Live, in-person opera is returning to Nanaimo.
On Sept. 19, Opera Nanaimo presents Voices on the Lake, an outdoor concert at the Inn on Long Lake. Six Island and Lower Mainland-based singers will be performing material drawn from operas, operettas, musicals and French cabaret.
“It’s all music that’s very inspiring that people will love and I can just imagine it wafting out across the lake,” Opera Nanaimo president Carol Fetherston said.
This is the first time the local opera company is presenting an in-person event since its production of La Bohème nearly two years ago. After so long, Fetherston said people are “starving” for live performances.
The concert will feature some familiar faces, including Duncan soprano Andrea Rodall, Parksville soprano Wendy Alexander and Burnaby bass baritone Michael MacKinnon, who all starred in the 2019 production of La Bohème. Similarly, MacKinnon’s partner, mezzo Shanté van Horlick, who appeared in the Opera Nanaimo pay-per-view concert Front Row Favourites, will also be in the show.
New to Opera Nanaimo are soprano Hayley Crittenden and tenor David Gibbons, a married couple that moved to Nanaimo in the last year after splitting their time in Vancouver and Red Deer, Alta. They met while studying opera in Vancouver and have performed across Canada and in Europe.
Gibbons said he caught the acting bug while he was a teenager and was soon encouraged by a vocal teacher to pursue opera. As a “brash Albertan teenager” he was dismissive at first but revisited the idea in his 20s. Now he says opera is “the most exciting live art form.”
“For me there’s almost an addiction to the theatrical aspect of opera,” Gibbons said. “And because I’m a tenor with a big voice, it’s a wonderful world of repertoire and I just could not imagine my existence without exploring that repertoire and seeing what I can do with it.”
Crittenden said she could sing before she could speak and since the age of three has wanted to be a famous opera singer. She was involved in choirs and musical theatre before turning her attention to opera in university when “the classical world drew me in.”
“I’m just so happy to be singing again because we all went through a bit of a dark year as artists with COVID-19,” Crittenden said. “It was really challenging to even think about whether it was coming back, live performance, and I’m just honoured to be part of this and singing and sharing music with an audience again. It’s a magical and special thing for me.”
WHAT’S ON … Opera Nanaimo presents Voices on the Lake at The Inn on Long Lake, 4700 N. Island Hwy., on Sept. 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets $40, available from the Port Theatre.