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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 17, No. 5

Opera VMana: Opera for Everyone

by Caroline Rodgers / February 1, 2012

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There’s a new opera company with educational aims in Montreal: Opera VMana, whose mission is to train the next generation of singers while bringing opera to new audiences.

“Our tickets are affordable, and we pick works that are short and approachable so that newcomers can better appreciate this art form,” says Maude Brunet, the company’s co-founder.

The “V” in “VMana” is short for “voice”. “Mana” is a word of Polynesian origin that describes a supernatural force conferring great charisma.

“Operatic voices, when coupled with a beautiful stage presence, have a certain strength and charisma,” says the young woman. “Our training will be very much focused on stagecraft and interpretation. We hope to contribute to the training of a generation of actor-singers—well-rounded artists who not only have beautiful voices but also know how to move on stage. There will be technical courses covering acting, dance, improv, and even sword fighting.”

For its first year, Opera VMana offers two courses of one month each. The first, in February, welcomes young professional singers who need to gain experience on stage. The company also provides tools to help them start their careers and an opportunity to establish professional contacts in the community. The second course will take place in July, this time for B.A. students. Experienced teachers and coaches have been recruited, including such notables as Chantal Lambert, Daniel Taylor, and Lyne Fortin.

The first cohort is already busy preparing for the production of Le Quatrième Enfant-Lune, a fantasy opera by Oriol Thomas and Gabriel Thibaudeau, to be presented in March at UQAM. This will be the first stage production of the opera, for which the libretto was written in 2001.

This work is a tale for the whole family, designed to introduce children to the world of opera. Thomas calls the music of Thibaudeau “more tonal, melodic, and accessible.” The audience will hear an arrangement for piano, cello, clarinet, and percussion from conductor Julien Proulx.

“We work with limited budgets, décor, and costumes, but it will be a wonderful experience for the audience to be sitting so close to the singers, as the room has only 80 seats. Children will be able to identify with the characters more easily. It will be very playful and poetic,” says Oriol Thomas.

For someone who has worked so much with children as a teacher and instructor, it was only natural to write opera for them.

“I have great confidence in the intelligence of children, and I wanted to write an operatic story to introduce them to opera without condescending to them. But adults and opera lovers will also appreciate it, thanks largely to the numerous references to opera’s greatest works,” he explains.  

Translation: Rebecca Anne Clark

Le Quatrième Enfant-Lune, March 2 at 8 p.m., March 3 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and March 4 at 3 p.m., Salle Claude-Gauvreau, UQAM. www.operavmana.com

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