Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Operamania 101: Your New Best Friend

I would imagine that most actors would like from their body of work to be known to movie-goers as one definitive character. A character they so embodied and was so convincing, we can't think of any other actor who would've done a better job portraying that character. Perhaps some actors would luck out and be known as 2 or more defining roles.

When I think of all American boy-next-door actor, Matt Damon, I think of Jason Bourne of Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum. But what also comes to mind is the smaller non-blockbuster movie that Damon was so convincing in: The Talented Mr Ripley. Matt Damon was Tom Ripley, just as Jude Law, in my eyes, will always be Dickie Greenleaf. This drama was a taut, on the edge of your seat thriller; so much so that I couldn't decide if I wanted Tom Ripley to get caught or to get away with his crime.

When Tom meets Dickie, the contrast between them couldn't be more different. Beside the fact that the two were from completely different social classes, Tom was a classical music and opera buff, while Dickie lived for jazz. And because of the privileges that Dickie has at his feet, Tom became obsessed with Dickie; first wanting to be his very best friend in the world, then wanting to literally be him. (hello, male version of Single White Female?)

Dickie and Tom. Friends til the end.

When Tom accidentally/on purpose kills Dickie, he then starts to assume Dickie's identity and lives Dickie's life of lavishness.

While in Rome, Tom watches an operatic performance of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.

Watching the emotional duel scene of Eugene Onegin

When it came to the pistol duel between Onegin and his best friend Lenski, Tom started to weep because he drew parallels from the story unfolding right in front of him onstage, to him having just killed his best friend.

Click here for Lenski's aria from Act 2, Scene 2 that was portrayed in the movie:

Of course he was not sorry enough for what he did, nor did he want to give up his new lifestyle, as Tom continued desperately to play out the rest of the cat and mouse game in the movie.

The Talented Mr Ripley serves as a cautionary tale of "how well do you REALLY know your new best friend?" And also what can happen if you get stuck on a row boat, in the middle of the ocean and piss off said friend.

~ Ling Chan

Friday, June 19, 2009

Top 10 Fridays: Haunted Opera Houses (North American edition)

With such a powerful array of emotions being played out on opera stages, it's not difficult to imagine how some hate to leave the excitement of opera houses, prefering to linger there as long as they could.

But to remain there for all eternity?

This week's Top 10 looks at (reported) Haunted Opera Houses with their ghostly performers continuing to tread the boards in the afterlife and audience apparitions with their phantom applause and laughter long after the lights have gone down and the building is empty.

Take our poll located on the right sidebar and let us know which Haunted Opera House you think is the creepiest.

1. Woodstock Opera House, Woodstock Illinois
There roams the spirit of a beautiful actress nicknamed “Elvira”. She reportedly committed suicide by jumping from the tower of theatre. She makes her presence known by props falling or disappearing off the stage. Or you can check out her favourite spring-loaded seat #113 slowly lowering by itself. 8% of vote

2. Central City Opera House, Colorado
A friendly ghost known as Mike Dougherty, who had drank himself to death. You'll know he's around by the strong waft of alcohol, nudges on the shoulder or hair being touseled from behind. Or catch him as flickering orbs of lights. 4% of vote

3. Orpheum Theatre, Memphis TN
The spirit of a little girl named Mary resides here. And just like a little girl, she giggles and plays pranks. Doors open and close by themselves and the pipe organ is played by unseen hands. Folks there hear small footsteps going up and down the aisles. Mary also has a favourite seat C-5. 6% of vote

4. Springer Opera House, Columbus GA
Edwin Booth, a Shakespearean actor when he was alive, appears suddenly on centre stage, moves stage props and taps people on the shoulder. The spirit, who's portrait still hangs at the opera house, also slams doors and locates missing wardrobe pieces. He was also the brother of John Wilkes Booth. (who you know as Abraham Lincoln's assassin) a supernatural 83% of vote

5. Grand Opera House, Dubuque Iowa
There are an unknown number of ghosts that refuse to leave here. Various encounters include singing from the empty stage, phantom footsteps and unexplained changes in temperature. On the technical front, there are reports of outages, spotlights falling or moving in all directions and lights turning on and off. 3% of vote

