Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year and the Top Posts of '09

Here's wishing you all an opera-filled new year. It's time for the obligatory end of year Top Posts blog post: Here are the top five posts of 2009 - This blog's first year!

1. Scores! All The Scores You Could Want - Free!
2. COC Chorus Audition Time Again
3. The Best Free Options For Listening To Opera Online
4. To Equity Or Not To Equity
5. Working With Living Composers

This site seems to do two different types of blog posts: The agregating of Canadian Opera news (for those of you who just can't wait for your Opera Canada subscriptions to arrive,) and some original posts with either original research or insights into Canadian Opera. I guess it's no surprise that the most popular posts are those that you can't see anywhere else - after all, you can set up Google alerts for content as easily as I can. I guess that this blog's New Year's resolution is going to be coming up with more original ideas for posts where either I find things that people want (like lots and lots of free stuff, or singing grants) or getting off my duff and doing a couple of more interviews, like the TSMAF post where they told me that not all is lost for their opera program (I still have my doubts,) or even the Battlestar Galactica/Vancouver Opera post where I actually asked VO's Selina Rajani to comment on the Twitter posts that lead to a BSG/VO opera rumour (nothing more to report on this yet, btw).

It's been a fun '09 and I hope you stick around to do some reading in 2010. Is there anything in particular that you'd like to see from me next year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

It's been a very busy month as I'm sure you've noticed in the volume (but not the quality!) of this blog's posts. Between Messiahs, Hanukkah, and this whole week, it's been a little slow. Things will pick up though after Christmas.

Let me wish you a happy holidays - posts will resume at a regular pace again next week.

And, because I'm a bass, and because it's my blog:

Monday, December 21, 2009

CD/DVDs of Canadian performances/performers on sale

Hey all, an online store that I've blogged about before, Premiere Opera, is having a sale where all of their CD and DVD sets are on for $5/disc. It's a fantastic source for CDs but a really neat source for DVDs as they carry a bunch of stuff that you wouldn't normally be able to see otherwise. Plenty of Canadian content too, with 60 or so Jon Vickers performances on CD and DVD, 40 with Heppner, a handful of COC performances and some of the old Vancouver Opera performances. It's worth checking out, at least.

Premiere Opera

note: I receive nothing from them for this posts. Just like anything I mention on this blog, I post them because I think that they're a good idea, or at least an idea that won't (in all likelihood,) bring you, my readers, harm.

It's not that I'm above such things though, it's just that no one's offered yet.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vancouver Symphony turns down sham Olympic gig

Bramwell Tovey and some members of the Vancouver Symphony have turned down a contract from the Vancouver Olympics to pre-record music for the opening ceremonies that would have other people mime the performance, including the conducting. From the Vancouver Sun:

“My participation at the opening ceremonies was dependent upon my agreeing that music I recorded would be mimed by another individual and I regarded that as fraudulent and withdrew,” Tovey told The Vancouver Sun."

The worst part in that the explanation that VANOC doesn't even make sense:

"The artists and ensembles at the ceremonies will be performing live and all of them will participate in the recording sessions, but “some sections of the pre-recorded music will understandably feature a larger ensemble than appears on stage,” Atkins said in a statement given to The Sun."

I would sort of understand then why then they would have the whole VSO record the music and then have only some of them on stage, with Tovey conducting, if there were space issues, but there's no excuse to bring in musicians who didn't even play on the recording.

Good for Tovey and the members who refused to be a part of this. This Brave New World of "safe" performances is no fun for anyone involved.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Getting singing grants

Okay, this posting frequency is just getting sad but it's a busy time of year. Hanukkah, then Christmas, then New Year's means lots of obligations and lots of singing. Who wants to count Messiahs with me?

But with New Year's coming up I want to talk about resolutions. I want to start applying for more grants next year and fortunately I've found a site that can help. What's more, it a government site so I know that there's no vested interest in the site. The only down side is that it only covers Government grants (but not just Federal - provincial too).
is the Fed's repository of arts grants. Splitting the grants into a bunch of different categories with a handful of search narrowers, it covers, for us opera folk, not just "Music" but also "Performing Arts." There are some other resources too, and although not all of them (or even most of them in fact,) cover singers/opera, there's enough here to get your search started the next time that you have a project in mind that needs funding.

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wainwright's Luminato premiere gets new director

I had presumed when I saw that Luminato would be hosting the North American premiere of Rufus Waiwright's new work Prima Donna, which we've discussed here before, that it would be a remount of the World Premiere production which got mixed reviews when it came out in July. Today's news, though, seems to dispell that, hopefully for the better. Tim Albery, who will be known to Luminato audiences as the brilliant director behind last year's "The Children's Crusade" for the festival, is going to helm the production for Toronto's festival. Hopefully this pairing will bring everything together for the opera - I can't wait to see!

Friday, December 11, 2009

And the Rat Laughed pictures

Sorry for the slow week folks. We'll double post today to make up for it.

Some pictures of Opera York's And The Rat Laughed have made it up online that I hadn't seen before today. It's just a small sample but they give you an idea of the tone and imagery of the production last month. Take a peek here, via Lance Glitter's PBase site

The general public's view on opera

I stumbled across something neat today. Often we can take a look at online message boards, read magazines, or listen to the radio to find out about what experts or amature opera lovers think about a company or performance but in general, a singer or opera company isn't going to be the subject of what used to be called "water cooler" talk in the same way as tv shows or movies. It's hard to get to get a more general population feedback for opera than it is for other entertainment mediums.

That's why I was tickled to find the Ticketmaster feedback area today where people who bought their tickets via Ticketmaster can leave feedback about the performance/company. Under Manitoba Opera, for instance, you can read several reviews of recent performances from people who don't throw around words like passagio or who refer to the performance as a play. They're great and give an insight as to what matters to the bulk of people who aren't subscribers:

It was our first time at the Opera, I'm really happy that we've chosen this play. Very good performers, very good music, a little bit of humor, easy to follow. I would recomend this play to people willing to experience what the Opera is about.


Barber of Seville was highly entertaining, and the story was easy to follow. The main characters were well balanced, each with a fair bit of time on stage. The stop action and slow motion techniques greatly enhanced the experience.

I also love to see:
This was my frist time to the Opera and The Barber of Seville was unforgettable! I had no idea what to expect and i laughed the entire time. it was a great intro to the Opera and i would recommend it to anyone young or old. The voices were amazing and the story is so easy to follow even without the handy subtitles at the top. Grade A performance :O)
I think that it's definitely worthwhile for singers and producers to take a peak at these and see how we can really appeal to the population at large, outside of beaming us into movie theatres, of course.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nominated for a Canadian Blog Award (or three!)

Hi folks,

Well, this blog has been nominated for a Canadian Blog Award, not an official measure by any means, but a fun little competition none the less.

If you'd like to throw a vote my way, I'm nominated in Best New Canadian Blog, Best Canadian Culture and Literature Blog, and Best Canadian Blog. Head on over and vote!


