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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Feature: Opera Piccola

Opera in the Summer
joel fishbane

Summer has long been the time when music fills Montreal: from Osheaga to the Jazzfest to CETM’s New Wave Theatre Festival, every genre of music has managed to have its day in the sun. Opera has long been the exception to this rule – the Montreal Opera Company shuts down for the summer and our summer theatres have been lax at filling the void. Enter Opera Piccola, a new company founded by Taras Kulish and Anne-Marie Trahan. Devoted to bringing professional opera to the summer crowds, they’re hoping to turn la belle ville into La Bohème. 

“Building a new opera company is a difficult thing,” says Mr. Kulish, a professional singer who also serves as artistic director of Vermont’s Green Mountain Opera Company. “But we’re hoping to open people’s eyes.” A passionate lover of opera and its lovechild, operetta, Mr. Kulish spoke with great enthusiasm about the company’s upcoming inaugural concert, being performed August 25 and 27 at Theatre Outremont.

The program will feature some of the opera world’s most promising rising stars, including mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne and baritone Alexander Dobson. Nor is this your standard, singer-at-the-microphone concert. Mr. Kulish has promised each number will be a production in itself.  “It’s a great introduction for the neophyte,”  he says, adding that the repertoire has been taken from both popular works like Madame Butterfly and lesser known pieces like Le Chanteur de Mexico. 
Although during their first few years Opera Piccola will continue to promote shows with name recognition – next year they’re hoping to produce Lehar’s The Merry Widow – Mr. Kulish is hoping to eventually bring rarer works to the Montreal crowd. “First we have to build the audience.”

One thing you won’t see – or rather hear - at the inaugural concert is Mr. Kulish himself: he is adamant about wearing one hat at a time. After years of performing across Canada and the United States, he’s turned to producing in the hope of creating a little stability. It’s an optimistic agenda, given that producers suffer from the same uncertainty as actors. But Mr. Kulish is convinced that he can succeed. Thanks to his experience with Green Mountain, he already has experience with production; and he has brought to the table retired justice Anne-Marie Trehan, who hopes that her passion and connections can help  Opera Piccola find the funding necessary to get the company off the ground.

Funding is an issue for every company, but it’s especially important for Opera Piccola, who hope to always keep their ticket prices low. Tickets for their inaugural concert range from $25 to $55, with discounts for youths under 20 and standing room only seats available for $5. Mr. Kulish fully intends for this to set the standard for the company, as only by keeping prices low can they hope to keep opera accessible to all.
Opera Piccola’s Grand Inaugural Concert will be performed on August 25 and 27 at Theatre Outremont 514.495.9944 or visit  Admission. For more information: Opera Piccola

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