6. Canmore Opera House, Canmore AB
Yay, Canada! “Sam”, an older gentlemen ghost is seen wandering around or sitting in third seat of third row where he catches the performances. You may also find objects being misplaced. 3% of vote

7. Fulton Opera House, Lancaster Pennsylvia
The opera house was built partially over foundations of the old Lancaster jail where Conestoga Indians were kept for their own safety, before a mad mob rushed the jail to torture and kill them. Now, they make their presence known by ghostly lights and ghostly screams, phantom applause and the piano playing by itself. 3% of vote

8. Cabot Theatre, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The opera house is reputed to be haunted by the founder Clair Richardson, who makes himself known with flickering lights, moving props, falling exit signs, and most famously driving shows he doesn't like to a halt with technical problems. That might be because he swore the company would only continue, "over my dead body", so they placed his ashes under the stage! The dedicated spotlight on his urn below the stage is checked every night as part of the regular pre-show run down, because if the light goes out...old Clair acts up! 8% of vote

9. Orillia Opera House , Orillia ON
Another Canadian one! Here lives the spirit of actor Glenn Gould and he'll let you know he's around by unexplained piano playing, flushing toilets, cold spots and chilling screams. 3% of vote

10. Washington Opera House, Maysville, Kentucky
Dancer Loretta Stambo reported collapsed onstage from pneumonia and later died. Theatre folk have witnessed a coke bottle exploding all of a sudden in a dressing room. But that's nothing compared to how unnerved people feel looking at the painting of Loretta in the lobby. They swear that the eyes in the painting follow them around. 3% of vote

So next time you're at the opera and the hair on your neck stand up, it may NOT just be from the air con. Cuz everyone knows, once you get bit by the showbiz bug, it's very difficult to give it up.

Check back here next week for the hair-raising results. Spooky.

**Thanks for voting in last week's Top 10 poll for Top 10 Opera Fails! I'm sure this comes as no surprise, but the biggest fail is Talkers at the opera, followed closely by Stinkers. Tied at third place were the Ringers/Beepers and Latecomers.**

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Operamania 101: Only Stanley Kubrick

...could get away with this.

I think everyone has seen or attempted to have seen A Clockwork Orange growing up.

A rather disturbing and subversive little movie by director Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange follows a group of psychopathic delinquents' reign of terror in a small English town. The gang, calling themselves the Droogs, is fronted by Alex Delarge, played by the charismatic Malcolm McDowell. Alex, for all his leanings towards violence, surprisingly fancies classical music, particularly Beethoven.

The movie makes use of not one but 2 of Gioachino Rossini's operatic works.

One is the William Tell Overture used when Alex is having "relations" with 2 young devotchkas whom he picks up at a record store.

The other is the overture from La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie), which is played twice in the movie.

The first when the Droogs start a brawl with a rival gang.

And then when one Droog tries to challenge Alex for leadership of the gang and then gets shown the what's what.

Not for the faint of heart, although I did like the bowler hats, eyeliner, suspenders and cockney rhyming slang, A Clockwork Orange remains an iconic film by the bizarre genius that was Kubrick. It is definitely worth viewing, if only just to see how classical music and famous songs such as Singing in the Rain are used in ways one would've never imagined.

Which begs the question: what would Rossini, Beethoven and Gene Kelly have thought about all this?

~ Ling Chan

Friday, June 12, 2009

Top 10 Fridays: Opera Fails

To fully enjoy the visceral experience that is opera, there are certain things one must do: research the opera plot so you are familiar with what you're going to see, take the opportunity at the theatre to people watch and if you're in the mood, by all means, make a swanky date night out of it with dinner and cocktails.

Then there are certain things one musn't do.

Your weekly installment of Top 10 Fridays asks what you think is the biggest opera FAIL? Take our poll located on the right sidebar and let us know. And yes, you can choose more than one! (Poll is now closed, results are noted beside the descriptions of what % of people found that annoying)

Latecomers 32%

Rustling of candy wrappers 25%

Jangly Jewellery 10%

Talking during the performance 50%

Stinky smells: perfumes, colognes, cigarettes, body odour 35%

Not using the coat check 7%

Use of cell phones & electronic devices 32%

Mile high hair or non-removal of hats 10%

Coughs, sneezes and sniffles 28%

Leaving before or during curtain call 25%

Long lines for the bathrooms, bars or box office 28%

Falling asleep....and snoring 10%

Check back here next week for the biggest OPERA FAIL. Dunh, dunh, da!

