Being in an Opera on the Four Seasons stage requires the skill, talent and vocal of cords of 1 in a million. Right? Wrong. More like 1 in 117. This Saturday, February 16th between 10am – 2pm, the Canadian Opera Company is holding an open call for Supernumeraries (aka Supers) and they want you. (If you’re between the ages of 18 and 65 and 5’3” and 6’.) Supers are the ‘Extras’ of the Opera world and play a variety of non-singing roles on stage. They are the townsfolk, the prisoners, the peasants and the courtiers that exist, in bulk, to enhance the Opera’s narrative and it’s overall artistic design.
I discovered the role of Supernumararies just over a a year ago and promptly sent my name and measurements to the Super COC coordinators. (Ladies, Im waiting for my call; try the Fall of 2013. Until then my bandwidth is maxed.) I immediately romanticized the idea and pictured myself in a grand 18th Century ball gown strutting around the stage faux flirting with the other members of court. It would be magic.
Turns out my romantic ideals weren’t so far from the truth.
Marie Colucci has been a super with the COC since 2002 and she describes the experience in multitude of super-latives. “I just feel so lucky to do this; to be on one of the finest stages in the world and to share it with some of the finest Opera singers in the world.” Colucci says, “I get very excited when I’m doing a new Opera, almost like a kid in a candy shop.” Colucci enjoys it so much it’s now become a family affair; she participated as a Super in OEDIPUS REX AND SYMPHONY OF PSALMS with her entire family, including her children, the youngest of whom was six at the time. Now her kids continue to be Supers even if their parents aren’t involved. “This is for someone who is looking for something that’s social, for something that will push their boundaries or someone who has always wanted to try acting but doesn’t want the pressure of being up front and centre.” Colucci says. Although sometimes being front and centre is exactly what a Super is – Colucci found that out first hand when she was asked to fill the solo, silent role that started and ended 2011 production of NIXON IN CHINA. But she’s quick to point out that no one will be “discovered” being a Super. “There’s no fame and glory being in the background, we’re not doing it for the money [there isn’t any], most of us, Supers are there because we love it.”
Rigoletto Supers (Colucci is second in from right)
“You know I’ve had conversations with some of the other Supers where we want to tell everyone how great this is.” Colucci pauses “But we also want to keep it a secret so we get to do more Operas!”
The secret’s out.
The Canadian Opera Company’s open call for Supernumeraries is Saturday, February 16 from 10am-2pm at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre (227 Front St. E.)
Ambur Braid as Semele and Christopher Enns as Jupiter
Wednesday night the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio filled the lead roles in their own production of SEMELE, and they performed with great panache amidst the full COC orchestra and with the utmost choral support. Bravo!!
If the Ensemble Studio is Canada's premier opera training program (as it is touted), and, if the leads of last night's performance are an indication of not only how we're fostering talent, but also what skills exist in the Opera divas of tomorrow, then I'm happy to report that the future of Opera is in solid, soprano, Canadian hands.
Admittedly, I don’t know a whole heap about Opera. But I like it, and I think I can appreciate it, if not for the traditional ways an Opera should be appreciated (not sure what those ways are anyway), but for the high-art aspect that is Opera. There is an epic quality to an Operatic production that is to be marvelled and love it or hate it – there’s nothing else like it.
The singing is what always gets me. The larger-than-life, unrealistic sounds that come deep from the diaphragm that elicit my eyes to widen in surprise and my arms to be riddled in goose bumps.
I’ve always wanted to know what portion of the population Opera singer’s make-up. It can’t be a lot.
To be an Opera singer seems to be such a specific and specialized skill, such a mixture of intense professional training and natural talent that I always feel like they constitute their own elite club; a club that the layman can’t belong to because s/he has absolutely no idea how to do ANTYHING as other-worldly as make the noises of a deep bass-baritone.
I saw seven relatively new (?) members of the Opera singer club last night and they really rocked it.
The main stage production of SEMELE is on for only one more performance – May 26th, so I suggest you check it out for Handel’s beautiful score, and the quiet, simple moments of theatre that escape director Zhang Huan’s heavy hand, which are equally as beautiful, and most definitely the best moments of the show.
The set is, naturally, to-die-for, as it’s an actual 450 year old Ming Dynasty temple that was excavated, moved to Zhang’s studio in Shanghai, reconstructed and shipped world wide for performances. It’s gorgeous and one of the highlights about his role in the production.
SEMELE is on for only one more show at the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W) on May 26th. For tickets, call: 416-323-8231 or click here.
Rush tickets available @11am, the day of the show. Arrive in person, at the box office and buy!
If there were ever a "Beginner's Opera", I think the COC's production of CINDERELLA could be it.
It had all the talent, arias and shouts of "Bravo!" that make the Opera such a unique experience, AND, best of all, if you're intimidated by Opera, as many are, CINDERELLA is a good show to start with.
I started going to Opera when I was 25 and before that I had ZERO interest in the genre. I don't sing (although wish that I could), I don't play a musical instrument (although wish that I could) and I don't know a damn thing about classical music (although wish that I did) and, well, isn't Opera full of an audience of intellects who will mock someone as low-brow as moi? The short answer is: Yes, it is. Mostly.
But who cares?
The COC provides talks before each show that provide history and context to the production, thus making you more informed and able to participate in small talk with a fellow audience-member.
This music of Rossini's is light and fun and toe-tappy (I was toe-tapping for most of the show) so even if you don't play an instrument or understand a classical musical score, this music makes one glad they have ears and a feel for rhythm.
You already know the story so you don't have to wrack your brain to figure out who is in love with who and why, all while reading subtitles and watching the action on stage; and it's funny! So you can laugh, listen, love and toe-tap all while being at the Opera amongst the Four Seasons splendour.And once that Prince Charming belts out about his love for Cinderella and how he is determined to find her, it won't matter that you don't speak Italian or know when Rossini wrote the music or when the Opera was first produced and why, you'll just know that his voice gave you goose bumps and that's about as high-brow of a reaction as one can get at the theatre.
If you're a seasoned Opera-goer, CINDERELLA is a great excuse to see a fun Opera Buffa! (which means comedic Opera; use it in a sentence and astound your friends!)