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