Friday, May 29, 2009

Top 10 Fridays: Modern Opera Houses

Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in the world. The opera house, completed in 1973, broke the mold and paved the way for modern design principles now being applied to opera houses around the world.

Just because opera is a "traditional" artform, that doesn't mean opera houses have to look Neo-Classical or Baroque. No longer do opera houses have to have all the gilt, frescoed ceilings, chandeliers and other accoutrements.

It's okay to look progressive or futuristic. In fact, it absolutely rocks. Why blend in when you can stand out?

To launch our first weekly Top 10 feature, here's our picks for 10 Modern Opera Houses (in no particular order). We invite you to take our poll located on the right sidebar and tell us your pick for the #1 Modern Opera House. Make your voices heard and we'll post the results next week!

"The Armadillo" aka Wales Millenium Centre
Cardiff, Wales

GöteborgsOperan aka Gothenburg Opera
Gothenburg, Sweden

Kansallisooppera aka The Finnish National Opera
Helsinki, Finland

Four Seasons Opera House
Toronto, Canada

El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía aka Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts
Valencia, Spain

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation
Astana, Kazakhstan

Oslo Opera House
Oslo, Norway

Esplanade-Theatres by the Bay
Singapore City, Singapore

"The Egg" aka National Centre for the Performing Arts
Beijing, China

Operaen aka Copenhagen Opera House
Copenhagen, Denmark

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Operamania 101: A Three Hour Tour

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...

When I was in grade school, I used to run home after school to watch re-runs of the ultimate trifecta in comedies: Happy Days, Three's Company and Gilligan's Island.

I especially enjoyed the absurd antics of the seven castaways who had packed way too much for a 3 hour pleasure cruise, who seemed to enjoy a never-ending supply of coconut or banana cream pies and of how the professor can build anything yet didn't come up with a way to construct a raft to get off the island.

The episode, The Producer, was selected by TV Guide as one of the 100 greatest tv episodes of all time. In the episode, the castaways try to impress a Hollywood producer by performing Hamlet, set to Bizet's Habanera and Toreador from Carmen, as well as Offenbach's Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman.

Below, the real mccoy. A triple whammy treat for your Wednesday's Operamania 101.

Although watching Gilligan's Island required you to check your brain at the door, it was a show enjoyed by millions and as it's found a place in syndication, future generations can learn of Shakespeare, Bizet and Offenbach as children.

Now that it's all coming back to you, I dare you not to sing Hamlet's "soliliquy" to Habanera. Ear worm, much?

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Operamania 101: Power to the Fifth

What do you get when you mix Bruce Willis in his usual malcontent hero role, Milla Jovovich as "the perfect being" and Madonna's Blond Ambition tour costume designer Jean Paul Gaultier?

You get the outrageous intergalactic action-comedy extravaganza called The Fifth Element by French director Luc Besson. And did I mention the cotton ball hair style of Chris Tucker too? This cult classic movie is definitely a guilty pleasure.

But amidst the fighting for the survival of man storyline and the 900+ out-of-this-world costumes comes one of the most memorable scenes of the movie. And it involves opera.

Diva Plavalaguna, a blue skinned alien with 2 tentacular appendages on her head, performed for the transfixed audience on the luxury space liner at Fhloston Paradise or if you've been there already, you'll recognize it to be the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London.

She sang Il Dolce Suono from Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, first classically then more up-tempo until she's out and out rocking the house.

Soprano Inva Mula Tchako provided the actual vocals for actress Maïwenn Le Besco.

The song is originally from Act III, Scene 1 of Lucia di Lammermoor and often referred to as "the mad scene", an enactment of going off the deep end in an opera.

A visual and aural assault on the senses, The Fifth Element is definitely a space opera. Who would've thought you'd learn opera from a sci-fi movie?

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Operamania 101: Flying the Friendly Skies

Think this graph sums up your knowledge of opera?

Well then, class is now in session.

Actually, you, me and everyone we know knows more about opera than we may originally thought. If you've grown up watching cartoons, movies, commercials or are a pop culture addict, you've been exposed to opera and may not even realized it.