New Opera tix on sale today

Luminato tickets for next June in Toronto go on sale to the general public today meaning that you can go and grab your tickets for Rufus Wainwright's new opera Prima Donna. This blog talked a little bit about it when it had it's world premiere earlier this year and took a look at the reviews but love it or hate it it's bound to be talked about when it opens next summer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Opera Atelier takes a loss

Okay, essentially they broke even. The 08/09 numbers are out and they took a loss of $68k on a budget of $2.3 million. That's not bad - I can barely balance my cheque book that well. Unfortunately the shortfall means that senior management is taking a 3% pay cut, though the article says that singer's pay isn't affected (not that it would be under either individually negotiated contracts or under CAEA minimums). Looks like it's time to feature Colin Ainsworth naked on the advertising posters again next season!

Regardless, they did show some great numbers in the mix with subscriptions up 31% and more than $1 million in fundraising money.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Not all is lost at TSMAF

It looks like there is still hope at TSMAF. Yesterday there were rumours about the demise of the opera program brought about by the conspicuous absence of any opera information on their website. Today however, I've managed to coax a comment from TSMAF Marketing Manager Danielle McCann about the situation:

At this time, details about the 2010 Opera Studio are still being confirmed...we hope to have more details confirmed by (February 2010).

So it looks like there is still a possibility of an opera program this summer - yay! They're a good program with great faculty that does interesting works like 2008's Ariadne. I hope that they're able to stick around.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

TSMAF drops opera from the festival?

It looks like the Toronto Summer Music Academy has pulled the plug on voice and opera for the second year in a row. Despite having opera listed on their site's opening page, once you go inside there's no mention of an opera program or any voice faculty at all. Developing.

Thanks TMR

Oh God, what have they done?

When Stephen Harper took the stage at the NAC earlier this year, who knew that we'd see more of the same happen again?

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier and former Liberal deputy prime minister Sheila Copps are going to be hosting "Opera on the Hill:" a fundraiser for Opera Lyra and the NAC Orchestra. Am I the only one who wants to see, instead of a Beatles tune, an O soave fanciulla between these two:

COC Chorus audition time again

In my inbox this morning was the annual COC Chorus audition notification. The details are:

The Canadian Opera Company will hold chorus auditions in Toronto for the 2010/2011 season at the end of January 2010. Singers who are interested in auditioning should send a recent photograph and résumé to:

Chorus Auditions
Canadian Opera Company
227 Front Street East
M5A 1E8
or by fax (416) 363-2660
or by e-mail to

Each candidate should be prepared to sing two operatic arias in contrasting styles; at least one of the arias should be in Italian. An accompanist will be provided.
The candidate should demonstrate secure musicianship and an aptitude for operatic performance. Please note that applicants for the Chorus must be legally eligible to work for the Canadian Opera Company.
All members of the Canadian Opera Company Chorus are members of Canadian Actors' Equity Association.

Make me wonder what happened to the cast of thousands from War and Peace from two years ago. I'm generally a bit wary of chorus contracts if only because of the Equity implications (covered in this post,) and the fact that the money from one show can be tough to turn down but that there's no guarantee of being re-hired the following season, (to be fair, there never is in this busniess!) but the COC can be a good one if only because the money from that one contract can supplant a whole lot of days waiting tables or what have you, and it's a great organization at the top level of opera in this country. I say go for it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

COC's Nightingale comes to radio

This Saturday's SATO (Saturday Afternoon At The Opera) on CBC is going to be October's The Nightingale & Other Short Fables. I wish I'd caught it in person - by all accounts it was fantastic - but this will have to do. It's too bad that we don't do what they get in the US with PBS: Putting them on TV. A huge part of this production was the visual aspect (water, puppets, etc.) and seeing it as well as hearing it would have been great. Oh well, when the CBC can't even commit to playing classical music on the radio, what chance does opera have up against Strombo...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cheap opera tix around the country for those under 30.

The Vancouver Opera newsletter that came out the other day seems to have spawned an article in the Vancouver Sun about their great deal on tickets for the under 30 crowd. As a singer, I love this: it is, to my mind, one of the best ways (although I'm also a fan of their cartoons/magna and their animation contest,) to ensure a younger current and long term sustainable audience for opera, providing me with years of work - yay! But which companies in the country provide discounts like this to their younger patrons you might ask? [I pause here waiting for you to ask, a la Dr. Bob, for those of you who get the reference.] Well I'll tell you with my handy-dandy chart below:

Vancouver Opera (pdf) - Under 30 - $25

Pacific Opera Victoria - "Students" (not defined) - A rate discount plus access to $15 Rush tickets 45 min. prior to curtain

Calgary Opera - "Students" (HS or univeristy) - A variable rate discount, depending on the section and $15 Rush tickets 1 hour prior to curtain.

Edmonton Opera - "Students" (not defined) - A variable rate discount

Saskatoon Opera - "Students" (not defined) - A 10% discount

Manitoba Opera - Student (under 21) varriable discount - they also access to dress rehearsal tickets at an unspecified discount on a group basis

Opera Hamilton - 30ish and under (it really says that! I love it!) - A variable discount

COC - under 30 - $20 (about 150 per performance!)

Opera In Concert - "Students" (not defined) - A 15-30% discount

Opéra de Montréal - 17 and under - 40% off, 18-30: $30 off the regular subscription price when you buy a subscription to two or more with full subscriber benefits

Friday, November 27, 2009

Howard Dyck's Grand Farewell

We've known for a while that Howard Dyck is retiring next year. After stepping down last year from his perennial post as host of Saturday Afternoon At The Opera on CBC, news that he was in his final season at the helm of the Grand Philharmonic Choir wasn't far behind. With his last Messiah coming up and a Dream of Gerontius with Ben Heppner coming in January, Kitchener's The Record has a great article covering a little bit of his life, focusing on his helping of young singers throughout his career. It's a nice article and worth reading to get a glimpse of an amazing Canadian career in vocal music.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why media makes me sad

It makes me sad that the Toronto Star thinks that Tom Diamond is best known for his stint on TV (in Batheroom Divas). That one of Canada's best opera directors wouldn't be known for, say, being one of Canada's best opera directors makes me cry a little. Sigh...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So it begins

So, I got Vancouver Opera's email this morning and they are once again making tickets availible under their O.U.T. (Opera Under Thirty) program where a limited number of tickets for their productions are available for those under, well, 30 for only $25.

The other thing that I noticed in this email though, was that the surface parking lot across from the Queen Elizabeth is now closed in preparation for the Olympics. Kind of unfortunate since that was both a cheaper (if memory serves) and certainly, as a surface lot, more accessible than the other lots around. Oh well, the (Olympic) show must go on, I guess.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vancouver Opera video contest winners

Vancouver Opera announced Friday that they have a winner in their OperaBot contest, the video contest when people were challenged to create animated shorts based on VO's operas this season. The winner was Brandon Cathey from The Art Institute of Colorado's beautiful take on Butterfly:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Singing day jobs

There's a great article in the Calgary Herald today where they take a look at the cast of Calgary Opera's upcoming Manon, but not in the traditional way: They find out what they do for a living. Yes, we all sing and even make money at it every once in a while but it's neat to see that it's not just me that needs to supplement in between shows. For this show the non-opera jobs range from lawyer to contractor to trucker.

As for me: I freelance doing Partnership Development (helping businesses work with other businessess), project management for non-profits (I helped run the Toronto Halloween campaign for UNICEF a couple of years ago), and some occasional web coding and, need be, design.

