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Opera Nanaimo presents pay-per-view concert from the Port Theatre

‘Front Row Favourites’ includes classical pieces, songs from operas and musicals
Michael MacKinnon, Shanté van Horlick, Elizabeth Herman, Wendy Alexander, Elise Boulanger and Andrea Rodall (clockwise from left) are among the singers performing in Opera Nanaimo’s Front Row Favourites concert. (Photos courtesy Daniel Holmes/Pier-Alexandre Gagné/Jodie Gallant/submitted)

With COVID-19 keeping audiences away from the concert hall, Opera Nanaimo is bringing the concert hall to the audience.

From Dec. 15 to 31 the local opera organization presents Front Row Favourites, a pay-per-view concert recorded at the Port Theatre featuring area singers performing classical vocal pieces, show tunes and opera numbers. Opera Nanaimo president Carol Fetherston said said the production has been “months in the making.”

“I actually started to think about it at the beginning of the summer, when we knew we had to cancel our summer fundraiser at the vineyard and also our fall production at Malaspina Theatre,” she said. “I thought, ‘Well, we’ve got to do something. We can’t just disappear off the face of the Earth.’”

The concert features nine mid-Island singers, including Michael MacKinnon, Andrea Rodall and Wendy Alexander, who all starred in Opera Nanaimo’s 2019 production of La Bohème. The program features numbers from popular operas like The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro.

“There’s some opera but they’re well-known favourites like the Toreador Song from Carmen and some Mozart. I tried to choose things that were quite familiar,” Fetherston said. “And then there’s some musical theatre on there and there are some pieces that are what I would call ‘inspirational.’ I tried to find things during this difficult time that might cheer people up a bit.”

The concert was filmed over the course of one day and many of the performances are first takes. Fetherston said the vocalists were excited to perform on Nanaimo’s biggest stage and were imagining what it would be like to have an audience present. She said it’s an ambition of hers to one day stage an opera production at the Port Theatre.

“[In] any medium-sized city, and I’d say were medium-sized now, the orchestra and the opera company are two basics for the arts,” she said. “And so we really need to envision that in the future here. It’s certainly not unreasonable to think that we might be able to do it.”

Fetherston said Front Row Favourites is not just about entertaining their audience and keeping up the momentum after last year’s La Bohème production, it’s also about supporting the performers, as many have lost work due to COVID-19.

“With so many of the performing institutions dark there’s a whole generation of performers who I think we could lose in the sense that they would say, ‘I can’t make any money, I need to find another job,’ and they drop out,” Fetherston said. “That’s my biggest concern … and so we really have to do our best, if we want these singers in the future, to financially support them.”

WHAT’S ON … Opera Nanaimo presents Front Row Favourites on demand from the Port Theatre from Dec. 15 to 31. Tickets $15 available here. DVDs to be made available soon from Opera Nanaimo.

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