Also, this opera has a lot of stylized dancing in it. The act three Polonaise is very well known as a concert piece. But there is also the Mazurka and the large harvest scene in Act 1. We actually had to choreograph the dances with singers who do not have much dance experience. It took us some time, but we did it. Everyone took really well to it also learning some new dance steps in the process.
How does one approach a canonical opera with an eye to making it fresh?
I think this opera has a very fresh quality to it as it is. The score is very unique. It cannot be compared to anything else in the operatic canon. It’s full of sensitive lyricism, fantastic melodies and real passion. The language is absolutely gorgeous, and Tchaikovsky really captured the essence of real Russian life in the 19th century. It’s a great European story turned into a real operatic gem.
Can you talk about the experience of working with the student opera company?
That’s always a real challenge. Maintaining high artistic standards, teaching through the creative process, sticking to a short schedule, and staying faithful to the composer’s original intent — that’s a tall order. However, UBC Opera is not an ordinary student opera company. As far as I am concerned, this is essentially a professional opera company with outstanding faculty, excellent professional team, and access to tremendous theatrical resources.
I am so impressed with the opera program, its system, and how well it functions. UBC Opera students are all exceptional singers. They are extremely hard working, always very well prepared, and ready to put on a great show. Technically this is a student environment, but it has a real professional edge to it. I am very proud of this ensemble and that I could be a part of it.
What’s next for you?
We are finishing the semester soon so this is a very busy time. We just finished a production of Magic Flute at UNF. In April I will sing four solo art song recitals in south Florida, and prepare UNF Opera for our trip to Czech Republic in July. We are scheduled for La Boheme and Barber of Seville so students are very excited. On a personal note I am accepting an American citizenship this spring and applying for a full professorship at UNF.