The power of music to affect people is immense but deeply personal. Listening to music can be therapeutic, introspective, or even like having a non-judgmental companion on an introspective road trip.
Combined with good storytelling, the music is reminiscent of a warm hug or a cozy night spent with a hot drink and warm blankets. An opera is no different; it can take you to a fantasy world steeped in drama and musical abandonment. UBCO’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies partnered with Opera Kelowna to do just that and presented “Opera under the stars“Thursday August 12.
The event was broadcast live on Unicorns.Live, UBCO’s secure streaming website. Due to the unfortunate smog, the opera was staged from the Mary Irwin Theater at the Rotary Center for the Arts instead of the annual event’s usual staging location, UBCO’s central courtyard.
The opera was hosted by Rosemary Thomson, artistic director of Opera Kelowna, and included performances by artists Clarence Frazer (baritone), Taylor Pardell (soprano), Stephanie Tritchew (mezzo-soprano), Martin Renner Wallace (tenor) and the pianist Jennifer Tung. All of the performers were dressed in masks, but that didn’t hamper their glorious voices as they presented a socially distanced opera on viewer screens.
The opera consisted of four sets, some of which were based on well-known and celebrated performances and some of which turned out to be “hidden delights” as advertised on their website. The opening set was based on the famous French composer Charles Gounod Romeo and Juliet. The first selection featured Juliette’s aria (a stand-alone piece) I want to live, where she sings about the joys of youth and for a brief moment, the diminishing of that joy as the youth fades away. Although I couldn’t understand the words due to the language barrier, the emotions conveyed by the music were contagious and enough to stimulate my quirky and exhausted mind.
This selection was followed by the famous balcony scene and featured the equally famous duo O divine night where Romeo and Juliet declare their eternal love. The next selection featured Stephano, a character from Gounod’s creation, in a trouser role – a refreshing change in 1867 from the usual mixed roles found in Shakespeare’s plays. Stephano, Romeo’s page, searches for him and informs Juliet’s family with a mocking air of how she is going to be ripped off in love.
The fourth and last selection of the set presents the wedding ceremony of Romeo and Juliet officiated by Brother Laurent. The ensemble ended on a happy note, an innovative departure from the sadly tragic end of the original piece.
The following ensemble was based on the opera The Barber of Seville by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini. It presented the story of Rosina, a wealthy student who fell in love with a mysterious man and beckons the fairies to bring him light. This calming composition was the perfect way to unwind on a lazy and slightly moody Thursday night.
This was followed by the next ensemble, based on the opera Così fan tutte by Mozart. The opera featured two sisters who asked for the winds to be gentle as the boats took their wives to war. This opera featured oversized characters who became entwined in a love triangle as the sisters’ spouses posed as suitors to test their fiancée’s loyalty.
The last and final series of the opera was a hidden gem, of sorts. It told the classic story of romantic betrayal as the daughter of a justice of the peace is heartbroken after facing the betrayal of her love at the hands of a powerful duke.
The opera transcends language barriers and creates bonds through music and pure emotion. While the latest iteration of Opera Under the Stars has proven to be a success, we hope that UBCO will continue this beautiful tradition for years to come.