Anybody want to 'fess up to their day jobs? I know you're out there.

Aaaand we're back

Thanks for your patience folks. The house is a mess but the first kid's back in school so we're ready to blog again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interim Canadian Opera Blog post

Hi all,

Well, we're in the middle of the move to Winnipeg and it's turning out to be a bit of a challenge to blog without a computer. Cell phones are fine for email checking but link pasting is a bit of a challenge. The movers are supposed to be here on Wednesday so hopefully Wednesday night will see a return to regular posting. In the mean time I'm busy changing our living room from what appears to be pylon yellow into "Music Room" blue. In the mean time, here's a couple of links to ponder:

See you soon!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The trek begins

Movers come tomorrow for the move to Winnipeg and so I'll likely have a slow week while things get set up out west. The only questions remains is: What to listen to on the drive. It's about 22 hours plus stops via the U.S. so I'm thinking that there's no time like the present to do the Ring back to back. My first live Ring was the COC's and so I know what I'm getting myself into. Any other suggestions? Good traveling opera music?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Laryngoscope Opera - A Friday Opera Video

Okay, this looks hilarious. I just had this sent to me by a blog follower (Thanks Ben!) and it gave me a good laugh. Sure it's not really an opera (the video is titled "Glottal Opera") but is definitely worth taking a look at, especially if you've never seen vocal chords up close (although all of you should have. If you haven't, take a look here for a bunch). Either way, this is a fun little video for a Friday. Make sure that you watch the credits at the end for some, uh, bonus footage.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dark, dark opera in Canada

I've already discussed a little bit about the opera that I'm in which opens tonight: And The Rat Laughed. It's a 21st c. Israeli opera in Hebrew about a little girl who survives the holocaust by being turned over to an awful, awful family (that's me!) before her parents disappear are killed by the Nazis. It's dark as dark can be, including scenes that I don't even want to mention here, but powerful and important, especially as a part of Holocaust Memorial Week.

Well it looks like the yuks just keep on coming up here in Canada as the CBC is going to start airing this weekend the first of a five part opera called Baby Kintyre, based upon a newborn baby that was buried in a wall in an East Toronto home in the 1920s only to be discovered by a contractor in 2007. Saturday Afternooon at the Opera will carry it in it's regular time slot. Read more about it, if you're still up for it after this joyous post, via the Globe and Mail.

Library book sales

So yesterday a friend (Melissa Bencic, if you're interested,) and I went down to the University of Toronto to take in an annual event that we've been partaking in for a few years now: the Music LibraryBook Sale. The reason: We went once and it saved me about $130. You see, the scores that they sell there are cheap. Really cheap. And so when I picked up a Universal Bluebeard score for $2 and it turned out a year later that not only was I hired to do that show, but that that was the version with the English translation that we were going to use, and it retailed for $130, I was hooked and we've gone back every year.

We're a good team for this: I like the opera scores and she takes things for her music school, Bravo Academy. There's no competition and if I see soemthing that she might want while I'm score hunting I'll grab it and vice versa.

That said, with us moving next week, I brought home about 20 books and scores and my wife nearly killed me. At least I brought them home in a box.

The U of T music library site is here - They list the next sale as being yesterday but I'm sure that they'll update that soon. Check out your own local university library's site - you won't regret it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Audition fee rant

Not my rant, mind you. I rant enough. Today I'll leave the ranting to the sensational Susan Eichhorn-Young over at the Once More With Feeling blog:

Where does this money go? It's my money, if I am applying and I would like to know, if I am not granted an audition, what I have just paid for. This business is a business of rejection - I don't need to pay money to be dealt it too. We all get enough of it daily!

There's more, here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Free singing lessons. Sort of.

One of the most visited posts on this blog is the famous "Free Scores" post. Next to the home page, more people come by to see it than any other post (it helps that Google puts the link on it's first page when you type in "Opera Scores"). So when I saw this, I knew that you guys would want to see it too.

The Bel Canto Forum bills it self as a place to discuss vocal technique, building on the quote from Jerome Hines that "Every singer has to be self-taught to a certain extent." The forum part of the site is just getting started but the thing to keep an eye on is it's "Library."

The "library" section is full of links to a ton of different online public domain (read: older,) resources about vocal technique. From Domingo and Sutherland masterclass videos to some great PDFs of some of the canonical vocal technique literature there's a whole bunch of stuff there. I wish that they'd exclude the links to Google Books that don't have a preview available (what's the point?) but there are some gems here to be sure.

If the site can develop a following for it's forum, and if they can continue to add resources to it's library, then this could end up being a great site to spend some serious time on. As it is right now, it's still worth a visit though.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

VO animation contest comes through with a bunch of last minute entries

Well I called it: The Vancouver Opera "Operabot" animation contest that I've discussed before has a whole bunch of entries sliding in just before the deadline. There are some really great ones so you should go and take a look at what people have been creating and vote! The VO blog is listing them as they come in here. I won't share which is my favourite, (not yet at least,) but I'd love to hear yours! Let us know in the comments.

COC short at budget time, but we can all hear it on CBC

It's a strange season when you can completely sell out one of the largest opera houses in the country for an entire season and still come up short at your AGM but the COC has managed to find a way to do it. The company announced last night that they were $1.6 million in the red after projected individual donations to the tune of $1.1 million didn't materialize this year. They made up the money from a rainy day fund built up from previous years of surpluses.

via The Toronto Star

It was also reported this week though that for the first time in 20 years the CBC will carry the whole COC season on radio and for the first time ever will have the broadcasts up on it's website for at least a year - yay!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Unbelievable, amazing, and altogether incredible Deutsche Grammophon deal

Okay, I don't use iTunes. I don't own an iPod (I use an iRiver iHP-120 which doubles as a moderately high-end recorder,) and I take umbrage at the propitiatory format thing. But when I heard about this deal tonight, there was no escaping it - I was off to download the iTunes client.

iTunes Canada has just released the 55 disc Deutsche Grammophon 111 year anniversary compilation. Nothing special there. Except that while the iTunes US is listing it at $119, (Amazon has it at $134 but you do get the box and the physical discs,) iTunes Canada has it for, wait for it....


I don't know if it's a promo price or a typo. What I do know is that, as we speak, 7GB of recording history covering everything from West Side Story to von Karajan's Beethoven 9, is making it's way onto an external hard drive in my house.

Well, what are you waiting for? To the iTunes store!

Updated: As of last night, iTunes has changed the price. It's now listed at $120. I'll keep my eyes out for other deals though!

