Model of the screens for Madame Butterfly, Calgary Opera 2014
“Love is rebellious bird that nobody can tame, and it's all in vain to call it if it chooses to refuse.”
― Georges Bizet
I am not sure when or where my love of the opera came from, as both my parents were not interested, nor were they season’s ticket holders to much other than the Banff National Park pass for weekend skiing and hiking. Nope, this love was not influenced from a biological parent, but must have come from my step-mom, Michal, as during my first year of university living with my dad and my step-mom, she took me to see a musical (South Pacific, I believe it was my first!) and an opera, I think it was the Magic Flute (Mozart). It didn’t stop there, however, as I was quite interested in the opera and continued to see operas when I was living on my own up until I left for China in the mid-1990s. Then one day in 1997 when I was visiting my dad and my step-mom on Pender Island near Vancouver, Michal took me boutique shopping, as there was a tiny village on the island. Lo and behold, there was a shop selling books and CDs, and she asked me if I would like a boxset of Opera classics – 6 CDs in all, the collector’s edition. Wow: needless to say, I was over the moon as this was a huge treat … I continued to listen to those CDs even during my years in China, adding to the collection whenever I could.
Now, back in Calgary, Canada, and able to actually watch the opera live, I am a happy season’s ticket subscriber with reasonably good seats. With this set of tickets the plan has always been to take a good friend along to join me. Over the past 12 months, it has been a very full opera journey for my friends and I, lots of love, tragedy and intrigue, as played and sung out in the famous works as Madame Butterfly (Puccini), Silent Night (Puts and Campbell), Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) and most recently Carmen (Bizet). Definitely worth the time and energy to get myself the season tickets as all were so fantastic and well done.
Why do I like the opera? It isn’t that I understand the lyrics necessarily, it is more that I love the overall ambiance – the costumes, the voices, the music and orchestra … but especially the sets! Just seeing what the director will do to add to the theme and over all story vis-à-vis the set design is always a surprise, asking myself in advance how they are going to handle the set design in this production. There was one opera that has stood out slightly above the others, and that distinction must go to Madame Butterfly and their use of massive, wooden and silk screen movable screens. This fantastic design really had an impact on the overall feeling and mood of the opera, what with a wholly and creative use of space. These silk-screened screens created a very light, airy visual, and also played on the theme and culture of Japanese screens as divider of space: transparency and lack of sound proofing added to the overall suspense and tragedy. The screens were moved and rolled by the singers and stage actors themselves, no need for dimed lights and intermission to create a new scene. It was stunningly amazing.
People have bucket lists and being able to afford the luxury of time, money and company to attend the opera as a season’s ticket holder was definitely something I had been looking forward to when I returned to Canada from China in 2011. My daughter has shown an interested in attending one with me, and so I am soon to re-subscribe for another season of fine opera here in Calgary and hope to see you there. Bravo!