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DON'T FORGET THE SINGING

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RICHARD MESZTO previews
Calgary Concert Opera Company's
performances of 'La Traviata'

 

Calgary is best known for sandy oil, cattle roping or riding, and big skies arching above and over the giant mountains in the West. Culture is a little different. In many European cities you can attend an opera on almost any given night during the season. In Calgary, opera is a little more rare.

Calgary
Calgary. Click on the image for higher resolution

Some years ago mezzo-soprano Barbara King and businessman Chris Gieck imagined something both grand and simple. Knowing the beauty of song, the voice and the musical form of opera, they decided to create an organization that promoted all three — and also offered vocalists the opportunity to perform important roles from the major opera repertoire in concert renditions.

Mezzo-soprano Barbara King, one of the founders of Calgary Concert Opera Company. Photo © 2018 Kimberly Knowles
Mezzo-soprano Barbara King, one of the founders of Calgary Concert Opera Company. Photo © 2018 Kimberly Knowles. Click on the image for higher resolution

Now, almost ten years along, with many performances achieved and many singers represented, the Calgary Concert Opera Company is poised to present Giuseppe Verdi's famed opera La Traviata.

Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi by Giacomo Brogi (1822-1881)
Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi by Giacomo Brogi (1822-1881)

One of the top operas by one of the greatest opera composers, La Traviata tells the forlorn tale of lovers condemned by society. Based on a work by Alexandre Dumas, fils, (itself frequently staged and filmed), the music of Verdi is now fixed in the standard repertoire.

The Party (Scene 1) from 'La Traviata'. Oil on canvas painting attributed to Carl d'Unker
The Party (Scene 1) from 'La Traviata'. Oil on canvas painting attributed to Carl d'Unker. Click on the image for higher resolution

Violetta is the doomed courtesan (spoilers) who only wishes to escape (or evade) her past. But, her sense of honour and moral strength (in spite of her degenerate condition as courtesan and as consumptive), far transcends what society views as her dishonourable condition. In her case, goodness arises from the 'gutter'.

Interestingly, as two performances are being given, two performers are being given the opportunity to sing the lead: Kathleen Morrison on Saturday, and Linda Miller on Sunday. This generosity of professionalism is a very important element for Calgary Concert Opera Company.

Kathleen Morrison (left, photo © Tyler Baker) and Linda Miller
Kathleen Morrison (left, photo © Tyler Baker) and Linda Miller

Alfredo is performed by Dan Rowley, and truly Alfredo is a sorry character — a true Romantic lover and drastically inept. Adam Brousseau plays Germont, Alfredo's father, whose motivation is social propriety, and he won't let Love interfere with his or his family's standing. Flora, another courtesan and friend to Violetta, is played by Barbara King herself (fresh from a title role performance of Bizet's Carmen last month). One wonders what sort of friend Flora really is ('With friends like this'). Annina is sung by Cindy MacDonald, while Gastone, the friend of Alfredo, is also taken by two different singers, Valentin Borsu and Oliver Munar.

On the other hand, Ian Fundytus sings two roles: Dottore and the Barone Douphol, Alfredo's nemesis. Paul Lloyd sings the part of Marchese, while Stuart Lloyd sings Guiseppe and the Commissioner is performed by Chad Ruston.

Publicity for Calgary Concert Opera Company's 'La Traviata'
Publicity for Calgary Concert Opera Company's 'La Traviata'

The singers have been coached by the excellent Grace King, LRSM, and are supported by the Foothills Philharmonic Opera Chorus directed by Tim Korthius. The concert is accompanied by the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carlos Foggin.

Copyright © 11 September 2018 Richard Meszto,
Sundre, Alberta, Canada

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CODA: I once talked with a fellow traveler on board a jet back to Canada. I was asked where I was from. I replied 'Alberta', to which was said: 'It doesn't have much culture, but the scenery is nice.' Perhaps. But, don't forget to mention the voices. Don't forget the singing ...

Calgary Concert Opera Company's performances of La Traviata this weekend are at 7pm on Saturday 15 September 2018 at Calgary First Baptists Church, 1311 4 St SW, and at 3pm on Sunday 16 September 2018 at Okotoks United Church, 43 Riverside Drive. Further information from Calgary Concert Opera Company's website or their Facebook page.

GIUSEPPE VERDI

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Music and Vision welcomes new readers from Queensborough Community College CUNY