**Thanks for voting in last week's Top 10 poll for Best Dressed Couple! Although everyone looked fantabulous and are winners all around, it came down neck and neck between Funky Elegance (61 votes) and Patterned Girls (62 votes). In the end, you definitely loved your couple with a bit of decoration! Congrats to all!**

~ Ling Chan

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Operamania 101: The Magic Flute As You've Never Seen It Before

Although Kenneth Branagh's The Magic Flute was released overseas in 2007, it's just being released in Vancouver tomorrow. Branagh, director of Shakespeare's Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet and Love's Labour's Lost has re-worked Mozart's beloved fairy tale opera.

Opera fans should expect the movie to be different than how they'd normally watch Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. For starters, the movie is sung all in English (rather than in German) and is set against the backdrop of World War I. This fantasy/dramedy also utilizes computer graphics, coloured screens and CGI wizardry.

A fairy tale about a prince, his sidekick, a princess and the queen of the night, The Magic Flute is a story about following your heart and is chock full of love and hate, good and evil, knowledge and philosophy. Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser plays lead character, Tamino.

Purists may be skeptical about the movie, but if you're a fan of Branagh's, it may be worth a look. A Magic Flute you've never seen before. Could be cinematic magic.

~ Ling Chan

How Would We Look As Anime?

If you happen to go to Anime Evolution 2009 this weekend, a 3 day festival celebrating all things anime, you'll find out about our latest surprise that we're launching this fall. (look inside your goody bag!)

Vancouver Opera is a proud sponsor of this year's Anime Evolution, alongside Nintendo, Sakura Media and The Connection Games.

Weekend activities will include panel discussions, workshops with voice actors, artists, animators and game developers, cosplay aka "costume roleplay" contests, 24-hour video rooms, a charity auction, games and much more.

So don on your Final Fantasy, Sailor Moon or Kill Bill's GoGo Yubari of The Crazy 88 Gang school girl outfits, this yearly festival will make you feel like you've walked into the pages of a manga or a video game.

For more info, check out Anime Evolution.

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Operamania 101: Take Snacking to a Higher Level

I feel like a laugh today. It's mid-week. It's Operamania 101 Day.

I don't know what it is but people over at Doritos love them some opera!

The finalists in the past 3 years of Doritos' "Crash the Superbowl" campaign, a contest for fans to submit Doritos commercials in order to win $1M and have their ad televised during the big game, chose to set their commercials to famous operas.

Doritos - Crash the Super Bowl
2007 finalist "Live the Flavor" set to Libiamo Ne' Lieti Calici from Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata

2008 finalist "Mouse Trap" set to Habanera from Georges Bizet's Carmen

2009 finalist "Power of the Crunch" set again to Libiamo Ne' Lieti Calici from Verdi's La traviata

Not to be outdone, England came up with a similar contest called "Doritos UK Make Your Own Ad", where contestants could win £20K. And one finalist chose to use opera in a hilarious way:

"It Helps to Read the Brief" set to the tune of Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turandot.

Puts one in a snacky mood, doesn't it? So while I go off in search of some cheesy goodness, below are Verdi and Puccini for your mid-week listening pleasure.


~ Ling Chan

Friday, June 5, 2009

Top 10 Fridays: Best Dressed Couples

One of the best things about coming to the opera (besides the wonderful and exciting productions on-stage) is to check out what the lovely folks of Vancouver are wearing to the opera.

While there is no official "dress code", it's always a delight when young couples go all out and dandy themselves up. Many treat going out to see an opera as a full-on date night: dressing up, cocktails & dinner followed by opera at the theatre.

And that is what we LOVE to see.

While there were oh-so-many to choose from this past season with our Carmen, Rigoletto and Salome productions, here are our picks for 10 Best Dressed Couples. We invite you to take our poll located on the right sidebar and tell us your pick for #1 Best Dressed Couple. Check back here next week for the results!

