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School of Music’s latest opera features double-header of Mozart, Bizet

Photo: Rémi Yuan 

It was not your typical Friday night in Tabaret Hall.

As students and staff left their last lecture of the evening, there was a certain sound projecting through the walls.

“Charm all the ladies,” Sandra Graham called out to two men surrounded by three women in bedazzled and lace gowns in Huguette Labelle Hall, as a strident piano score played in the background.

Graham has been busy directing her University of Ottawa music students for their upcoming production called Opera Confections. A mezzo-soprano herself, the well-versed professor has won a multitude of international vocalist awards, and has appeared on operatic stages in Canada, the United States, Germany, Holland, and China.

During the dress rehearsal Graham demanded the very best from her students. She was busy encouraging them to strut the stage in their heels for more emphasis and to push their acting ability so her students would shine in their operatic performance.

“Art stands for artificial, after all,” she said.

The show will feature excerpts from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Bizet’s Carmen with the help of pianist Paula Lin.

What makes the production unique is the encouraged audience participation element, with a sing-along for the popular “Toreador” scene in Carmen with lyrics projected during the chorus.

Marriage of Figaro is more of a comedic opera, and Carmen is more of a mishmash of curious and sexy,” says third-year performance student Grayson Nesbitt, a tenor singer and soloist in Marriage of Figaro and chorus performer in Carmen.

Marriage of Figaro is a continuation of the opera The Barber of Seville, in which the same characters now face the schemes of their troubled marriage commitments, with multiple plot lines of betrayal and revenge.

“They are two of the most popular operas in the repertoire, and if any of our singers go on to a career, they will most likely perform a role in one or both of the operas, and will have this experience as a starting point,” said Graham. “Also, both of these operas are very popular with the public, so everyone is happy.”

Nesbitt said he loves working on his craft with the U of O’s musical productions. “It’s an outlet for my emotions, really. Acting on stage, playing a character, it’s just a lot of fun.”

Graham said she chose an excerpt concert style of production to give less experienced singers a chance to perform more solo work and to learn from the moreadvanced singers.

Nesbitt said he looks forward to entertaining the crowd, thriving on their energy, and especially, being able to sing along in Carmen.

“It’s what it comes down to,” he said. “If I’m having fun, the audience is having fun. If we’re all having fun, it’s a good time, right?”

Opera Confections will be presented on March 14 at 7 p.m. and March 15 at 2 p.m. at Huguette Labelle Hall in Tabaret.