Still here? Here's an abbreviated disc list pilfered from an Amazon review:

1.CD Claudio Abbado: Brahms, Ungarische Tänze Nr. 1-21 (Wien PO/1982)
2.CD Amadeus Quartett: Beethoven, Streichquartette Nr. 7 & 15 (1959 / 1962)
3.CD Martha Argerich: Chopin, Preludes Nr. 1-26; Klaviersonate Nr. 3 op. 35 (1976)
4.CD Daniel Barenboim: Ravel, La Valse; Daphnis et Chloe-Suite Nr. 2; Pavane (Orchestre de Paris / 1981)
5.CD Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli: Debussy, Preludes Heft 1; Images I & II (1977)
6.CD Leonard Bernstein: Berstein, West Side Story / 1984)
7.CD Karl Böhm: Mozart, Requiem KV 626 (Mathis, Hamari, Ochmann, Wien PO/1971)
8.CD Pierre Boulez: Strawinsky, Le Sacre du Printemps; Der Feuervogel (Cleveland O, Chicago SO/1991)
9.CD G.Carmignola: Vivaldi, Violinkonzerte RV 190, 217, 303, 325, 331 (Venice Baroque O, A Marcon / 2005)
10.CD Placido Domingo / Carlo Maria Giulini: Opera Gala (Los Angeles PO, Giulini / 1981)
11.CD Gustavo Dudamel: Mahler, Symphonie Nr. 5 (Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela / 2006)
12.CD Emerson Quartet: Bach, Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080 für Streichquartett (2002)
13.CD Dietrich Fischer Dieskau: Schubert, Winterreise D. 911 (Gerald Moore, Klavier / 1971)
14.& 15.CD Pierre Fournier: Bach, Cellosuiten BWV 1007-1012 (1960)
16.CD Ferenc Fricsay: Verdi, Requiem (Stader, Radev, Krebs, Borg, RIAS SO/1953)
17.CD Wilhelm Furtwängler: Schumann, Symph. Nr. 4 / Haydn, Symphonie Nr. 88 (Berlin PO/1953 / 1951)
18.& 19.CD John Eliot Gardiner: Monteverdi, Vespro della beata vergine; Magnificat a sei voci (Monoyios, Pennicchi, Chance, Tucker, Robson, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists / 1989)
20.CD Emil Gilels: Beethoven, Klaviersonaten Nr. 21, 23, 26 (1971-1974)
21.CD Reinhard Goebel: Bach, Orchestersuiten Nr. 2 & 5 / Pachelbel, Canon & Gigue in D/Händel, Sonate für 2 Violinen HWV 399 / Vivaldi, Sonate für 2 Violinen RV 63 (Musica Antiqua Köln / 1982)
22.CD Hélene Grimaud: Credo: Pärt, Credo for Piano, Choir & Orchestra / Beethoven, Piano Sonata Nr. 17 "Tempest"; Chorfantasie op. 80 / Corigliano, Fantasie (Swedish Radio Choir, Swe. RSO, E-P Salonen / 2002)
23.CD Hilary Hahn: Bach, Violinkonzerte BWV 1041-1043, 160 ((BWV 1043 für 2 Violinen; BWV 1060 für Violine & Oboe) (Hilary Hahn, Margaret Batjer, Allan Vogel, LA Chamber Orchestra, Jeffrey Kahane / 2003)
24.CD V. Horowitz: In Moscow: Scarlatti, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Chopin, Schumann,etc (1985)
25.CD Eugen Jochum: Orff, Carmina Burana (Janowitz, Stolze, Fischer-Dieskau, O der D. Oper Berlin / 1968)
26.CD Herbert von Karajan: Beethoven, Symphonie Nr. 9; Coriolan-Ouvertüre op. 62 Berlin PO/1962)
27.CD Wilhelm Kempff: Beethoven, Klavierkonzerte Nr. 4 & 5 (Berlin PO, Leitner / 1962)
28.CD Carlos Kleiber: Beethoven, Symphonien Nr. 5 & 7 (Wien PO/1974 / 1975)
29.CD Magdalena Kozena: Handel Arien (Venice Baroque Orchestra, Andrea Marcon / 2006)
30.CD Rafael Kubelik: Dvorak, Symphonien Nr. 8 & 9 (Berlin PO/1967 / 1972)
31.CD Lang Lang: Tschaikowsky, Klavierkonzert Nr. 1 op. 23 / Mendelssohn, Klavierkonzert Nr. 1 op. 25 (Chicago SO, Daniel Barenboim / 2003)
32.CD Lorin Maazel: Mendelssohn, Symphonien Nr. 4 & 5 (Berlin PO/1961)
33.CD Mischa Maisky: Werke von Saint-Saens, Faure, Respighi, Dvorak, Glasunow, Tschaikowsky, Bruch, Strauss, Haydn (Orchestre de Paris, Bychkov / 1991)
34.CD Igor Markevitch: Cherubini, Anacreon-Ouvertüre / Auber, La Muette de Portici-Ouvertüre (Lamoureux Orchestra / 1958)
35.CD Paul McCreesh: Praetorius, Christmette (Lutherian Christmas Morning Mass ) (Gabrieli Consort & Players / 1993)
36.CD Marc Minkowski: Rameau, Une Symphonie imaginaire ((Suite of 20 Orchestral pieces from 11 Rameau-Operas,selected by Marc Minkowski) (Les Musiciens du Louvre / 2004)
37.CD Anne Sophie Mutter: Brahms, Konzert für Violine, Cello & Orchester op. 102; Violinkonzert op. 77 (Mutter, Meneses, Berlin PO, Karajan / 1983 / 1981)
38.CD Anna Netrebko: Opera Arias - Szenen & Arien von Mozart, Berlioz, Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini, Massenet, Gounod, Dvorak (Wien PO, GIanandrea Noseda / 2001)
39.CD David Oistrach: Tschaikowsky, Violinkonzert op. 35 / Wieniawski, 3 Etudes-Caprices / Sarasate, Navarra op. 33 (Staatskapelle Dresden, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Konwitschny / 1961)
40.CD Anne Sofie von Otter: Lamenti (Musica Antiqua Köln, Reinhard Goebel (1997)
41.CD Trevor Pinnock: Vivaldi, Concerti op. 8 Nr. 1-4, RV 548; Konzert für 2 Violinen RV 516 (Standage, Willcock, The English Consort / 1981)
42.& 43.CD Maria Joao Pires: Chopin, Nocturnes Nr. 1-21 (1995)
44.CD I. Pogorelich: Scarlatti, Klaviersonaten K. 1,8, 9,11,13,20,87,98,119,135,159,380,450,487,529 (1991)
45.CD Maurizio Pollini: Chopin, Etüden Nr. 1-24 (1971)
46.CD Thomas Quasthoff: Die Stimme - Arien & Duette von Lortzing, Wagner, Weber, Strauss (Quasthoff, Oelze, Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Thielemann / 2001)
47.& 48.CD Karl Richter: Bach, Messe h-moll BWV 232 / 1961)
49.CD Svjatoslav Richter: Rachmaninoff, Klavierkonzert Nr. 2, 6 Preludes (Warschau PO, Wislocki / 1959)
50.CD M.Rostropovich: Dvorak, Cellokonzert/ Tschaikowsky, Rokoko-Variationen (BPO, Karajan / 1968)
51.CD Bryn Terfel: The Vagabond - Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Butterworth, Ireland, (Malcolm Martineau, Klavier / 1994)
52.CD Rolando Villazon: Cielo e mar - Cilea, Donizetti, Gomes, Mercadante, Ponchielli, Verdi, Boito, Pietri (Giuseppe Verdi Chor & SO Mailand, Danielle Callegari / 2007)
53.CD Helmut Walcha: Bach, Toccata & Fuge d-moll BWV 565; Präludium & Fuge BWV 552; Triosonate BWV 525; Partita BWV 768; Choräle BWV 645-650 "Schübler-Choräle" (Orgel Laurenskerk Alkmaar / 1958-1963)
54.CD Fritz Wunderlich: Schumann, Dichterliebe, Beethoven, Schubert (Hubert Giesen, Klavier /1965)
55.CD Krystian Zimerman: Liszt, Klavierkonzerte Nr. 1 & 2; Totentanz für Klavier & Orchester (Boston SO, Ozawa / 1987)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Working with living composers

So it's going to be a moderately quiet for posts here, I'm expecting. We are full into rehearsals for "And The Rat Laughed," with Opera York with only one day off this week on the schedule. Combine that with it being the last week before most of my family makes the move to Winnipeg and there's a pretty good chance that anything not moving or performance related will fall by the wayside.

