In the Classical world, where things can be a bit too serious, it is good to see opera that are fun and exciting while going to the depths that this rich art form is capable of.
There is a perceived air or atmosphere around Classical music as a whole by the general public: More often than not, the average Canadian deems it a class of entertainment too far removed from their understanding to appreciate and enjoy. We’ve seen some response to this in the past few years; orchestras have been adding concerts featuring video game music, high-profile soloists have become more accessible to their audiences. But what about opera?
Enter Opera 5, a young indie opera company based out of Toronto headed by Rachel Krehm (general director), Aria Umezawa (artistic director) and Maika’i Nash (music director).They are on a quest to seek out the next generation of opera lovers by producing works that are original and dynamic.
Through engaging with different art forms, unusual venues, and thematically-linked food and drink menus, Opera 5 brings to their audience a full-sensory experience that is new, fun, and comfortable. They even produce a regular series of online videos to help alleviate the anxieties and confusion that first-time opera goers might experience. (Scroll down to see their “Opera Cheat” for Puccini’s La Bohème.)
The fundraiser on Tuesday, September 9 starting at 6pm will be hosted at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu in Yorkville, a setting that Umezawa promises will be “colourful, beautiful, hip, and charming,” providing a strong visual component to the music, food, and dialogue for the evening. Sleeman Breweries, Peller/Trius and Fionn MacCool’s at 181 University Avenue are also on board as sponsors to serve beer, wine, and food throughout the event.
And speaking of the music, the evening will feature a battle between two teams of singers – Day and Night – as they compete to “rule the skies”. Performers include Peter Bass, Lucia Cesaroni, Beste Kalender, Teiya Kasahara, Adrian Kramer, Jeremy Ludwig, Justin Ralph, Claire de Sévigné with Opera 5’s music director Maika’i Nash on the piano.
(Here’s a famous song entitled “Wondrous Night Of Love” from “Tales of Hoffman”, another opera by Offenbach.)
Song selections will be a blend of familiar and unusual choices, leaving an element of surprise. The guests will determine which team gets to be “Master of the Skies” by a round of voting, so listen intently! The dress code for the fundraiser is formal, so don’t forget to don your best day or evening wear.
The fundraiser is a great lead up to Opera 5’s fully staged double-bill production of “Offenbach & Hahn“, playing for three nights (Sept 17-21, 7:30pm) at Alliance Française de Toronto – Centre culturel. The program features Reynaldo Hahn’s “L’Île du Rêve” and Jacques Offenbach’s “Ba-ta-clan”, and performances by Teiya Kasahara, Adrain Kramer, Justin Ralph, Ben Covey and the Opera 5 Chorus. Production designer Matthew Vaile and lighting designer Oz Weaver round out the creative team.
Both works feature Orientalism, a stylized depiction of Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures that was popular in French art and music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Umezawa, the staging will be more of “a nod to Orientalism and then move on”, with Jasmine Chen’s staging of Offenbach’s “Ba-ta-clan” actually having more visual focus on French culture itself.
Orientalism isn’t a topic we discuss every day, but Opera 5 has put together a show that promises to engage us in dialogue with the notion of cultural exchange versus cultural appropriation, and better appreciate our freedom to experience different cultures.
In the Classical world, where things can be a bit too serious, it is good to see great minds creating opera productions that are fun and exciting for the audience to enjoy while going to the depths that this rich art form is capable of.
Whether you are an opera junkie or someone who is looking for a different kind of night out, Opera 5 is the company for you.