Listening Party Podcast Episode 2
Apr 03, 2020 1:00pm
Friday, April 3, 2020 | 4 pm | On Demand
Today brings words and music from some of the unsung heroes of opera production – Chorus Masters – with the accompanying Listening Party Playlist.
Kimberley-Ann Bartczak, Resident Conductor and Répétiteur with Calgary Opera, talks about music that has had an extraordinary impact on her, including the transformational power of Bluebeard’s Castle and the wonderful chaos of the second act of La bohème, whose music is always astonishingly fresh and new.
Kim also remembers Strauss’ Morgen! (Tomorrow!), which was played as the prelude to her own wedding ceremony. Its message – tomorrow will be a beautiful day as long as you are with me – resonates more than ever today.
And tomorrow the sun will shine again
And on the path that I shall take,
It will again unite us lucky ones
As all around us the earth breathes in the sun.
And to the shore, broad, blue-waved,
We shall quietly and slowly descend.
Speechless we will gaze into each other’s eyes,
And the wordless silence of happiness will fall upon us.
Leslie Dala, Associate Conductor and Chorus Director with Vancouver Opera, recalls productions that stand out for him, including a 2017 Turandot – an opera that he calls a dream piece for any chorus director, where the chorus is very much a part of the fabric of the drama.
Leslie also recalls the 2010 Canadian première of John Adams’ Nixon in China, as well as a 2006 production of Faust, during which conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin stepped in to pinch-hit for a chorus rehearsal when Les was otherwise occupied with the birth of his son.
For Nixon in China, Les asked for the opening track of the opera so that you can really hear the atmosphere that John Adams was creating before moving into the plane landing. As Les and I mentioned, I was in this production and sang the role of the Second of the three Mao Secretaries. It was incredibly hard to memorize. I read in an interview that John Adams said he never really thought about singers having to memorize his music. I could tell. The metres changed continually and there was no pattern. I was never on stage for a moment that I was not counting and keeping track of repeated patterns using my fingers and my toes. In the playlist you will hear my favorite track from the show, featuring my good friend and one of my favorite singers, Tracy Dahl. She sang Madame Mao in Vancouver, and on this recording. In this scene the full chorus is on stage in rows and Madame Mao wanders among us to sing of the power of the little red book. I will never forget the incredible sound of Tracy’s voice in this number. It made the hair on my arm stand up. I looked forward to it every night and it remains one of my most memorable moments on stage.
In his final story, Les talks about Faust and the incredible visual in the final scene. There was a giant disc on stage as a set piece, that he guessed weighed a few tons. In the Nic Muni staging, every night when Marguerite goes to heaven, the disc was lowered onto her until it appeared to the audience that she was crushed beneath it. Theatre crews take good care to make the performers safe, but how brave was Erin Wall every night as that took place!
Les and I talked about Nic Muni quite a bit. I had worked with Nic in Toronto in the early 1990s when he directed Alban Berg’s Lulu for the Canadian Opera Company. It was my debut at the O’Keefe Centre and the production starred Rebecca Caine of Phantom of the Opera fame. This production also included much loved Canadian baritone Victor Braun. I was playing the role of a young boy in the show (Der Gymnasiast) and I will never forget being on stage with all the male chorus and characters, underneath a giant video image of Rebecca Caine’s eyes during the film music of that opera. We were all on our knees and as we all looked up at her image slavishly we fondled ourselves on stage. Provocative show and the kind of work for which Nic Muni was well known.
Les talked about being among the chorus in the balcony for the final transformative and dramatic “Apothéose” in Faust. He has chosen a terrific recording and I encourage you to have the visceral experience he had – turn up your speakers at home and stand before them so that you can feel the music go right into your marrow.
The final story on the podcast was about Kim getting married. We talked about the way professional musicians approach wedding music. As a singer, when I married, I didn’t want a singer at my wedding: I knew I’d never be able to choose which friend to ask or listen without a singer’s critical ear. Kim had a harpist friend play Morgen because if someone else played it on piano, she knew she wouldn’t be able to concentrate. I totally understand. Once you have performed and know a piece of music, you can’t become a passive audience member when you hear it.
We talked about her stress over the late arrival of her brother with the cupcakes and the struggle to walk down the aisle slowly enough to get all the music from Romeo and Juliette she had programmed. She wanted to be able to savour every note of that music. That goes back to my mention in the podcast of the importance of directors in opera timing everything a chorus does. Kim’s wedding selections are all in the play list and they are so beautiful. I really appreciate her sharing this intimate moment from her personal life.
Finally, as both our guests told stories that featured Metropolitan Opera Music Director and beloved Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet Séguin, I had to include him in this playlist. My thanks to Kim for sharing a few tracks with him at the podium.
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