Calgary Opera

Calgary Opera (The Southern Alberta Opera Association 1972-83, Calgary Opera Association 1981-92). Established 12 Apr 1972 by several Calgary citizens to present performances of professional quality. Baritone Alexander Gray was appointed artistic director and the first production (30, 31 Mar 1973) was La Bohème, directed by Herman Geiger-Torel and conducted by Stefan Minde, with Maria Pellegrini, Ermanno Mauro, Alexander Gray, Peter Milne, and Claude Corbeil. Other productions, at first two, then three (beginning in 1977), and four (beginning in 1982) a year in Calgary's Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, have included Rigoletto (1973), Carmen (1974), Madama Butterfly (1974), Faust (1975), Die Fledermaus (1976), Lucia di Lammermoor (1978), The Merry Widow (1979), Porgy and Bess (for the Olympic Arts Festival 1988), Salome (1990), Bernstein's Candide (1990), Romeo & Juliet (1991), The Flying Dutchman (1992), Eugene Onegin (1996), The Pearl Fishers (1999), and Dialogue of the Carmelites (2002). The company staged student matinees 1978-84, revived in 1991, performed by young Canadian artists. In 2004 the Calgary Opera continued to present three operas annually at the Jubilee Auditorium, which has a seating capacity of 2400. The Calgary Opera Chorus and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra are hired by Calgary Opera to accompany all opera performances.

Conductors have included Ernesto Barbini, Mario Bernardi, Howard Cable, Franz-Paul Decker, Walter Ducloux, Samual Krachmalnik, John Matheson, Boyd Neel, Imre Pallo, Tyrone Paterson, Alfredo Silipigni, and David Speers. Stage directors included Douglas Campbell, Sonja Frisell, Herman Geiger-Torel, Irving Guttman, John Leberg, Jean Létourneau, and Peter Symcox. Singers have included Peter Barcza, Napoléon Bisson, Colette Boky, Jean Bonhomme, Pierre Duval, Tracy Dahl, Cristina Deutekom, Judith Forst, Jerome Hines, Allan Monk, Cornelis Opthof, Gail Robinson, Heather Thomson, Michael Schade, Theodore Baerg, Russell Braun, Tonio di Paolo, Gordon Gietz, Lyne Fortin, John Fanning, Richard Margison, Kimberly Barber, Joanne Kolomyjec, Brett Polegato, Liping Zhang, Gaetan Lapierre, William Joyner, Jennifer Casey Cabot, Sally Dibblee, Mary Lou Fallis, Valdine Anderson, Eduardo Chama, and Marc Hervieux. Along with its regular opera season, the Calgary Opera also invites guest artists to appear in solo recitals. They have featured Kathleen Battle (1992, 2000), Frederica von Stade (1993), Kiri Te Kanawa (1993, 2001), Samuel Ramey (1995), Tracy Dahl (1995), Cecilia Bartoli (1995), Richard Margison (1995, 1999), Ben Heppner (1996, 1998), and Jeysse Norman (1997).

In 2001, The Calgary Opera hosted the world premiere of Turtle Wakes, a one-act opera by Allan Bell based on the play The Frank Slide by Rick McNair, a historical drama which focuses on the devastating rock slide that occurred in the Rockies in 1903.

The Calgary Opera has co-commissioned two operas with the Banff Centre for the Arts. In 2000 they commissioned composer-in-residence John Estacio and librettist John Murrell to write Filumena, based on an Alberta story about Italian immigrant Florence (Filumena) Lossandro, who was one of the last women in Canada to be hanged. The work was premiered in 2003 and was performed in Calgary and at the Banff Arts Festival. The production won four Betty Mitchell Awards in the categories for Outstanding Musical Direction (Bramwell Tovey), Outstanding Performance in a Musical (soprano Laura Whalen, who created the title role of Filumena), Outstanding New Play (John Murrell), and Outstanding Production of a Musical. For the 2006-7 season Estacio and Murrell have been commissioned to write Frobisher (working title) based on the life and legacy of British pirate and explorer Martin Frobisher.

The Calgary Opera sponsors a number of educational programs including student dress rehearsals, pre-show chats, as well as the Calgary Opera Master Class series. The company also publishes a newsletter (Bravo!), which appears three times a year.

Financial support has been provided by the Calgary Region Arts Foundation, the Province of Alberta, private and corporate donors, and the box office. By 1991, seven of the Calgary Opera's productions have been broadcast on CBC radio.