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Calgary Opera begins next half-century with beloved blockbusters

For its 51st season, Calgary Opera is returning to the stage with some of the most beloved and well-known operas worldwide.

From Mozart to Wagner, and to the comedic and often dramatic styling of love, the new season is one focused on both style and substance.

“We designed a season of comedy, romance and adventure with the idea of finding something for everyone,” said Jonathan Brandani, artistic director for Calgary Opera.

“We believe that opera should be for everyone. Is for everyone.”

Calgary Opera’s season opens on October 14 with The Marriage of Figaro, something that Brandani said was a natural choice given it’s blockbuster reputation and easy accessibility for audiences.

“It’s a classic opera with mistaken identities, and servants outwitting their masters. It’s funny, it’s brilliant, it’s comedy, and still has very touching and profound moments,” he said.

“And Mozart’s music is just iconic, everybody knows it—even if though they don’t know that they know it, they will know it—because starting from the overture, everybody has heard the overture in commercials or movies.”

The Marriage of Figaro will be conducted by Brandani and directed by Aria Umezawa.

Internationally recognized bass-baritone Marcell Bakonyi will be performing as Figaro, and Susanna will be played by much-in-demand Italian-Canadian soprano Lucia Cesaroni.

Individual tickets open on June 19. For more details, see calgaryopera.com/figaro. And for more details on the entire 2023-2024 season, see calgaryopera.com/2023-24.

Elixir of Love just in time for Valentine’s Day

Brandani said that the second production for the season, Elixir of Love, was the perfect opera for Calgarians looking to get out of their homes and have a little romance.

It too features one of the best-known scores in opera, with the area Nemorino’s aria Una Furtiva Lagrima being one of those instantly recognizable songs for fans of the opera and the public alike.

“Now, I would dare say it’s another blockbuster. It’s a perfect example of opera because it combines romance and great music… there is comedy, and it’s a sort of a rom-com,” Brandani said.

“It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day for that time of year in February, where nobody wants to get out of their homes, because of the weather.”

He said that Calgary Opera was investing a lot of extra energy into this production through an additional matinee performance on February 4.

“Elixir will be a special project for us next season,” Brandani said.

The performance will be directed by Pablo Maritano, with performances by Simone Osborne, David Portillo, Andrew Love, and Ao Li.

Brandani said that the production would be featuring singers from Calgary Opera’s McPhee Artist Program, which provides opportunities for young performers to take to the main stage.

“We invest in young artists, and we invest in the future of Canadian opera,” Brandani said.

“We are adding performances next season of Elixir of Love, which will be cast by the McPhee artists that we have, because they’re great. And they deserve a chance on the main stage with the orchestra to delight our audiences.”

For more details, see calgaryopera.com/elixir.

Calgary Philharmonic takes centre stage in Das Rheingold

April’s performances of Wagner’s Das Rheingold can be described as nothing else but epic, said Brandani.

From the score itself, which will be performed by 80 members of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra right on stage with the singers, to the plot and characters themselves.

“I can’t think of any other adjective as epic or monumental, because opera is grand. And yet Rheingold brings opera to a totally different level,” he said.

“It’s a story about gods, giants, dwarves, magical creatures, water nymphs—and yet, it’s a story about our society and our struggles. It is a story that is very relevant today because it talks about us.”

He said that Calgary Opera was very excited to bring both Canadian and international names for the performance that will have those big voices to go along with the big sound of the CPO, and big set and big costumes.

“It’s a special stage production that has the [Alberta Theatre Productions] does Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, onstage with the singers… [they] will be acting through the orchestra, in front of the orchestra, above the orchestra with a special passerelle (a special bridge),” Brandani said.

“It’s a spectacular staging.”

He said that they were very excited to have Calgarian Gordon Gietz perform as Mime. He will be performing alongside British baritone and Wagner veteran James Rutherford as Wotan, and Grammy-nominated Filipino tenor Rodell Rosel as Loge.

For more information on Das Rheingold, see calgaryopera.com/rheingold.

Beauty of opera in Beauty and the Beast and in the community

Rounding out the season are a number of special performances throughout Calgary, including one of the much-beloved Beauty and the Beast at the Mamdani Opera Centre.

“This is such a classical tale, and it’s perfect for families,” said Brandani.

He said that the much-loved Opera Brunches would also be returning for the 51st season.

Special to the start of the next 50 years of Calgary Opera is the goal to bring opera to all of Calgary’s 212 neighbourhoods.

“We are actually going into every neighbourhood with our community ambassadors to provide educational programming for children and families,” Brandani said.

“Our goal is to cover as much of the season from September to May, and to give them as many opportunities as we can to experience opera.”