Calgary Opera is time travelling back to 1973 to revisit the first opera the company produced, Puccini’s La Bohème. The 40th anniversary production opens on April 21 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary.
La Bohème boasts an all-Canadian cast, not unusual for the company that has made a reputation as a champion of Canadian talent.
It’s an obvious choice for Calgary Opera’s general director Bob McPhee. “For one, in the world of music, we have an incredibly great wealth of Canadian singers. Why wouldn’t I use them?” he asks. “I believe they deserve the first opportunity. I look at some of the companies who bring in international talent and I find that our Canadian talent is just as good, if not better.”
McPhee is reluctant to take the credit for launching any careers, but admits that many young singers have been given a big boost by Calgary Opera. David Pomeroy had his first major role in Filumena, as did soprano Laura Whalen. Daniel Okulitch performed in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Carmen when he was just a child. In 2006 he returned to sing the high-profile lead role in the Canadian premiere of Dead Man Walking.
Calgary Opera also runs an Emerging Artist Development program. It’s a 24-week advanced training program for up to eight singers that provides coaching in voice, acting and stage movement as well as many opportunities to perform.
Two of the current crop of emerging artists have roles in the upcoming La Bohème. Mark Ellis Gough sings Benoit and Clarence Frazer is Alcindoro. Two of the leads are singers making their debuts with Calgary Opera. Tenor Antoine Bélanger sings Rodolfo and Mimi is played by soprano Marianne Fiset. The cast also includes Phillip Addis as Marcello, Alexandre Sylvestre as Colline, Jon-Paul Décosse as Schaunard and Laura Albino as Musetta.
Calgary Opera’s commitment to Canadian talent also extends beyond the singers. La Bohème is directed by Robert Herriot and conducted by Gordon Gerrard. This is the second time that Gerrard has been hired to conduct a mainstage production with the company
“Calgary Opera has taken the lead in supporting the next generation of opera and for that I am immensely grateful,”says Gerrard. “The opportunities and experiences that Bob McPhee and his team have given me over the past few years are invaluable. I can say without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.”
La Bohème opens at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary on April 21, 2012, with two additional performances on April 25 and 27.
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