Behind the scenes
February 16, 2014
A message from Rachel-Anne Germinario, costume designer
For the costume designer the development of the design concept always starts with the director and the script. When Andy and I first talked about the costumes for Cendrillon we discussed the time period he wanted for the look: sort of historical but not specific to a time period. From our discussions also came the idea to dress the fairies somewhat militarily, and not in the stereotypical fairy gossamer, frothy look. We both liked the idea and felt it could be incorporated well, so it stuck. There are always lots of considerations as to how things get designed and built. For example, since Cendrillon is a fairy tale and therefore has magic incorporated into its plot, we faced the challenges of designing the costumes in a way that would accommodate this. Also, to achieve a quick change of costume, i.e. to make each costume both easy to put on and easy to remove, we replaced buttons and hooks and eyes with snaps, and laces with zippers. The result is that we are now able to change someone’s costume or character completely in under two minutes. I have now shared a little bit of theatre magic with you… So shhhh!
Click on the image to see more costume photos.
February 13, 2014
Click on the image to see more photos.
February 9, 2014
A message from Benjamin Kwong, music director and arranger
If you want to put on an opera but don’t have a full orchestra, what do you do? A company the size of Opera da Camera is in a tricky spot because we want to put on full productions, but in a space far smaller than Place des Arts. An alternative is to use piano alone, since music scores do exist with just piano and voice; although that’s fine for rehearsals, it wouldn’t be so satisfying. We have a group of six musicians total, instead of 80. Here are some of the challenges in such a task:
To answer the second question, I’ll give a small example. Here is the scene music where all the princesses are introduced to Prince Charming:
In the top three lines, we have violins and violas playing in pizzicato, where the strings are plucked, while the cello (second from the bottom) plays the melody. Unfortunately, we only have one violin and one viola, which is not enough to carry the same effect; so I’ve just given the top three parts to the piano instead. While not as dainty as the sound of a string section in pizzicato, it comes close to carrying the same idea.
Arranging is a constant battle between trying to convey the same intentions as the original, while making compromises to accommodate limited, and in the case of the piano, different instruments. On the other hand, when it’s complete, hearing everything come together is truly satisfying, as it did with last year’s production of Nozze di Figaro.
Now, I just have to figure out how to keep myself from going crazy.
February 9, 2014
February 4, 2014
February 2, 2014
January 29, 2014
January 23, 2014
Massenet and his fairy tale
Contributed by Brian McMillan, music liaison librarian at the Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University
When Cendrillon (Cinderella) debuted at Paris’ Opéra Comique in May 1899, the opera proved to be yet another in a string of successes for composer Jules Massenet. By the turn of the 20th century Massenet, born in 1842, was the leading composer of French lyric theatre. But his was not an instant, nor even a desired, fame: Massenet was a self-deprecating, congenial fellow who preferred his daily routines to the glamour of the stage. Each morning was spent with pen and paper at his composition desk. It was a habit he developed early and strongly urged on others: ‘Save your mornings for composing or orchestration without waiting for inspiration,’ he advised one student, ‘which otherwise never comes.’ In 1867 Massenet’s first opera, a one-act comedy called La grand’tante, received passing notice from the French press, but it was only 10 years later that his first grand opera, Le roi de Lahore, captured the imagination of critics and audiences alike.
The music of Cendrillon is some of the most magical Massenet ever wrote. While today he is best known for the exoticism of Thaïs or the tragedy of Werther, Massenet also produced affecting comedies. In this opera he evokes the pastoral simplicity of Cendrillon and her doting father; he mocks the pomposity of Prince Charming’s court with wry parodies of antiquated dances; and the lovers’ Act III duet he wraps in a heady chromaticism that could melt the hardest heart. Fantasy, comedy, sentimentality, and the lightest soupcon of deeper longing, combine to make Cendrillon a perfect operatic fairy tale.
To learn more:
Opera da Camera invites the public to a short pre-opera talk (free admission) given by Brian McMillan on February 23 at 1:45pm. A presentation of Cendrillon follows at 2:30pm (click here for ticket information).
January 21, 2014
January 19, 2014
January 18, 2014
January 16, 2014
A message from Peter Vatsis, set designer
From the initial design meeting I had with Andy (our director), we spoke about creating a single set-piece that would be multifunctional. The action takes place in several different locations, but we didn’t want to complicate things or slow down the action with elaborate scene changes. This is where the idea of this wagon-unit was born! It is a four-post bed, a throne, a doorway, and it becomes the carriage.
Both Andy and I like to create new ideas during the process, so more possibilities may arise in the weeks to come!
I hope that the scenery accomplishes a few things beyond merely suggesting the different spaces which we go to in this opera. Hopefully the multipurpose aspect of the wagon-unit captures some of the magic of the fairy tale in which we are immersing our audience. Also, the dynamic nature of this wagon should lend itself to the fluid movement from one scene to another.
Click on the image to see more photos of the set building process.
January 13, 2014
January 11, 2014
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We’re having a lot of fun during rehearsals!
A message from the director, Andrew Cuk
January 10, 2014
January 6, 2014
January 5, 2014
A little outtake from our rehearsals this afternoon.
January 4, 2014
The first rehearsal of the New Year. Click on the image for more pictures.