“Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings.” – Robert Burns, poet
For many, this quote, attributed to poet Robert Burns, expresses in a humorous way the extent of our knowledge about opera. That and perhaps Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. But opera has long historic roots, and United Active Living’s renewed partnership with Calgary Opera continues to educate residents on the finer points of the genre and further the benefits that all forms of art have on a person’s well-being. Opera is complex and challenges the listener to interpret more than just the music.
“A dynamic art form, opera engages participants through multiple artistic disciplines including vocal music, instrumental music, theatre, dance and visual art/design,” said Suzanne Boyd, director of fund development, Calgary Opera. “Opera also offers cognitive challenges and intellectual stimulation (including exposure to foreign languages), to create a rich and dimensional experience.”
Opera also provides exposure to diverse and complicated subject matter, including various time periods/historical eras, settings that are frequently in a different culture, and plots and themes that allow for meaningful discussion such as current events, relationships, social/personal values, life choices and political/religious beliefs.
United’s partnership with Calgary Opera includes sponsorship of the resident conductor. This year that person is Kimberley Bartczak, who has quickly established herself in the opera world as a collaborative pianist and opera coach at both the university and professional levels.
“Research supports the role of music and the arts to engage the mind and influence a person’s well-being,” said Jill LaForty, United’s music director. “In opera, we see a range of art forms from music, to drama, to dance, that engage a person’s emotions and imagination in a way that no other art form does. We are delighted to continue our relationship with Calgary Opera.”
Jill notes that living in a United community expands the residents’ worlds. “Our residents aren’t living bounded by four walls. Our community extends into the greater world where they are exposed to a wide variety of music and other creative arts. These partnerships really give residents something you can’t find anywhere else.”
This year, Calgary Opera will bring opera to the residents of United’s Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities with three performances by members of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Development Program as well as a personal one-on-one with resident conductor Kimberley Bartczak.
What do those visits look like? Last year, then resident conductor Christopher “Topher” Mokrzewski sat down with residents at Garrison Green and spoke of his career as a pianist and conductor, his role as resident conductor, the anatomy of an opera production, his favourite composers, thoughts on new works, his other professional exploits, and the pedigree of his current opera family, Calgary Opera.
“Topher played a bit, laughed a bit, and talked about his life in the arts,” said Suzanne. “His appreciative audience was visibly moved by his story, his personality and the passion with which he lives. It was clear from the response by both the presenter and the residents that this was only the beginning of a special relationship.”
“The partnership with United helps us fulfil our mandate to bring opera to the people,” said Susanne. “This is particularly helpful for residents who might have difficulty getting out to our performances. We bring those performances to them.”
In August, Calgary Opera’s Opera in the Village takes to the stage for its fifth year with performances of South Pacific and Cinderella at Enmax Park on the Stampede grounds. Check out Calgary Opera’s website for more information.
“Our partnership with Calgary Opera helps us serve the wide ranging tastes of our residents,” said Jill. “Some of our residents are lifelong opera buffs and are gaining a better understanding directly from the artists themselves thanks to this partnership, while others are getting a chance to experience the thrill of it for the first time. It’s a wonderful relationship!”
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