So to prep you for a BIG surprise we have planned for next season, we'll ease you into some (P)OPera Culture 101 and turn you from an Operaphobe into an Operaphile.

In 1989 British Airways became "The World's Favourite Airline" with their Saatchi & Saatchi produced commercial, featuring "Aria", based on "Flower Duet" from French opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes. What was doubly cool was this re-worked version was produced by Malcolm McClaren of the Sex Pistols fame and Yanni. Yes, Yanni, who picked up the Grammy that year for this cover version.

Course Yanni would not have won ANY Grammy had there not been the original song.

Crank it to 11.

~ Ling Chan

Saturday, May 9, 2009

So Good We Had to Bring Her Back

Tonight is not only the final performance of Salome but when it wraps, it'll be the 3rd Salome that Vancouver Opera has produced in its 49 year history. Fortunately, each time the same opera is performed, the look and direction are always different, thus ensuring a different experience for opera-going audiences.

Curious to see what the other Salome productions looked like, I scoured VO's old binders with the hundreds of slides of past shows (this was obviously the era before digital cameras)

In 1991, Glynis Leyshon, who most recently directed Rigoletto this season, helmed Vancouver Opera's first Salome. Stephanie Sundine starred as Salome, William Neill as Herod and Victoria Vergara as Herodias. The set as designed by Pam Johnson who envisioned an end of the century desert resort. Sundine's Salome took inspiration from Marilyn Monroe with her billowy pleated white skirt.

Six years later, Vancouver Opera would mount Canada's provocative filmmaker Atom Egoyan's vision of Salome. This version was controversial because of Egoyan's use of multimedia techniques in the visually stunning but minimalist set. (although i would say egoyan's vision was ahead for its time). For example, Herod would spy on Salome using video cameras and what the audience would see are images of Salome projected on screens.

The majority of the cast would wear antiseptic white uniforms in a medical-like setting and that combined with the stark lightning, would result in double shadows.

With overtones of voyeurism, this daring production also gave some insight into Salome's childhood, including abuse and gang rape. Filmed projections of a young Salome included her swinging on a swing set and walking through a primordial forest blindfolded. For her dance of the seven veils, it was done behind a thinly veiled scrim.

Egoyan's version has been called part art exhibit, modern dance production and classical concert. And I would've loved to have seen this one.

Mary Jane Johnson starred as 1997's Salome, Gregg Baker as Jokanaan, Jacque Trussel as Herod and Judith Forst as Herodias.

And although each production is different from each other, there are a few small factoids that link them all together:

Benoit Boucher played Narraboth in the first and second Salome.
Judith Forst would play Herodias in 1997 and 2009's Salome.
The 1997 and 2009 production of Salome have raked (slanted) stages, symbolizing the dysfunction of the family.

However the most common thread in every VO production of Salome remains: the opera audiences losing their minds over Strauss' music and also the need to engage in conversation of one of the most disturbing yet compelling operas of all time.

I wonder what the next vision of Salome may look like. It might be years from now but our girl Salome will never really be far away.

Cuz everybody knows, you can't keep a bad girl down.

Photos by Tim Matheson

~ Ling Chan

editors note: Salome 2009 is the 4th time Vancouver Opera produced Strauss' opera. The very first one was in 1969. Unfortunately, there does not exist any pictures in our archives from that production. Thanks to the Director of Marketing for the correction.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Work It!

Dear Hip Young Things,

Thanks for dressing up to the nines for Salome! You guys make us look GOOD!

I know I couldn't get around to all of you (as there was no intermission at Salome and so many of you fashionistas), but I will definitely snap your pic next season.

We can't wait to see what you PYTs come up with in the fall!

Sincerely yours,

The Operazza

~ Ling Chan

Herod Has His Cake

Not only was it the second to last performance of Salome tonight BUT it was also John Mac Master's birthday!

So while the opening scene on stage got underway, little did the audience know but some of us were backstage watching John cut into the 2 very yummy, very creamy cakes.

