Big Opera is dead, long live the … Small Opera?

For the second time in just the few years the Ottawa Opera Lyra cancelled the season. We managed to get full refunds so phew!

Part of me is sad about demise of opera company in a city that has too few already. Part of me is “well duh!” indifferent. Looking back at the last decade of my experience with this company, my favourite productions were the children’s version of The Magic Flute followed by the concert version of Thomas’ Hamlet. Therefore I will posit the following:

Waiting for Tsars’ Bride at the ROC

– I like opera but I do not like large productions in large halls

We were dozing off for the last act of Carmen at the Met and the only thing I remember from the Royal Opera is the gorgeous sets. I am sure that the cast was top notch, but I don’t really _remember_ it at all. Maybe if I wasn’t such a cheapskate and got front row tickets my experience would be different, but from where I usually sit, being able to hear anything is more of a feat of engineering on the part of the architect and the sound analyzing CAD software than the ability of the artist. Furthermore, the singers are chosen for their above average musical abilities leaving us with mismatch of their physical presence and the character they are trying to evoke. If I could tell the difference between a Diva and an average singer from where I am sitting, I might forgive this, but so far I have not been able to.

Waiting for Against the Grain’s production of Don Giovanni at University of Ottawa

– I like opera and I especially like small productions

Actually, I am lying, I can tell the difference between Ok singer and amazing singer, but for me that only really matters to a point. From theatre point of view I have had much better record of enjoying small productions with scaled down orchestra and supporting cast that is less than stellar if the storytelling and music “pull me in”. The two operas I’ve seen this year at the Chamber Music Festival knocked my socks off – for just $20!!!. When you consider the that you can watch the shows from the Met or ROC at the movies, I think the lesser cities can survive without the Opera Lyra style companies as long as they have a good serving of “budget” productions. What remains to be seen is whether the void left by Opera Lyra will be filled.

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