Island students experience an afternoon at the opera

Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour performs at Manitoulin schools

LITTLE CURRENT—Students at Little Current Public School (LCPS) and Central Manitoulin Public School (CMPS) had a unique cultural experience last Thursday when the Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) Glencore Ensemble visited the two Island schools and performed The Bremen Town Musicians by Canadian composer Dean Burry.

“We are delighted to once again bring opera directly to its youngest audiences through the Glencore Ensemble Studio Tour,” commented COC General Director Alexander Neef. “For many of the students, the school tour is their first opportunity to experience any kind of live performance. We hope that by making the art form accessible to children, it will help pave the way for a life-long love of opera and the performing arts.”

The tour’s stops at LCPS and CMPS were just two of 30 across Ontario, which are expected to reach 16,000 students from Kindergarten to Grade 8.

The Bremen Town Musicians was originally commissioned by Ottawa’s Opera Lyra in 2009. Based on a fairy tale by the famous Brothers Grimm, the opera tells the story of a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster who embark on a journey to find freedom and start a new life after being mistreated by their owners. This all-new production from director Ashlie Corcoran was commissioned by the COC for this year’s Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour, with sets and costumes created by multi-Dora Award-winning designer Camellia Koo.

The interactive performance had the singers performed throughout the audience, engaging the students and providing lots of laughs while exposing them to the art of opera and the performing arts.

Stage manager Michael Barrs explained that all of the performers are members of the COC Ensemble Studio and are chosen through a national audition process. The two to three year program blends vocal, theatrical and practical career development with practical experience including understudying major roles, the annual Glencore Ensemble School tour, special Ensemble Studio chamber production and a special performance of a COC main stage production.

Following the LCPS performance, students were able to ask members of the ensemble questions such as ‘does your voice hurt after (you perform)?’

“Singing is just like any other sport,” explained Andrew Haji, who played the rooster in the production. “The more you practice the longer your endurance—the longer you can sing without hurting your voice.”

The Expositor had the pleasure of speaking with one of the members of the ensemble Aviva Fortunata.

The 27-year-old Calgary born singer said she had always known she wanted to be an opera singer.

“Apparently when I was three or four I told my mom that I was going to be an opera singer,” laughed Ms. Fortunata. “I think I saw it on Sesame Street. It’s what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember.”

“I have so much fun with the ensemble,” said Ms. Fortunata of her experience with the COC. “I work with a great group and I really enjoy bringing opera to kids who have never seen it before. They seem so riveted by the sound and how loud our voices are. It’s an amazing experience. I’m very lucky.”

As to what she hopes to accomplish in the future, Ms. Fortunata hopes to travel all over the world performing.

The Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour of The Bremen Town Musicians includes an all star cast of Gordon Bintner, Charlotte Burrage, Aviva Fortunata, Andrew Haji and Iain MacNeil, in addition to Dean Burry (composer/librettist) Ashlie Corcoran (stage director), Jenna Douglas (musical director/pianist), Camellia Koo (set and costume designer) and Michael Barrs (stage manager).

Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006, and is also the performance venue for The National Ballet of Canada. For more information on the COC, visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.