Encounters at the opera

Six short contemporary operas speak to both arts aficionados and opera newbies.

Christine Hecker and Brittany Cann as The Customer and Box Office Attendant sing it all out in the Encounters series at the Dunn this weekend. - LENNY MULLINS
Lenny Mullins
Christine Hecker and Brittany Cann as The Customer and Box Office Attendant sing it all out in the Encounters series at the Dunn this weekend.

Encounters is a collection of six short contemporary operas about what happens when two people meet by chance. This is the first opera staged by the newly formed Fountain School of Performing Arts at Dalhousie University and it promises lighthearted and funny entertainment.

The collection was first presented at the University of Toronto's New Music Festival in January 2014. The music was composed by student composers at the University of Toronto and the libretti were written by Michael Albano, the resident stage director of the opera training program at the University of Toronto's faculty of music. Marcia Swanston, professor of voice at Dalhousie and Encounters director, chose this collection because it's a good fit for her students.

"The choice of this piece is perfect for our current enrollment of voice students," says Swanston. "Opera roles are specific to voice type and we currently have many women and a number of tenors."

Not only are there plenty of roles for female students in Encounters but the comedic characters never miss a beat. The funniest character in the collection may be the female attendant from "The Box Office." At one point the unnamed attendant quips, "we honour all major credit cards... no, we don't take Canadian Tire money." A few minutes later she's acting out a slapstick history of violence in opera from Carmen to Werther.

Encounters has enough intertextuality and inside jokes to amuse performing arts aficionados while featuring enough topical references to reality television and Canadian politics to tickle the funny femur of an opera virgin. "This is a great show for opera lovers and for people who might be attending an opera for the first time," says Swanston. "The music is very entertaining and the storyline somewhat more like music theatre than grand opera."

February 5-7 at 6pm, February 8 at 2:30pm
Sir James Dunn Theatre
Dalhousie Arts Centre, 6101 University Avenue


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