Festival preview: Vocal Arts Festival brings future stars to Edmonton stages
BY MARK MORRIS, EDMONTON JOURNAL MAY 22, 2013
Nathaniel Wiseman as Tevye in Opera Nuova’s production of Fiddler on the Roof
Photograph by: Ed Ellis , Ellis Photo
2013 Vocal Arts Festival
Company: Opera Nuova
When: May 24 through June 29
Where: Timms Centre for the Arts and various other venues
Tickets: Box office 780-487-4844 or through Opera Nuova website, operanuova.ca
EDMONTON – While Edmonton Opera slides into its 50th anniversary, Edmonton’s other opera company, Opera Nuova, has a milestone of its own. This year it celebrates its 15th anniversary with what is billed as Canada’s largest opera festival, the 2013 Vocal Arts Festival.
Opera Nuova’s main purpose is as a training ground for young opera singers and opera pianists about to embark on their careers. But the young singers’ training is also Edmonton’s gain, as the city gets the chance to hear their work in full-scale productions. The company’s summer season has become something of a fixture for opera lovers.
Starting from humble beginnings in 1998, the company’s reach now stretches across Canada. For 2013, auditions were held across the country, with 60 young artists, ranging in age from 19 to the late 30s, chosen to come and train and work in Edmonton.
Opera Nuova has also left its mark outside Edmonton, with alumni now performing professionally in Canada, Europe and the United States. Former participants are returning to the company as faculty, as directors, pianists and conductors. And other similar summer courses have sprung up in imitation.
Artistic Director Kim Mattice Wanat is particularly pleased that alumni have started smaller-sized opera companies in various towns in Canada. Bringing opera in more intimate settings to those unused to the art-form was one of her main objectives in starting the company.
And that, essentially, is what Opera Nuova does in Edmonton. Presenting fully staged performances in smaller venues not only gives the participants performance experience, but also acts as a counterpart to Edmonton Opera’s large mainstage productions. “It doesn’t feel so elitist for newcomers to opera,” Mattice Wanat says, and she has a passion for getting newcomers to come and experience opera.
For the last 14 years, that venue has been the University’s Timms Centre for the Arts. This year, however, will be the last that the Timms will be made available to Opera Nuova. The festival has grown so large that the time and resources devoted to it has eaten into the Timms’ other priorities, and the company is now looking for an alternative long-term theatrical venue.
For as the training program has grown, so has the festival. This year, over the next six weeks, the company will be presenting three operas, a much-loved musical, and a series of concerts and recitals.
The first is one of the 20th century’s most passionate operas, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites (June 13 and 14). Set against the backdrop of the French revolution, it explores the terrible moral choices faced by a nunnery of Carmelite nuns, and especially one of the most timid and fearful, Blanche.
Eventually the nunnery is forced to close by the atheist French authorities, and the nuns are ordered to give up their habits. They prefer martyrdom, and the opera ends with the nuns being hanged for their disobedience.
It’s a work that combines lyricism with moral and spiritual power, and not a few moments of Gallic humour. It will be presented, not in the Timms, but in the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, and director Fanny Gilbert-Collet promises an interesting and intimate relationship with the performers.
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