Article Written by Teiya Kasahara – Social Media/Design Intern @coffeescreative
At Coffeeshop Creative we are not only passionate about designing and developing a unique web presence for our clients but also sharing their stories. We are super excited to share another story in our series of blogs – Grabbing Coffee. Today’s feature is the University of Toronto Opera School. As we are designing the upcoming launch of the opera school’s custom website, we recently caught up with Michael Albano- Resident Stage Director, and Sandra Horst- Director of Music Studies at U of T Opera. So pour yourself your favourite cup, or grab a coffee to go, and discover opera at the University of Toronto.
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1. Give us a little history behind the U of T Opera School?
Our story starts in the fall of 1946, where an unprecedented and unique course of instruction was introduced into the curriculum of the newly organized Senior School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Conceived by its first director, Arnold Walter, the Opera School [now U of T Opera] has had a great impact on operatic life in Canada and beyond.
The Edward Johnson building, U of T Opera’s current home was officially opened in March of 1964 and as part of the opening ceremonies, Albert Herring was performed in the most striking facility in the building, the MacMillan Theatre — a fully-equipped opera house with a fly tower, a counterweight system, and a hydraulically elevated orchestra pit. The facility was, and still today, the envy of many operatic training programs worldwide.
2. How important is technology in the world of opera today?
Technology has always been a vital component of opera. One must remember that the beautiful humming chorus in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly didn’t spring initially from a musical idea but rather from Puccini’s attendance of a performance of the play, Madame Butterfly in London. The production boasted an elongated sunset effect, the first attempt at the sophisticated use of lighting dimmers over a prolonged period of time. Impressed by this technological achievement, Puccini fashioned his musical score to reflect and capture that experience.
Advances made in stage lighting have been indispensable. Opera was the first to use projections instead of hard scenery and the operatic form by its very nature is often required to scenically suggest fantastical scenarios [such as Wagner’s Ring Cycle]. Such challenges continue to coincide in an exciting way with the sophisticated development of technology available to the theatre.
3. Take us through a day in the life of a U of T opera student?
For a UofT Opera student, every day is different. You are expected to be available from 10am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday and while you know the shape of the week the exact schedule is not published until the day before, allowing for the greatest flexibility. In the morning you may have a coaching to work on repertoire or on certain days your voice lesson, an elective or movement class. The afternoons are devoted to Opera Studies where you may have more coachings, stagings or a class. Weekly classes include Musical Skills, Repertoire Studies, Recitative Class, and Acting. Specialized classes occur throughout the year such as Master Classes with guest professionals, stage deportment, and a stage makeup workshop.
4. Tell us about the upcoming season for U of T Opera?
The 2016/17 Season at UofT Opera begins with the first main stage production of Offenbach’s entertaining Orphée aux Enfers, sung in French with English dialogue. Featuring the famous Can-Can it will be staged by Michael Patrick Albano with Russell Braun in his main stage conducting debut. November 24-27. Prima Zombie, the Diva that just wouldn’t stay dead is the title of this year’s Student Composer Project. Based on an original libretto by Michael Patrick Albano, seven Faculty of Music Composition students will provide the music for this world premiere performance February 5. A Handel rarity, Imeneo, directed by the award winning operatic director, Tim Albery, will be performed in Italian with English surtitles March 16-19th in a new production.
5. And most importantly, the faculty’s favourite style of coffee?
Tall, bold, no room.
Photo Credits: Richard Lu and Daniel Denino