Opera tells story of love, murder

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 08:28 am

Calgary Concert Opera is putting on the producution Rigoletto at the Okotoks United Church on June 24 at 7 p.m.
Calgary Concert Opera is putting on the producution Rigoletto at the Okotoks United Church on June 24 at 7 p.m.
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Gowns and tuxedos won’t be necessary for those wanting to take in the opera next week.

The Calgary Concert Opera is bringing Rigoletto to the Okotoks United Church stage June 24 at 7 p.m. in a less formal affair that puts up-and-coming opera singers on the stage. Rigoletto is an Italian opera written by Giuseppe Verdi in the mid 1800s that tells a story of love, intrigue and murder.

“It’s probably one of his best operas, the most dramatic,” said Barbara King, Calgary Concert Opera co-owner. “It is quite the opera.”

Calgary Concert Opera was spearheaded by King and her husband Chris Gieck in 2011 to give opera singers more venues to perform. King, a professional opera singer, said up-and-coming singers rarely have the opportunity to land roles in large opera companies, so this was her way to get them on stage.

“A lot of singers needed a new venue to sing at,” she said. “We are giving them an opportunity to sing in front of the audience. It gives them experience at the same time.”

Less experienced singers are often supported by more renowned performers. De Winton resident Uwe Dambruch, an internationally renowned bass-baritone opera singer who was born and raised in Germany, is playing the role of the murderer Sparafucile in next week’s performance.

“It’s so hard for these young singers,” said Dambruch. “Honestly, you can’t make a living in Canada by singing opera.”

Dambruch said the situation is much different in Germany. The country boasts 87 opera houses that are supported by the city and government, he said.

“There you are a full-time singer,” he said. “You get monthly paid, health insurance and everything is covered.”

Dambruch’s family made a living as opera singers. His father was a baritone and his grandfather a conductor. Dambruch attended his first opera at age five.

While performing opera in Germany years ago, he met and later married Calgary dramatic soprano singer Frances Ginzer, who is now retired, and the pair moved to De Winton in 2003.

Dambruch met King eight years ago and was asked to take on a major role in Rigoletto to serve as a mentor for the less experienced singers.

“I hopefully give them expertise to inspire these young singers and maybe to set standard for other performers,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for young singers to perform major roles, to take opera to towns like Okotoks.”

The Calgary Concert Opera also brings the opera to an audience who might not otherwise have the opportunity to watch one, said King. The performances are held in churches, making tickets more affordable and the atmosphere less formal and more intimate, said King.

“It’s a good thing anyway just for audiences in Calgary and Okotoks to give them another venue to see operas at a reasonable price,” she said. “The acoustics are perfect, they have the grand piano set up already. They usually have stages. Everybody loves it because of the closeness of it. They can literally see our faces. It’s so intimate.”

Rigoletto is the Calgary Concert Opera’s fourth performance in Okotoks, which King said is gaining in popularity every year.

“We’ve got such a fantastic response,” she said. “That’s why we keep coming back to Okotoks.”

King said operas present a unique sound that isn’t heard in any other genre.

“They can’t get over how we can produce the sound, how we can get into character,” she said. “We resonate. That’s our technique. We learn to project in a way so that it’s still pleasant to the ear, but we do have a lot of intonations.”

King said her company performs concert operas, which means less focus on staging and more on song.

“We are all born with different types of vocal cords, the instrument itself is our bodies,” she said. “For me I started out as a soprano and now I’m a mezzo soprano so my role is Maddalena.”

To help audiences understand the story of Rigoletto English translation will be posted on a screen and a narrator will explain what is occurring before each act, said King.

Tickets to see Rigoletto cost $25 and are available at www.calgaryconcertopera.com, by calling 403-719-4525 or 403-617-3554 or at the door (cash only). Children ages 12 and under are free.


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