That said, this rehearsal process is fascinating. I've not had, nor do many who don't work with Tapestry New Opera Works, the chance to work on an opera with a living composer who is present for the rehearsals. Add to that a layer of complexity in that it's not a workshop production but the first non-original production (the first without the original cast from Israel,) of the work and you have some interesting things going on.

The first thing is that it's nerve wracking. Both the composer Ella Milch-Sheriff and the librettist/author of the novel, Nava Semel, have been in the rehearsals since day one on Friday and there is no one who knows the work better than they do. It's just not possible (nor should it be!) The work is a product of their hearts and it's easy to see that it's not like working with a conductor who loves Mozart - it goes way beyond that. That means that every time that you miss a note or flub a word, it's not just a professional misstep; It's like mispronouncing a friend's child's name. It's a level of stress that just takes things up a notch.

But it's also a wonderful resource. There's much talk in academia about the "Golden Age" of opera where the singers got the details of how to perform the masterworks that make up today's cannon directly from the hand of god, or, in this case, Wagner, for instance. Imagine the questions any singer today would have for Puccini, Rossini, or Verdi. That is the feeling that we are getting here: that we might never be in a better position to learn how to perfectly perform any given opera as we are right now with this work.

Very fortunately, both Ella and Nava are being wonderfully generous with their time and insight. Ella is holding multiple coachings whenever anyone has the time (the music is, well, not easy, but it is beautiful and powerful,) and Nava is constantly giving us background, textual, and subtext assistance including a fantastic discussion during rehearsal today about where this story fits within the world and culture of the characters. For a work with such heavy and serious subject matter it adds significant weight to what we are doing and is an indescribable treasure to have those mechanisms to work with.

Singers often have concerns about working with rarely performed or new works. It is an awful lot of effort to learn a new role and some think that to put that time into a work that you will do only once falls low on the cost/benefit analysis graph. I've never agreed - if by chance those works are performed again, you're a natural choice to participate. And some of my most fun and rewarding work has been with Opera In Concert and their "Rareties in Performance." Rest assured it is doubly so, fun and rewarding, when working with a living, breathing writing team who are not just willing, but want to help the singers all that they can.

Good news from the RCM

It looks like the Faculty Association's efforts have worked out in the end. The Collaborative Piano Blog is reporting that bargaining dates are now being scheduled as we speak! This a very happy ending for all involved - yay!

Friday, October 23, 2009

All's not well at the Royal Conservatory

A great many of you have friends, mentors, and colleagues at the Royal Conservatory, heck their faculty list reads like a who's who of some of the best names in pedagogy today. At the very least Dr. Christopher Foley, who's Collaborative Piano Blog most of you will have read, has been there since 2003.

Well right now those musicians, and teachers, and so by proxy the students, are in a little bit of a pickle. There's a nice shiny new building, a great new theatre, and top notch concerts by artists from around the world. But the people that work there have been without a contract since 2007. The Conservatory has told them that they're not willing to sit down and negotiate a new agreement with them.

Not that they can't reach an agreement, mind you, but that the Conservatory will not no longer sit down to discuss them, despite both sides having begun negotiations in good faith earlier this year.

As it stands now the teachers and staff at the university (doh!) Conservatory are working without a contract, hoping day to day that the Conservatory will continue to employ them, pay them, and give them benefits. As many of these people are my friends and colleagues (and even if they weren't,) I think that this warrants some attention and needs to be fixed and I hope that you do too.

They've launched a new Facebook page that they would like you folks to take a look at: The RCM Faculty Association Page Go, check it out, become a fan. I'll try to keep you folks updated on this as it develops.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Opera animation contest's first entry up on line.

Vancouver Opera's "Opera Bot" contest has it's first entry. As you may remember, VO started a contest in June to challenge people to create animated shorts of one of the operas of their upcoming season. While I thought (and still do,) that it's a great contest idea, with 10 days left in the contest, they now have their first entry (below). A group of students from The Art Institute in Denver, CO picked up their digital pens and created a short for Madama Butterfly. Will they be the only entry and take home all of the prizes? My guess is no - I imagine that we'll see quite a few more entries over the next week but we'll find out on November 1st. Head on over to this page to vote for your favourite once they start coming in.

And you think that corporate sponsorship is prevalent today...

So The Internet Archive is publishing that scanned microfilms of various libraries and groups I just found this - a Vancouver Opera House program from a December 11, 1897 performance of "La Grande Duchess" by The Calhoun Opera Company, available here (see the "View The Book" section on the left of the page). It was starring Adele Farrington who later went on to have a pretty good film career, appearing in as many as many as 15 movies a year

It's neat to look at: it's three pages long but with only enough information on it for maybe half a page: A shrunken cast list and scene description. There are no bios, no message from the General Director, no photos. The rest of the space on the pages is used for ads. In fact, they're so prevalent that it makes internet pop-up ads on the wackiest of internet pages seem understated. There are ads today, sure, but nothing like this. The only thing crazier is beer at 5 cents a glass!

Nightingale gets added performance

The COC has just announced that they're going to give the Robert LePage directed "The Nightingale and Other Short Fables" that I've been raving about, an additional performance now that it's completely sold out. The added date is November 2nd.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

College Faculty positions

Speaking of today's audition finding post and not wanting to slight any opera stage managers out there, the Equity newsletter just sent out a notice for a stage manager job - a faculty position at Douglas College. Head on over to the College website for details!

Updated: Now that I check it, they're also looking for voice (and other instrument) instructors as well!

Finding Auditions

It just occurred to me today as I scanned my inbox that while I had mentioned YAP Tracker before, the fantastic subscription site that brings together virtually every opera audition worldwide, (email me, or leave a comment below with your email address, to get a 10% off discount,) I hadn't yet mentioned the other great place to find audition information: Equity Online.

Canadian Actor's Equity Association runs an email mailing list that forwards audition information about Equity shows that are casting in the near future. To sign up all that you need to do is go to Equity Online and fill out the form. Many of you will want to tweak your email filters to limit the number of notifications that you get about, say for instance Stage Manager calls (unless of course you're a stage manager,) but in general, it couldn't get more convenient than having audition notices delivered to your inbox.

"But I'm not an Equity member" you might say. Well good news: You don't have to be. Just remember to respect the audition rules surrounding Equity roles and you can apply to any of the postings that come through, Equity or not. Just don't go applying for too many bass roles....

