“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.” – Maria Callas (Greek-American Soprano Opera singer)
If you have never been to the opera, you are missing out on one of life’s exquisite experiences. There is such an abundance of history, beauty, passion and talent that goes into the creation of this performance art that it’s quite thrilling to behold. Just take a moment to consider the complexity and orchestration of different components involved in bringing an opera to the stage. The opera requires composers; writers; musicians; singers; costume designers; set designers; construction crews; makeup artists; hair stylists; lighting and sound technicians. The list goes on, and each of the people involved has spent months preparing for each performance and years of study and practice to perfect their art. The opera is a veritable bounty of passionate individuals who devote themselves to creating an experience for you that can bring you to tears, invoke full belly laughter, or invigorate and inspire you.
We all love to be entertained. In today’s modern world we spend our time and dollars on entertainment in the form of dinner out at a nice restaurant with friends, a date-night movie, or late night drinks and dancing. While those experiences are wonderful, they are common, and just don’t provide the magic and atmosphere that live performance does. As someone who has spent her fare share of time in the performance world (you can ask me about my colourful past experiences on stage when I see you at the opera), there is an extra level of energy and communication that occurs between the audience and the performers that only a live performance experience can provide. To know and understand that an entire whirlwind of people and activity is happening backstage while the mirrored hustle and bustle of patrons arrives and finds their seats is thrilling. As much as the audience is excited and in anticipation, so are the artists who are anxiously preparing to perform for you. That energetic tension is exhilarating and it’s part of the beauty of the opera.
I have heard some say that they think the opera is “old-fashioned” or “out-dated”, or even that “it’s not relevant anymore”, typically from those who have never been to the opera. I say, what a tragedy to not see that opera, just like classic literature or Shakespearian plays, provides an emotional journey into the human condition, which has not changed, even though our social structures, ways of dressing and speaking has been through many iterations. People are still emotional beings. Love, hate, joy, sorrow, passion, romance and intrigue are still very much the same in this day and age as they were, and going to the opera can remind us of that. The opera, just like old movies, can bring historical ideas or values that are considered controversial or inappropriate by current standards into the light. To perform it, is not to say it’s right or wrong, or to have an opinion about it or not, it just shines a light on a part of our history, and can serve as a reminder of how different things are now. It can start intelligent conversations about meaningful things. The opera makes us feel something, and isn’t that what all good art is meant to do?
Let’s also not overlook the experience leading up to the performance itself. There is something very romantic about getting dressed up (with a now modern and relaxed dress-code), and entering the majesty and opulence of a theatre or opera house. In Winnipeg, we have the Centennial Concert Hall with its massive sparking chandeliers, vast staircases and hardwood detailing throughout. The process of checking your coat, having a glass of champagne or espresso from the coffee bar, gathering with friends and revelling in the anticipation of being transported to a different time and place is nothing short of magical.
The Manitoba Opera’s production of Werther by Jules Massenet will be in Winnipeg on
April 29, May 2, and May 5, 2017. I will definitely be there, experiencing Werther for the first time! Come and join me and experience the romance of the opera!
Also, stay tuned on Instagram for an upcoming “giveaway” in collaboration between Patron of Dreams, Manitoba Opera, and fashion designer Lennard Taylor!
(Don’t miss out on their BOGO deal for Werther tickets. Use coupon code: BOGO for this limited time offer!)
About the opera Werther:
Werther (pronounced “Vare-tare”) is an opera by French composer, Jules Massenet, that tells the story of the idealistic young poet who cannot live without love. Sets and costumes for this production are provided by L’Opéra de Montreal, reset in America in the 1920s. Costumes were designed by Sabrina Barilà of Barilà in Montreal, who creates edgy, urban women’s clothing with a touch of whimsy and romance.
Note: The opera is sung in French with projected English translations (so you can read along and always know what’s happening!)
Synopsis: Werther is the tale of a young poet who meets the woman of his dreams, only to find that she is engaged to another. Werther tries to stay away, but his tormented heart aches to be with her. Her marriage sends Werther into a dark downward spiral; a final rejection drives Werther to suicide. His beloved declares her feelings for him as he breathes his last breath.
“I have so much in me, and the feeling for her absorbs it all; I have so much, and without her it all comes to nothing.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
MODELS: Gregory Chomichuk and Tara Cole-McCaffrey
FASHION: Gregory’s Outfit: Jeans, top and jacket by Lennard Taylor. Yellow pashmina scarf from Sears; shoes from Winners.
Juicy Facts about Werther and Upcoming Events:
The opera is based on the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The over-the-top romanticism of the novella captivated (mostly younger) readers when it was first published in 1774. This work was considered to be the beginning of the Romantic Movement, and achieved incredible popularity. The fervour surrounding this novel eventually came to irritate Goethe, as he found it difficult to escape his legacy as “the man who wrote Werther.”
Emulation of the protagonist was fashionable, and copious amounts of fan art and fan fiction were created by young men and women who loved the tale. But there was a sinister side to the mimicry. Officials in Leipzig, Germany, feared that a wave of suicides would follow; they successfully petitioned to ban the novel. The book was subsequently banned in Italy, Denmark, and Germany. Fear of a suicide contagion was potent. Copycat suicides would come to be known as “The Werther Effect.”
FASHION FRIDAY launches at Werther
A night at the opera is always an evening that features a dazzling array of personal styles on display throughout the Centennial Concert Hall. In celebration of this beautiful diversity, Manitoba Opera is launching Fashion Fridays.
Beginning with Closing Night of Werther, Friday, May 5, and the Friday performances of subsequent productions, a roving photographer will be on the hunt for patrons with “notable style.” Photos of notable style makers will be posted (with permission) on Manitoba Opera’s social media channels after the production.
Notable style may encompass bow-ties and pearls, leopard print and paisley, or jeans and that special t-shirt. One thing is for sure, Manitoba Opera patrons have inimitable style, whether in gowns, jeans, or anything in between!
Upcoming FREE events:
The Werther Effect: Romantic-Era Perceptions of Suicide
Dr. Michelle Faubert
Thursday, April 20, 7 pm
Carol Shields Auditorium, Millennium Library
Opera Primer: Werther
Sunday, April 23, 2 pm
Theatre, Université de Saint-Boniface
Centennial Concert Hall
555 Main Street
Phone: (204) 942-7479
Note: All italicized text in this post was provided by Manitoba Opera.