Saturday, November 15, 2008

Grand Opera Gets 'Graphic' at Vancouver Opera

Everyone knows that I am a huge proponent of bringing the arts to new audiences. That’s why I love the marketing tactics that Vancouver Opera is utilizing to introduce young people—those who might be more apt to go to a rock concert or sit in front of their plasma screen playing the latest Wii game—to opera. Television soaps have been replacing stale storylines with ones that incorporate teen and twenty-something drama for the last two decades, so it’s fitting that the opera world should follow suit to bring this audience through its doors and into the lush and melodramatic world that is the opera—the ultimate Soap! We all can appreciate the Soaps, can’t we? So why not le opera?

Lucky for me, my grandmother was a Live from the Met fanatic (and an As the World Turns connoisseur, I might add). At age fifteen, it was thrilling to me when she took me to see a concert to benefit the Mexican Earthquake Relief Fund with Placido Domingo (I got to go back stage to his dressing room and speak with him in Spanish!). I was also part of the ‘Hunt’ (Brothers) for Excellence program, while in high school in the Dallas area, having the chance to see the late Tatiana Troyanos live in concert. In college, as a vocal performance major at SMU, we were afforded the opportunity to receive free tickets to the Dallas Opera and were treated to the best the opera world had to offer from Grace Bumbry as “Carmen” to Flicka (Frederica Von Stade) in the world premiere of Dominick Argento’s The Aspern Papers to a De Falla festival featuring Flamenco master Maria Benitez, as well as master classes with Jerome Hines and more. I wish I had appreciated it all then as much as I do now. It took being a substitute chorus member in the Portland Opera productions of Turandot, Der Rosenkavalier and the West Coast premiere of the Dallas Opera’s production of Janacek’s Jenufa, directed by Johnathon Pape (starring Vancouver Opera favourite Judith Forst), for me to realize the power of opera as an art form and how relevant it can actually be to contemporary society.

That’s why it’s cool that Vancouver Opera has chosen to be so “cool.” In browsing the company’s web site, I discovered that opera fans, and those who are curious to learn what opera is all about in the least intimidating way possible, can experience opera plots and characters through manga representations, by Vancouver illustrator Roy Husada, of the stories (think graphic novels) that have delighted audiences for more than a century. Vancouver Opera may just be the only opera company in the world to utilize this contemporary and colorful art form to reach a whole new generation of opera-goers. Visit to check it out for yourself.

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