the "Shakespeare Serenade", and a wonderful fall production of Handel's Giulio Cesare (directed by Tom Diamond and conducted by Jordan de Souza), we did a low-budget but intensely exciting double-bill of The Telephone and La Voix Humaine that ended the first semester. January brought a culminating production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (directed by me, conducted by Andrew Bisantz, and choreographed by Nicola Bowie) followed by a terrific mostly-staged collaboration with the McGill Chamber Orchestra (Boris Brott, artistic director and conductor) of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi (directed by Nicola Bowie) with a huge Shakespeare Scenes program tucked in between those performances. Whew! So much opera in two semesters.

I couldn't have done all of this without the terrific support of my three Opera McGill office assistants: Robert Parr, Michaela Dickey, and Caitlin Hammon. They were simply amazing and kept things humming along, all the while performing in the aforementioned productions and finishing up their own degrees at McGill.

Additionally, there were nights of arias (Death By Aria), nights previewing the season at various venues, and hundreds and hundreds of hours of rehearsals, coachings, and stagings.

That's where the actual work is done - in rehearsal. And it's where you either develop a love of the art form or not. If you don't like rehearsing, or find it boring, or think it might be a waste of your time, you really truly need to think of something else to do with your life. Opera is rehearsal.

Opera is not performing for adoring audiences. It is thousands of hours doing research - into scores, recordings, videos - and learning and practicing and coaching and then collaborating with dozens of others; most of that collaboration happens in the rehearsal process.

That's why I think it's so important for young singers studying opera to get LOTS of rehearsal time - whether it's as a walk-on, a supporting role, a lead role, or as a cover.  One must love rehearsing in order to be loved as a performer.

With that thought, here are my nominations for outstanding achievement in various categories:

Most Hours Spent in Rehearsals:
Russell Wustenberg (Serenade, Giulio, Midsummer, Capuleti, Shakespeare scenes)
Samantha Pickett (Voix, Midsummer, Shakespeare scenes)
Sara Casey (Giulio, Midsummer, Capuleti, Shakespeare scenes)
Rebecca Robinson (Serenade, Giulio, Midsummer, Capuleti)

Best Use of a Prop:
Lee Clapp (fingering the hilt of Pyramus' sword)
Brent Calis (breaking any rehearsal prop he touched)
Samantha Pickett (the pictures in Voix)
Collin Shay (standing on a grand piano)

Best Trip:
Vanessa Oude-Reimerink (Tytania and the fog)
My five days in D.C. directing at the Kennedy Center
Bottom's Dream

Best Use of Text:
Sara Ptak (Sigh No More)
Geoffrey Penar (It was a lover)
Katrina Westin (Merry Wives scene)
Chelsea Mahan (Shakespeare sessions as Tytania)
Caitlin Hammon (Sonnet)

Best Tear To The Eye:
Tytania/Oberon/Fairies (Final chorus of Midsummer)
Geoffrey Penar (Sonnet reading)
Kevin Delaney (Come Away)
Robert Parr (Be Not Afeard)
Rebecca Robinson (tomb scene in Capuleti)

Best Loudest Moment:
Kevin Myers (in the tree as Lysander)
Elyse Charlebois (Death by aria)
Samantha Pickett (Desdemona)
Ensemble (Serenade to Music)

Funniest moment:
Pyramus and Thisbe, the opera

Scariest moment:
Michaela Dickey and the FOG
Almost every musical rehearsal with the Lovers on Act 3
Our guests barely getting through customs

Most Memorable Moment:
Me giving notes in the tree after Midsummer
Running the Shakespeare Serenade in Redpath
Seeing Oberon up in that tree with lights and fog for the first time

Hearing the final moments of Midsummer echo in my memory still gives me chills. Thanks for that!

I'm sure I missed tons of memories, these were just those that came to me as I typed this blog!!

Thanks for such a terrific season everyone!
Thanks to Ginette Grenier, Vincent Lefevre, Serge Filiatrault, and Florence Cornet our amazing designers.
Thanks to our videographer, Anne Kostalas and our photographer Adam Scotti.
Thanks to everyone in the Concerts and Publicity Office at the Schulich School of Music as well as to all of you who continue to support the Schulich School of Music!
Thanks to our amazing guest artists: Tom Diamond, Jordan de Souza, Nicola Bowie, Boris Brott, Andrew Bisantz, Paul Hopkins, and Paul Yachnin.
And -- A special thanks to my wife and family for their support and understanding. Sirius is so happy to have me back!