Although everyone was happy to celebrate with him, I found out that the performers couldn't quite have their slices of cakes JUST yet. After all, they had to sing. And moist creamy cake does not for optimal vocal range and projection make.

Course by the end of Salome, the plates and plates of cake vanished.

Happy birthday John from everyone at the VO!

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You Know You Wanna

So come on, already.

video by: Bombshelter Productions & Mike McKinlay

There are just 2 more mind-blowing performances left.

If you haven't experienced Salome yet, do we have a wicked deal for you!

2-4-1 offer on Thursday or Saturday's performance. With a deal this irresistible, you can even watch it twice.

Call 604.683.0222 and give 'em Promo #1833.

Come see what's the talk of the town. Come see Salome get hers.

~ Ling Chan

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bloggers Take A Bow!

And now...a word from our bloggers:

"I’ve come to realize that with opera, there really isn’t a dull moment." - Miss 604

"Salome is one f***ed up girl, and I can’t wait to see the VO’s take on it." - Kimli

"My favourite part of the tour was the severed head…" - Netchick

"And don’t forget the blood sponge! Gotta love an opera with gore." - Tris Hussey

"The previous experiences I have had at the Vancouver Opera have been always fantastic and I expect this one to be the same." - Hummingbird 604

We would like to thank all our bloggers for making our Blogger Nights at the Opera this past season such a success! It was wonderful getting to know you! You guys rock!

Blogger night at Salome

Blogger night at Rigoletto

Blogger night at Carmen

See you next season at the theatre!

~ Ling Chan

Under The Blade

Exactly who is this colourful character who piqued the curiosity of all the attendees at the Salome backstage party and what is his connection to Vancouver Opera?

Meet our man who executes Salome. Milford Kemp is a trained dancer, former professional boxer and fashion designer (he only wears his own creations) from Montreal. Part Jimmy Hendrix and part Bootsy Collins, you would never know from his physique and wearing a leather thong onstage that Kemp is 54 years young.

VO Company Manager Adrianne Wurz explained that she found out about Kemp from a supernumerary when she was casting Rigoletto. Wurz' criteria for the role of the executioner: someone who was comfortable with their body, someone who could wear a thong and little else and someone who could perform onstage in front of 2600+ people.

We found the right man it seems and the feeling's mutual. Kemp who's never been to Vancouver or to an opera before (much less perform in one) is so impressed with Vancouver, its people and the art of opera that he may very well bring his flavour and style and make Vancouver his next home.

VO can chalk up another opera convert.

~ Ling Chan

Do A Little Dance...

Make a little love. Get down tonight.

Do you have your ticket to see Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils yet? There's only 3 more performances left. See what everyone's talking about. Don't miss out.

Video by: Bombshelter Productions & Mike McKinlay

Buy one ticket at regular price, get one FREE! Applies to all performance dates! Call the VO Ticket Centre at 604-683-0222 to take advantage of this offer. Promotion Code 1833.

~ Ling Chan

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Salome: Powerhouse Times Two

The biggest voices. The biggest personalities.

And they're on the Vancouver Opera stage.

Don't miss John Mac Master and Judith Forst as Herod and Herodias.

Video by: Bombshelter Productions & Mike McKinlay

Buy one ticket at regular price, get one FREE! Applies to all performance dates!

Call the VO Ticket Centre at 604-683-0222 to take advantage of this offer. Promotion Code 1833.

~ Ling Chan

Friday, May 1, 2009

Salome: Lifting the Veil

So this is the object of lust who causes Salome to unleash her inner crazy! Here's a sneak peek of the incomparable Greer Grimsley as Jokanaan (John the Baptist)

Video by: Bombshelter Productions & Mike McKinlay

Get blown away by bass-baritone Greer Grimsley with our BOGO offer!

Buy one ticket at regular price, get one FREE! Applies to all performance dates!

Call the VO Ticket Centre at 604-683-0222 to take advantage of this offer. Promotion Code 1833.

Now the fine print: Subject to availability. Seats may not be available in all price sections. Service charges and conditions apply. This offer may not be combined with any other offer and may not be used to replace tickets already purchased.

~ Ling Chan