Operafest brings best of the art to Western’s stage

From Charlie Chaplin’s memorable ‘Tramp walk’ to U.S. President Richard Nixon’s visit to China, from mythical tales of Orpheus and Euridice to tunes everyone knows from Bugs Bunny cartoons, Operafest offers something for everyone.

Presented by the international cast and faculty of the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy, Orchestra London Canada, three performances will give audiences a chance to experience 38 scenes from early opera to contemporary this weekend at the Paul Davenport Theatre, Talbot College.

Operafest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 24; 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 26. Saturday tickets are $15/$10 at the door. Friday and Sunday tickets are free.

“The beauty of this is we have operas from every genre, from early Italian to the Ghost of Versailles, a very modern opera. They’re sung in all languages. It’s a sample of opera and is pretty extraordinary,” said Sophie Roland, general and artistic director.

Students from across North America and Europe have spent the last three weeks honing skills in role preparation, performance practice, collaboration, drama, voice and movement. Faculty members have also come from around the world to share their expertise and experience.

Simone Luti of Milan and JoAnn Kulesza of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore serve as musical directors; Timothy Nelson of Opera Studio Nederland serves as artistic director. Other faculty members include Martin Katz, Andrew Altenbach and Gary Wedow of the United States; Chantal Lambert of Montreal; and Oliver Gooch of Great Britain; as well as Western’s own teachers.

The group represents celebrated institutions such as the Boston Conservatory, San Francisco Opera, Central City Opera, Opera Studio Nederland, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, Dutch National Opera Academy, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera de Montreal, Atelier Lyrique de l’Opera, New York City Opera and Minnesota Opera.

Luti conducts Orchestra London on Saturday, giving the young singers an opportunity to sing with a professional orchestra, and connecting the program with the local community. The staged scenes Friday and Sunday present a slice of all types and eras of the dramatic art.

Italian composers of the golden age are represented: Rossini, Puccini, Donizetti and Verdi. Handel, Mozart, Strauss and Wagner are the big German names. Early composers include Cavalli and Purcell. From the 20th century are Britten, Poulenc, Ravel and ‘Fats’ Waller. Corigliano and Adams are contemporary composers on the program.