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Modern take on classic art gives new student club its voice

Photo by Marta Kierkus

University of Ottawa students that have an interest in opera now have a space to learn more about it, thanks to an initiative by student Matthew Timmermans.

The fourth-year performance student created a club called Friday Night at the Opera in the hopes of making this art more accessible to U of O students.

“It’s not so much that we watch opera, but that we have a place where to discuss it,” Timmermans says. “It’s a safe place where you can learn about opera. It’s for anyone on campus.”

The club hosts monthly events in Freiman Hall, with each night’s showing chosen by Facebook votes. The opera currently leading the polls for the next event on Nov. 7 is Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Timmermans describes Ring Cycle as “the biggest opera of them all.” Since the entire cycle lasts 16 hours, he will only show the highlights. But it’s a start. “It’s basically an introduction to the entire opera,” he explains.

Vinko Culjak Mathieu is a third-year biology student who was an opera neophyte before he joined the club.

“I have an interest in opera, but I know nothing about it, so this allows me to know so much more,” he says. “This gives us the space to explore further and to be able to understand it a bit more. ”

Timmermans admits that opera has developed a reputation of being boring and dated. He hopes to show young people that’s not the case.

Every opera will have subtitles, and Timmermans prepares a small introduction before every projection to make sure students understand the many facets of the performance.

“It’s not just about the music,” he says. “It’s about the social aspects that we can challenge in our own day. Opera has a plot and quirks, so you can bring in any kind of ideas about philosophy, drama, acting. You can discuss any of these things.”

Rachel Lloyd, a second-year music student, says she enjoys the club’s contemporary take and friendly environment. “(It) has opened my eyes to opera that I never thought I would be into, because it’s so modern,” she says.

For Timmermans, the most important part is the sense of community: “I like the idea that this is a recurring event where you meet people and you become friends because of the repetition.”

“It’s getting to sit down with other people who love opera,” adds Llyod, “and to talk about it is really great.”


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