The Sophisticates

Tangerine & Lime

Pinstripes & Shine

Splash of Colour

Bejewelled Ladies

Girls with Curls

Funky Elegance

Elegant & Ruffled

Patterned Girls

Feathers & Shine

Catching one of our operas is your front row ticket to a fashion show! It's the ultimate in people-watching.

We can't wait to see what our PYTs come up with for next season!

Check out all our fashion photos on our Flickr stream today!

**Thanks for voting in last week's first Top 10 poll! Boy, was it ever so close! By a difference of one vote, your pick for #1 Modern Opera House was Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts in Valencia, Spain!**

~ Ling Chan

Top Modern Opera House: Valencia

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

El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia of Valencia Spain edged out "The Egg" in Beijing as the VO fans "Top Modern Opera House" in last weeks poll. It was followed by Copenhagen Opera House, then Helsinki, Oslo and Toronto to round out the top six.

The Queen Sophia Palace of the Arts, opened on 8 October 2005, is a futuristic temple of music dedicated to Queen Sophia of Spain. It was designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who was born near Valencia.

The project cost € 165 million to build, and is one of the world's biggest structures of its kind: it extends 40,000 m2 over 12 stories and hosts four performance spaces (opera house, symphonic concert hall, ballet house and theatre) with a total audience capacity of 4,000. It rises 75m high, extends 163m in length and is 87m wide. The top section is 237m long. The building is surrounded by 40,000m2 of gardens, 11,000m2 of pools and footpaths.

Scenic lifts and sweeping stairways along the steel cladding on each side of the building give access to the terraces located at varying levels, and to the gardens and footpaths. The main material used in the construction was white concrete which covers most of the structural supports. The mosaic chosen to cover the steel shells was also an unusual choice. "To tie the palace even more to the city of Valencia", explained Calatrava, "I opted for the traditional ceramic used over the centuries here, including the shard variety that we call trencadis".

The building is part of an impressive Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias de Valencia, which is home to L´Hemisfèric, the Prince Felipe Science Museum and L´Umbracle, and L'Oceanogràfic.

The programming the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía {PHOTOS} includes celebration of the Operalia Event, under the management of Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo. This is one of the most prestigious international competitions for opera singers starting out on their career. It produces a full season of opera under the baton of Music Director Lorin Maazel and under the direction of Intendent and Regia, Helga Schmidt.

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The 'Bot Wants You!

Our Operabot contest got mentioned in this week's Georgia Straight.

To get in on the hot action, go to Vancouver Opera's YouTube Channel.

Drool-worthy prizes include:

Wacom Intuos4
Fuji FinePix S-5100 Camera
A games package: Dead Space, Fear 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Street Fighter 4 for PS3 or 360
PS3 with exclusive Kill Zone 2

So feel free to go all-out and come up with some mind-blowin', gangbusters shorts inspired by our operas next season!

We can't wait to see your creations!

~ Ling Chan

Operamania 101: A Room With A View

The romantic power of opera was probably best used in the 1986 Merchant/Ivory movie, A Room With A View based on the E.M. Forster book. The Academy Award winner for Best Picture starred Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis and Maggie Smith.

The movie takes place in England and Italy at the turn of the century. The soaring aria by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini perfectly complemented the free-spiritedness and romance of Edwardian-era Italy. For it is here that Lucy Honeychurch fell in love with the impetuous George Emerson.

Forward to 3:35 to see George, in a fit of passion, kiss Lucy in a barley field to the song of Chi il bel sogno di Doretta by Soprano Dame Kiri Te Kawana. The song is from Act 1 of the opera, La Rondine.

After realizing that Lucy is in love with George, she elopes with him to Florence and honeymoons at the pensione where they first met. The closing music is another romantic masterpiece from Puccini called O mio babbino caro from his opera, Gianni Schicchi.

Puccini, whose great works include Turandot, Tosca, La boheme and Madama Butterfly, is one of the world's most beloved operatic composers. His music was the perfect choice for a movie that sweeps you away in the throes of love.

So should you be inclined to visit romantic Florence Italy with your significant other, stay at the Hotel Degli Orafi (where the movie was filmed) with its magnificent terrace and splendid views of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. Just don't forget the Puccini.

Ah, amore

~ Ling Chan