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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 20, No. 7 June 2015

Editorial: How my summer festival experience led to La Scena Musicale

by Wah Keung Chan / June 1, 2015

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It seems like only yesterday, but twenty years ago, my first summer vacation changed my life. Why Seattle? I had seen an ad for Seattle Opera’s 1995 summer production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Opera News. Back then, as now, a production of the Wagner Ring was a rarity in North America, and the Seattle Ring (1986 version) was coming back after a four-year pause before being retired. The timing couldn’t have been better. A few years earlier, while doing graduate studies in math at the University of Michigan, I came to discover the entire Wagner Ring through listening sessions held at Ann Arbor’s local record store; the passionate owner introduced us to Wilhelm Fürtwangler’s 1960 La Scala Ring, and I took home the 20-LP set.

The Seattle Ring, aided by the substantial buzz on the rec.opera, the Internet’s discussion group, and OPERA-L and the opera email list, was calling for me. I scored a single ticket in the last row of the top balcony, and luckily, found accommodations with the parents of my grad school-mate Kathy, who lived near Seattle. Those 4 operas over 7 nights totaling 19-and-a-half hours of Wagner’s music, along with lectures and get togethers, was a magical experience, my first summer festival immersion. Acoustics in Seattle’s old opera venue were terrific. The orchestra was equally wonderful. Sure, some of the singers were not the ideal, but this provided fodder for lively discussion, which members of OPERA-L did at each intermission, near the column at the entrance. It’s this camaraderie that I so cherished; there, I met other passionate opera lovers, including fellow Canadian Joseph So, from Toronto, who became a friend and devoted contributor to La Scena Musicale and The Music Scene, and La Scena Musicale’s Toronto Editor.

In fall 1995, I started making hobby lists of vocal music concerts and operas and emailed them to friends, throwing in a review of my Seattle Ring experience. This led directly to the founding of La Scena Musicale in September 1996.

As we prepare this special national issue on Canadian summer festivals (including our 19th annual Guide to 320 arts festivals), I can’t help but think back to that special time in Seattle and also the gang at OPERA-L, how then, even before the Internet became universal, the network had such power to unite — which brings me to an exciting summer for LSM. Thanks to a financial contribution from the Canada Periodical Fund, we will be rebuilding scena.org, our award-winning music news website, with a new look, current technology and a new network for music and the arts. We hope you support this project through our upcoming crowd-funding campaign. Watch for it in September 2015 as we begin our exciting 20th season (including a Mentorship Program).

Your favourite Art Song
We are also launching The Next Great Art Song contest with a survey of the greatest art songs of all time. Let us know what your favourite song is by voting at www.nextgreatartsong.com (Deadline: July 31). Throughout 2015-16, we will publish a series of articles on the Art Song, counting down the top 10 songs; all this will culminate in our 20th anniversary Gala in fall 2016, where you get to vote for the top new Art Song.

Last May 3, we held our fundraising conference with music “In Conversation with Denys Arcand”. Along with performances by soprano Florie Valiquette, the Q & A format was fresh and unique. Thanks to Denys Arcand and all who participated. We hope to organize this kind of event again next year.

Have a festival summer in music and the arts!

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