Monday, October 19, 2009

VO's Golden Age

VO just sent out in their newsletter a reminder of their upcoming "Opera Speaks @ VPL" session "The Golden Age of Vancouver Opera." Taking place at the central Vancouver Library branch it's going to be a discussion with conductor Richard Bonynge, opera godfather Irving Guttman and others about some of the very cool things that VO has been witness to over it's 50 years. It's at 7pm on November 9 so mark your calendars for what should be a chance to talk with local opera luminaries in an intimate venue.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pre-eminent blog "The Rest Is Noise" shuttered.

Wow, I just heard over at the Collaborative Piano Blog that Alex Ross' classical music blog "The Rest Is Noise" is done. Over. Kaput!

This blog was one of the originals covering all things classical musical and is the adam and eve of the wide swath of thousands of classical music blogs that exist today. The good news is that it's going to stay up for people to peruse and check the archives of. The really good news is that Alex is starting a new blog for The New Yorker called "Unquiet Thoughts" covering much of the same content. Hopefully this means great things for him and his blogging and that the corporate involvement means that even more time can be spent on the endeavour.

Congrats Alex - Here's to your new beginings!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What to listen to once I move.

As soon as "And The Rat Laughed" is finished, I will be packing up and heading for Winnipeg. It's a family decision but one that has a very real effect, both positively and negatively, on my career, which I'll talk about in another post.

Today, though, I was reading October's The Walrus, a Canadian magazine covering all things art, literature, politics, and just general Canadian issues. This month they have an article about Rich Terfry and his show, "Drive," on CBC that replaced a large block of classical programing during the format shift a year ago. Now, while it's a great radio program, and while I know that the CBC still plays some classical music, it makes me wonder what I'm going to do for classical music once I move. Here in Burlington I don't even have Radio 2 on my FM1 presets in my car, it's on FM2. The two classical stations that I tune to most are Classical 96.3 and WNED out of Buffalo as I know when I tune into them, that I'll get what I want, even at the risk of some short format music or US news breaks, depending on the station.

This leads me to the question: Once I move to Winnipeg, what the heck will I listen to? Without a commercial classical station, and being too far from North Dakota to pick up any US classical radio, am I stuck with CDs? Is Sirius radio, with the admittedly appealing Met Opera channel, but the less appealing monthly fees, in my future? It looks like I'm bound to be stuck without Canadian classical music when driving. As for at home, at least I made this handy list.

How about it folks? Any ideas? What do those of you who live outside of the Golden Horseshoe do for music, especially in the car? I'm open to any ideas that you have.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Win Opera Tickets! A Contest!

"And The Rat Laughed" is a dark, dark, dark opera coming up in November. It's the story of a Jewish woman recalling her experiences during the holocaust during her youth.

It's also an opera featuring moi, Andrew Tees, Melanie Gall, Angela Burns, Dion Mazerolle, Adriana Albu, and Ramona Carmelly and it's getting it's North American premiere with Opera York next month as a part of Holocaust Memorial Week. Wanna go?

The Canadian Jewish News is running a contest for Ontario residents to win one of five pairs of tickets to the November 8, 2 p.m. performance. Enter now!

Even if you don't win, buy a ticket, come on down and cheer us on! Dark: yes, but also powerful with some really moving music.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Canada

Here's a little clip from the Thanksgiving Opera. Have a great day off!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Youth and Opera

A very interesting Vancouver Sun article this week about attracting youth to opera, orchestras, ballet and the like. Not a ton of new ideas in the article but a really interesting overview of some of the local Vancouver efforts including talking about the very, very cool new art for Vancouver Opera's season.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Google Streetview for Opera auditions and more!

View Larger Map

My old house (my new one isn't up on Streetview yet)

Google Streetview is now in Canada. The Google service that lets you see available areas up close and personal is a lot of fun to play with but also has a ton of practical purposes (beyond seeing if your husband is headed out of the local strip club.) From an opera perspective, being able to see where you're going before you need to be there would be a great thing on audition day. A couple of weeks ago I went down to Michigan to audition for Arbor Opera Theater. Unfortunately it was homecoming weekend for the University of Michigan and so there was bound to be ridiculous traffic. I wanted to be able to have a sense of where I was going before I needed to navigate that chaos on an already stresesed out audition day and so I took a look around the neighborhood via streetview so that things would feel a little more familiar on the day of. Maps will get you to the general area but if you're headed down to a Toronto Operetta Theatre audition and want to know exactly where to go before you get there then you'd be all set. Have a concert at the Queen Elizabeth in Vancouver? Time to track down the stage door!

All in all, it's a pretty neat tool with more uses than I can think of at the moment. What do you see yourself using it for?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Last chance to see Beverly Sills' estate auction

The Beverly Sills estate auction is up today. It started this morning and should be done soon if it's not already. The bittersweet news for us is that you can take a stroll through the catalogue online here. Jewelry, costume design sketches, personal items, and more, all there in their glory. Enjoy.

A Canadian in Germany

Imagine my surprise when I scanned my opera rss feeds to find the name of an old classmate in an article in a German newspaper. Soula Parassidis, a soprano from Vancouver (and fellow UBC alumnus,) is being featured in The Local, a German newspaper in a segment entitled "Making it in Germany." Take a look for a quick look at a Canadian path to a fest contract.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My favourite time of the blogging year

Ahh, it's that time again! Kim Whitman over at the Wolf Trap Opera Blog is gearing up for audition season. If you're unfamiliar with it this means that from now until the Wolf Trap audition tour is over, this blog should be visited daily by every singer out there, Canadian or not. Right now we're in the middle of the "Fall 2009 Audition Season Mini Course" covering everything from Depth vs. Breadth in choosing audition rep, to a guest professional every Friday weighing in on their take on auditioning. All of culminates, of course, in a daily run down of what she sees during the auditions and the famed "Aria Frequency List" detailing how many of what aria was offered at this year's auditions, (last year's is here). Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic! Go Now!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We have a winner

Using the random number generator over at I've drawn two winners in the Wave invite contest. Congrats to Chris Foley and Leilani!

Chris I have your email address and your invite's on the way. Unfortunately I don't have one from Leilani. Please email me asap (gtheule aat and your invite will be on the way. As I mentioned, invites aren't being sent out by Google right away. Once you've been given an invite from someone (as you two have,) Google will send them out on a delay right now estimated to be at least a day or two. Because there's a delay, I'll also email the winners a screen capture of the invite confirmation screen.

Harper's surprise performance last night with Yo-Yo Ma

Wow. It's no secret that I'm not a Harper fan, but this, From the National Arts Centre Gala last night, was kind of funny. Okay, very funny. And he's not bad.:

I did, however, expect him to balk at the lyric "I get high with a little help from my friends."

Now for a serious question: If you're a performer of Yo-Yo Ma's stature and, assuming that you're diametrically opposed to everything that the PM stands for, particularly arts cuts and the like, can you in good conscience go out there and perform with him? What if you're a card-carrying Tory and there's a Liberal (or, NDP even - hey, a guy can dream,) PM? Discuss. and fill out the poll on the right.

Friday, October 2, 2009

This. Sounds. Legen... wait for it...dary!

"The Nightingale and Other Short Fables" is making it's world premiere in two weeks and more details about the production are out now. We've already seen the puppet mastery in store for us but the big surprise was still to come, apparently. With Robert LePage at the helm, could we expect anything different?

