Monday, January 26, 2009

Blogger Night Connections

OK, here's how this is going down. We've got four bloggers we've invited to Tuesday Night's performance of Carmen. We've invited them to blog live throughout the evening on their experiences. We've added a blogroll on the right hand side bar which should update as they post. You can also connect to each of them here:

I'd say start checking in around 7:30pm-ish when the show starts.....

Big thanks to all of them for taking us up on this little experiment!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Goes well with breakfast

Forget those boring comics in your morning paper when you're having your coffee/tea and toast with jam.

Instead, check out the awesomeness that is vancouver opera's Carmen manga:

It's the beginning of the end for carmen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blogger Night @ The Opera

As we mentioned earlier this week, we’ll be doing the first ever Blogger Night @ The Opera this Tuesday (Jan 27). Four prominent local bloggers have been invited to bring their laptops down to the QET and blog from the lobby before the show and during the first intermission.

Some of these bloggers have been to an opera before while others are complete newbies. We’ve asked them to share their thoughts on the entire experience, from hobnobbing with other opera patrons at the bar, to seeing the gorgeous costumes and sets, to hearing all those famous tunes performed live. We’ll be linking their reports to our website, too.

These bloggers all have very strong readership, so this event will help many many people learn a bit about what VO does. And hopefully, those many many people will come to the opera themselves next time!

Here are the blogs:
….and here’s her post that shows just how excited she is:
…and her review of Onegin:

If you’d like to know more, post a comment, and we'll get back to you asap. And feel free to say hello to the bloggers if you’re there on Tuesday!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Sitzprobe is not a Skin Care Device

Sitzprobe literally translates to "sit and study" and is the first music rehearsal where all the musical components of an opera come together. It is here that the singers and orchestra hear each other for the first time. The sitzprobe is their opportunity to sit down and go through the music from beginning to end, integrating both groups.

Up until the "sitz", the orchestra, chorus and principle singers have been rehearsing separately. Last week I sat in on a staging rehearsal where the singers would sing along to piano accompaniment as the director went over how he envisions a scene. A couple days later, I caught a note reading with the conductor and orchestra. And although it was rehearsed in a church hall, thus lacking the acoustics of the theatre we'll be performing out of, it was still wonderous to listen to, especially as I was sitting 3 feet away from the horns and bass section. It was like sitting right in the orchestra pit with them.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure to observe the "sitz" at work at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. We're a week out from the Carmen opening night and I sat enthralled, watching the conductor, Anthony Walker, fuse together all the elements with the jaunt of his baton and hand gesturing motions to the orchestra, as well as, collaborating and giving direction to the singers and chorus onstage.

The sitzprobe marks the first step to a very busy forthcoming week. On monday, it's the start of tech week which involves loading in, setting the stage, sound and lights. Then it's full-on rehearsals with the cast in costumes. The dress rehearsal is this thursday and Vancouver Opera opens for a 6 performance run starting next Saturday.

Think you don't know opera? Well, everybody knows Carmen. It's right up there with Madama Butterfly and La Boheme as the most popular operas out there. Even an opera neophyte will recognize the famous song, Habanera or the sweeping prelude, les toreadors.

George Bizet's Carmen has been performed thousands of time over, inspiring Jim Hensen's Muppets and comedian Benny Hill. There's even a carmen legos opera. that's right. LEGOS. Carmen joining the pantheons of legos tribute, alongside The Dark Knight, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. How's that for pop culture cross-over?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Carmen Manga Sneak Preview

For our loyal blog readers, a sneak preview of the new Carmen Manga by Roy Husada & Finoa Meng! Not yet posted to our website, this is an exclusive "first panel" of six that'll soon go on the website! Thanks for reading and supporting Vancouver Opera!

Click on the image to increase to readable size.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Everybody's A Critic: My Simian Adventure

I have been following the rise and success of Monkey: Journey to the West opera since last spring because I was intrigued at the idea of an opera that incorporated a kaleidoscope of multimedia effects, martial arts and cirque du soleil-like costumes and acrobatics, all set against the backdrop of a Chinese childhood fable. Monkey is not aimed at the average opera-goer.

The opera was created as a collaboration between Chinese director Chen Shi-zheng, UK’s Blur frontman Damon Albarn who composed the score and Tank Girl artist Jamie Hewlett who envisioned the set, animation and costumes. Albarn and Hewlett’s most recent collaboration together was the highly successful virtual band Gorillaz.

Monkey: Journey to the West tells the story of Monkey and his companion's pilgrimage to bring back the Buddhist scrolls from India. In their quest for redemption and their hopes for immortality, the group must confront the White Skeleton Demon, the Spider Woman and Princess Iron Fan.

After missing the sold out shows at both the Spoleto Festival and a limited engagement at Royal Opera House, I finally got to watch this “circus opera” in a specially constructed tent at the Meridian Gardens, right next to London’s O2 Arena last month. It was worth the wait.

My friend Chris and I watched as the 2 hour extravaganza unfold before us with the Mandarin speaking, operatic singers as well as the corde lisse aerialists, plate spinners, uni-cyclists, contortionists and hand balancing, pole climbing, gravity-defying acrobats.

The first couple of scenes of Monkey: Journey to the West had me a touch annoyed watching the brattish and arrogant Monkey causing havoc all around. It also started wearing thin as Monkey continually snorts out his annoying laugh, hisses at his enemies and scratches at his nether regions. It's only when Monkey gets his come-uppance, that the opera starts to get better.

I found the animation projected on the scrim before each scene wonderfully imaginative, the costumes and make up striking and eye-catching and the colourful set, especially the last scene with the 30 foot Buddha mountain fantastical.

The 20 piece orchestra playing both western and eastern instruments sat stage right in full view of the audience, which I thought lent itself to creating an intimate feeling. The classical/pop music were catchy and accessible.

What was weak about the production was that the surtitles were off to both stage left and right, rather than projected above the stage, which meant that as you read what was being sung, you’d miss the visuals and routines on stage. As well, in keeping with the big-top circus feel, the long rows of metallic bleacher-style seats were uncomfortable to sit in for such a long period of time. But these small inconveniences did not detract from the opera.

The story even got a bit saucy, getting a modern and adult spin on the childhood fable. This is apparent in the scene where the scantily-clad Spider Women tries to seduce the pilgrims Tripitaka and Pigsy on their silk banners hanging down from the rafters. The song they sing gives rise to a new euphemism for doing the sexy times with the phrase, “Let's rock the dragon and flip the phoenix."

The event space for Monkey: Journey to the West also includes a pre-show dinner and intermission lounge, red paper lanterns festooning the ceiling of the lobby, a foot massage parlour, a painted wall mural where you can take pictures standing beside Monkey on their journey and a booth selling merchandise ranging from £10-80.

After Monkey ended, Chris and I got to hang out for a backstage tour, walk amongst the very diminutive acrobats and performers with their wash board six pack stomachs as well as meet and have a drink with the show producer so that I could express my appreciation on a wonderfully stylish production.

I waited so long and never thought I would be able to catch Monkey but I'll be a monkey's uncle that the opportunity as well as the timing did finally present itself.

~ Ling Chan