Double-bill met with praise

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Following months of preparation, Opera Laurier performed one-act operas Gianni Schicchi and L’Efant et les Sortiléges this past weekend. Performing behind a 45-person orchestra, students enrolled in The Practice of Opera course at Wilfrid Laurier University, along with some student volunteers and university alumni, performed both operas in the Theatre Auditorium.

“To me they are quite divergent pieces on one hand,” said Paul Cegys, the stage director for the production.

Both operas are set in the early nineteenth century. Gianni Schicchi is a comic opera dealing with the passing of Buoso Donati and the way his family tries to redistribute his wealth and L’Efant et les Sortiléges explores how a boy’s pets, furniture and playthings come to life and retaliate after years of mistreatment.

Cegys emphasized the importance of collaboration when directing the narrative of both operas.

“Both of these pieces were written early on in the twentieth century, or earlier than that, so it is asking us how we can connect on a visceral level because it’s great music, but then we want to know how we can connect with it physically in the space.”

Collaboration also extended out towards the performances themselves. Both operas, while exploring different themes, utilized the dynamics of the space. The orchestra and vocals of the performance populated the TA through a universal understanding of the space.

Musical director Leslie De’Ath stressed the need of balance when managing the bodies on stage.

“We constantly need to be cognizant of the other people and know that if they slug it in their dramatic responsibilities, it doesn’t give the other performers anything to work with,” he said.

Both performances played on the space and utilized it extensively.

L’Efant et les Sortiléges in particular exemplified this, at one point transporting the entire stage into a forest.

The direction on stage also illustrated the concise understanding of space — no actor seemed to move out of place or sync from the rest of performers on stage.

De’Ath also emphasized that performing in the TA can be a host to a number of problems in itself. During the recitals in the space, he recalled a point where the bassoonist was concerned about the temperature of the building to the point where they feared their instrument was going to crack. It’s something the production crew and performers work around.

“It’s a constant challenge. Everyone wants to blow it up so we can get something decent,” said De’Ath.

Although the building presented its share of problems, it was not detrimental to the performers. Ivica Balaban portrayed Gianni Schicchi in Gianni Schicchi, one of the main lead male vocalists for that performance. He said the chance to perform the role was incredible.

“This was a dream role for me. I remember watching it in Toronto two years ago and thinking I would love to do it someday and lo and behold, I get to do it.”

With this being his fourth production, Balaban said while the production budget is tight, “what we bring to the table is very good.”

“We have created something beautiful that the school should be proud of,” said Cegys.

Overall, De’Ath was very pleased with how the production turned out.

“The cast always put their heart and soul into it and in a very special way that you almost don’t get the production of it. For many it is their first big chance to sing with an orchestra or signing on a stage,” he said.

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