In a new Canadian Press interview he talks about the most daunting part of the upcoming production: Filling the orchestra pit with 60,000 lbs (almost 28,000 litres, by my count) of water so that the singers can wade into it, all while manipulating puppets as they sing.


Crazy. Awesome. Again: What?

This has all kinds of must-see written all over it. As much as I wanted to see this show before, my desire has been multiplied tenfold. Oh, and I'm under 30 so I can go for only $10.

Under 30 or not, go get tickets for this. The specticle alone will be worth checking out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Google Wave invite contest

So I've been busy this week - sorry for not getting more posts out.

The good news is that I'm back with a completely non-opera related contest. I have two (2) Google Wave invites (worth up to $27,000 each!) to give out to anyone who wants one. Just leave a comment below, preferably a witty one but it's not necessary, and I'll randomly draw a couple of names via random number generator. Winners will be announced this weekend.

Update: Apparently the invites aren't going out instantly but are being delivered over a couple of days so as to not destroy the servers.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Conductor breaks back falling into pit

From the "Wouldn't "Toi toi" have sufficed" file, David Ott, conductor of Pensacola Opera in Florida, fell 14 feet into the space below the movable pit on Friday breaking nine vertebrae and his ankle, and dislocating his shoulder. Opera: It's a dangerous sport!

Competition season

With competition season upon us, it's time to brush up on the little ins and outs that make competitions different from an audition. For most, auditions mean that you're up against a small handful of people for a specific role whose requirements are often nebulous: Tall, short, fat, skinny, smooth tone, comedic - who knows what's wanted for this particular production. For me, particularly as a bass, it also means that my competition is limited to those within my voice type. In an open competition, especially an international comp., there are a lot of other factors at play.

One of the best singer blogs out there, Jean-Roland LaFond's "Toreadorssong's Vocal Technique Blog," covers some of the factors at play here in a recent post. An example from the post:

Know the politics of the situation

The French-Quebec prize was given to a young French coloratura. The prize is a series of concerts sponsored by the Quebec organization directed by said judge. The same coloratura was indubitably edged out in the mélodies category by a fanstastically gifted French baritone who received well-deserved bravos for his performance. However the two prizes for that category (1st and 2nd) where changed to two first prizes, and the soprano was announced first. The same soprano was also a finalist in the opera category and was given first place in the female category although a Russian coloratura with a near flawless technique edged her out, in my opinion. It might have appeared strange if she had also won the overall grand prize. That honor went to a French-Chinese soprano. The prize was announced by the mayor of the town who reminded the audience that this soprano had sung the soprano lead in The Pearl Fischers two years before in the town where the competition takes place.

This entire blog is a fantastic look at vocal technique from one of the modern day gods of technical vocal workings. I never read his blog that it doesn't give me something to think about vocally but check this post out for a first hand account of some of the concepts surrounding competitions.

Winning International Voice Competitions via Toreadorssong's Vocal Technique Blog

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Canadian opera video: HipHopera

I just came across this and I think that it's a perfect Friday video: It's a "stealth" recording of last year's Hip Hopera at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto, part of their free lunch time series and was Canadian composed and performed. It's definitely game changing in terms of what we think of as opera. It's anything but traditional and is very, very cool. Thoughts?

Teiya Kasahara - Singer
Justin Welsh - Singer
Lil Jaz - dj & keys
T.R.A.C.K.S - dj & keys
Liz Upchurch - piano

May 7, 2008

21st c. Canadian music

I just received a request from a friend today who is going about making a recording for his M.Mus. In his words:

I would like the recording to be comprised of songs for medium voice and piano (I am open to small instrumental ensembles) and I am trying to limit it to Canadian Music of the 21st century, but may be open composers of other nationalities as well. I'd like to be able to demonstrate the wide variety of vocal music being written today in this country.

I love new music and this sounds like a great project. If any of you can think of works that would fit the bill, send me an email at gtheule at or leave it down in the comments.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Credit where it's due

There's a great post over at the Vancouver Opera Blog about Irving Guttman today. Mr. Guttman, for those who don't know, is personally responsible for almost every incidence opera in Western Canada and it's nice to see him highlighted here. As a former UBC'er we were well indoctrinated in his legendary building of companies from Winnipeg to Vancouver, bringing in artists like Domingo and Sutherland to the great white north. I even had the opportunity to work with him there, being directed in Boheme scenes. Go on over and give a read about a Canadian Opera luminary!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Singing Stateside - getting work (and Visas) in the U.S.

As much as we'd all love it to be true, there's just not enough work up in Canada to make a fully fledged career. If you want a chance at doing this full time, you'll have to head elsewhere for at least part of the work.

Europe is great. It's easier to get E.U. work visas with an offer, and German Fest contracts, if you can get one, set you up for a year of paid (hard!) work. There's a great blog by an English singer called "An Englishwoman Abroad," who is writing her experiences down. I particularly like it because it's about the experience as a whole, not just the music or house.

For most of us, though, the U.S. is definitely closer. The initial investment of flying to Miami to sing your two arias is significantly less than making your way to Dortmund to do the same. Factor in same languages and the fact that you can be home on weekends if you need be and it's a great place to start expanding. The question is how.

A lot of singers enter a catch-22 when they try to audition down south: A lot of small and mid-level houses need for you to already have a visa before they'll hear you. It costs a lot of time and money for them to arrange one for you so you'd better be pretty awesome to get them to do that. (If you're reading this blog post, instead of getting your rep at CAMI to arrange your visas, it's not you I'm afraid,) The kicker is that you need a contract signed and in hand to get a regular performing visa yourself.

So what do you do? Everybody's favourite forum had a little thread on this last week and I think that it pulls together some really valuable information. The main things to get out of it are that college teaching is a great way to get a visa, and that the American Federation of Musicians (if you're a member - most singers are not,) can help grease the wheels for a price. Some YAPs, particularly non-paying ones, can be easier to get visa for and, above all, competitions are your best friend: If you want to attract the kind of attention that makes mid and mid-upper (B) level houses get you a visa, win a competition.

Or marry an American.

Friday, September 18, 2009

COC sneak peak!

I can't let Friday go without a Canadian opera video. Today's is a little bit different though: It's the just released sneak peek of the puppetry in the COC's upcoming "The Nightingale." The designs are from Michael Curry who did the design of the stage version of The Lion King so you know that it's going to be awesome.

Musicians, actors, given shaft today (and not in the good way)

So the government survived a confidence test today, propped up by the Bloc and the NDP who had, reportedly, major concessions given to them with regards to EI. My gripe? It's not that we've been subjected by the Conservatives to never ending ads on tv about how evil Iggy would team up with the Bloc and the Socialists to run government who then go ahead and make deals with the Bloc and Socialists to stay alive themselves, (this is a gripe for another blog). It's this:

Where is the bill that fulfills the promises made in the last election with regards to EI for self-employed people, which would include (for those of you reading this blog,) private music teachers, singers, actors, and musicians in general. With all of the talk about extending benefits, we've seen nothing about this integral issue that effects a huge swath of the artistic community.

You see, during last year's campaign the Conservatives swore up and down that EI would be available to those self employed people who choose to pay into it for a pre-determined amount of time, presumed to be six months.

