Pacific Opera Victoria’s new season opens with its 100th production, Falstaff, at the Royal Theatre on Oct. 17.
The Italian comedy by Giuseppe Verdi is based on the Shakespeare-invented character, Sir John Falstaff, a large, hard-drinking, womanizing scoundrel. This was Verdi’s last opera and was composed when he was almost 80.
POV founding director Timothy Vernon said opening the new season with Falstaff is a fitting tribute to one of the most influential opera composers of the 19th century, who was born Oct. 10, 1813.
“It is our 100th production and this is Verdi’s bicentennial,” Vernon said, during a break from rehearsals. “It’s a festive way to celebrate with Falstaff opening the season.”
This season’s programming is full of comedies. After Falstaff, Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos will take the stage in February and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro opens in April.
“No one dies on stage this season,” Vernon joked, explaining last year’s programming of tragedies MacBeth and Tosca featured bloodthirsty characters. “It wasn’t the intention to do all comedies, but it is a nice balance to last season.”
Ariadne au Naxos is about a burlesque group and opera company, paid to perform at a home belonging to the richest man in Vienna. The two groups are forced to perform at the same time after a dinner goes on longer than planned. The performances must also wrap up by a fixed time so they don’t interfere with an evening fireworks display.
“You have this young composer who is heartbroken because it is a serious opera he has written and you have this comedic troupe that keeps showing up and interrupting this serious opera,” Vernon explained. “It has a beautiful and transforming ending.”
The Marriage of Figaro, which is the continuation of The Barber of Seville, is an all-time favourite. It was the opening opera in 1976 for the Vancouver Island Opera Society, which later became POV and this is its fourth time producing it. This opera is about a single day of madness and the pending nuptials of two servants.
Vernon said picking which operas to produce and show is a long process as planning starts two to three years before opening day. Contracts with performers are signed about 18 months in advance and they are expected to already have their roles memorized and be ready to perform on day one of rehearsals. It also takes time to visualize and make the sets, which POV does from scratch.
“A lot of the sets on the road are for bigger houses, theatres that have more capacity than we have,” Vernon said. “What started out as a necessity has become a virtue. The caché is what you see is always new.”
POV also has a couple of collaborations this season. The first is a co-production with the Victoria Symphony of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific in November. The second is a co-presentation with the Early Music Society of the Islands of the Victoria premiere of early Baroque, La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers and La Couronne de Fleurs at the McPherson Playhouse in March.
More information is available at pov.bc.ca or by calling 250-385-0222.