That means that if you taught from home, or taught at a school but not as an "employee," or if you're a performer either on a longer term gig (such as a touring production) or stringing multiple contracts together, and then suddenly lose the work you'd be a little bit covered until you could find another job. You would have to pay into the EI program if you wanted it but when the boom was lowered you wouldn't have to give up your apartment, you wouldn't have to stop buying lunches, and you wouldn't have to sleep on the couches of friends (none of which I've, fortunately, had to do personally, but I do know those who have).

The government and some parties may claim today's Ways and Means Bill as a triumph for EI and for Canadians, but not for us, folks. We were promised protection and got the artists' shaft.

To be fair, the bill isn't yet finished - it will likely be sent to committee next week to be fleshed out. My concern is that although Bloc and NDP support is strictly tied to this bill, no one is talking about this election promise. It's going to take some pushing from politicians to get this safety net implemented for artists and the only way that happens is if we contact them and ask them to. Consider it.

(Full disclosure for this post: I'm a card carrying NDP member.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When is a performance too good?

Opera can really affect people, as Opera Lyra found out on Monday. OL's Magic Flute at the NAC had a bit of offstage drama when, about 10 minutes from the end, just after Papageno contemplates suicide, a woman decided that she wanted to end it all too and tried to jump from the balcony. Reportedly she climbed over the railing and tried to make the seven metre leap down. Yikes!

Interestingly, the last time that I did a Flute it was outdoors and all that happened during that scene was that someone in the audience yelled out "Don't do it!" and made everyone, including Papageno, burst out laughing!

Interestingly, I found out days later that it was my wife's best friend.

Totally no longer welcome at any indoor opera performances.

True story.

New Tapestry opera online

The Perfect Match, by Krista Dalby and Anthony Young is now up on the Bravo Fact site. This cute, 4 minute opera staring fellow Manitoban (and performer I just can't shake,) Keith Klassen and Peter McGillivary is a cute little puppet opera about gay socks! Collaborative Piano Blog's Chris Foley is the orchestra's pianist. Fantastic!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Undergraduate program review

It's back to school time and Elizabeth MacDonald is going to be continuing her overview of the undergraduate options here in Canada. I was planning to write up something like this for those of you who have some 12th grade decisions to make this year but why mess with perfection - Elizabeth has already one a great job on it! Check it, and the rest of her blog, out here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Well, hello there Vancouver Opera people!

I'm just packing up to head out of town for a little auditioning in the U.S. next week and I decide to check in on the 'ol opera blog. Imagine my surprise to find a whole bunch of Vancouver Opera people waiting here for me via the wonderful and amazing VO Operagator newsletter- Welcome!

This little blog is just a hodgepodge of Canadian opera goings on, including a number of posts involving your very own Vancouver Opera. Since you're here, I hope that you'll look around - here are this month's most popular posts so far:

1. All The Scores You Could Want! Free! (Pretty much the most read post every month, if only because it's a big draw to the blog.)

2. Apples and Singing - Well, you know about this one already - I'm pretty sure that the results are a little skewed tonight! Use the comments page on the post to add your suggestions.

3. Video of ENO auditions - Because who doesn't like to peek behind the curtain once in a while.

4. Best Free Options For Listening To Opera Online - There's that "F" word again. I do love it so.

5. 100 Posts For Canadian Opera Blog - The first milestone for this new blog.

I hope you'll hit the bookmark button, or click the RSS feeds. I occasionally come out with something intelligent, funny, or worthwhile so please stick around!

Thanks Selina!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

$10 COC under 30 tickets on sale

Tickets for the COC's Opera For a New Age ( for those under 30 years old,) go on sale this Saturday, here with the promo code IAMUNDER30 (clever, eh?). Tickets are $20 for Butterfly and only$10 for the Stravinsky. You can't even see a movie for that downtown. Heck, the tour of the Four Season Centre is $7 alone (Saturdays at noon) so definitely take advantage of this offer.

-Butterfly image from Opera Toons

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why can't Hvorostovsky sell out in Edmonton?

The Edmonton Symphony has brought in some big guns (see picture, above, for amusing double-entendre) for their fundraising gala slated for the end of the month but can't seem to get the seats filled to see him. If things don't change, come September 28, Dimitri Hvorostovsky will be singing to a less than half packed house. The Edmonton Journal is reporting that the ESO has sold only around 47% of tickets for the upcoming concert leading them (and me) to wonder why?

Coming from Winnipeg, a city that notoriously waits until the last minute to buy tickets for events, I was wondering if delayed purchasing was responsible here, but Yo-Yo Ma apparently sold out last year's fundraiser in record time, and months in advance.

The article, and the ESO, mention (of course,) the economy as a major factor. Tickets run $50-$250 and Alberta certainly wasn't as recession-proof as the other middle-Canada provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. My mind wonders if the recession is a factor, just in another way: They've not announced a program, (as far as I can see) and a night of Russian music in the middle of a recession, just isn't what people are looking for. Songs and Dances of Death is great music, but Zeigfield Follies in the 20's it ain't.

Get a program on there of opera arias, or heck, even (shudder) Broadway crossover and you'll have a party going on.

Of course, maybe to a symphony crowd, Hvorostovsky isn't as household a name as Ma.

Whatever the reason, if you're in Edmonton, and don't have your tickets yet, this could be a great chance to pick up some great seats. Give them a call right now and get on board for what could be a very intimate show.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Opera Day

Interesting but true: The Latin word for labour is, indeed, "opera."

Hope you're all making the best of it!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Canadian video

Well, I was out for a lesson and a visit today. Why not a video of my teacher's teacher:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

2010 Paralympics Ceremonies full of Vancouver opera talent

The Paralympic Committee has just announced the creative team behind the opening and closing ceremonies and there are a couple of local opera folk involved in bringing it all to life. The Production Director will be Nik von Schulmann who is know to BC opera people as the director behind VO's Carmen, Aida, and Boheme's and the Visuals Director will be Sean Nieuwenhuis who has also worked with VO.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not Canadian, but very, very cool.

Okay, so it's not Canadian except that I picked it up via a VO tweet. It's a Siegfried from Spain detailing some of the video production that went into the staging involving 5 hours of video, 14 projectors, and god knows how many people-hours. Definitely hit the "full screen" button. Enjoy!

SIEGFRIED from Martin Inda on Vimeo.

100 Posts for Canadian Opera Blog

This is post number 100! The blog is a little over three months old and has had more than 3000 visitors, with more than 500 of you returning over and over again! Let me take this opportunity to say thanks for reading! I wouldn't do it if you weren't! (Okay, maybe I would, but then I'd just be talking to myself so....)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Video of ENO auditions

Okay, admit it. You've really wondered if international A level house auditions look the same as the auditions that you've been doing, especially if they've not been international A level house auditions. Apparently, they do.

English National Opera has been (fantastically!) posting video all the way along of their production of Carmen and some of the first video is of the audition process. They have a couple of videos, here, of David Kempster singing for Escamillo and Julian Gavin singing for Don Jose. Interestingly, neither of them wears a tie.....

North Toronto Players auditions

I just got an email letting me know about auditions for the North Toronto Players and their upcoming version of Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore. This is a community group with some very good local singers involved in it and it's non-paying except for a couple of available slots for some Equity singers under the Amateur Agreement. For more information, contact my friend and one time opera wife (Marcellina to a Bartolo,) Karen Bojti at