Windsor’s first independent opera company, Abridged Opera launched their 2019 season by hosting a preview concert showcasing their third upcoming season last Sunday (Jan. 27). The intimate community concert included pieces by Mozart in tribute to his 255th birthday. Abridged promises a season of stories themed around “Charm, Chauvinism, Champagne and Chicanery.” The concert featured throwbacks from past season performances, crowd favourites, and pieces from their upcoming season.
Members performing included local singers Erin Armstrong, Alyssa Epp, Amelia Daigle, Brianna DeSantis, Kaitlyn Clifford, Jake Flynn, Max Arvidsson, Leah Arvidsson, and Alex Leigh.
Abridged Opera founder and Artistic Director, Erin Armstrong, and soprano Amelia Daigle peformed Leo Delibes Lakme’s “Flower Duet” during the concert. “I will be singing this with the Windsor Symphony,” Erin told the audience. “We performed this before but we switched roles. I used to sing saprano role and Amelia used to sing the mezzo role. She is Lakme and I am her servant Mallika. This piece is like a nice beautiful wine, it’s really sweet and so lovely, you’ve probably heard it before in a commercial or somewhere, it’s really one of Opera’s most famous pieces.” The Flower Duet will next be performed by Abridged as part of the University of Windsor School of Creative Arts Alumni Concert with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra at The Capitol Theatre on February 10, 2019.
Abridge Opera is bringing charm to their season with Cinderella, the classic fairy tale set to music by Jules Massenet. During the concert a piece was performed where Cinderella sings about her three ugly step sisters going to the Royal Ball while she is stuck at home cleaning. “Cinderella will be super fantastic,” Erin said when we talked to her after the concert. “I really think if there’s any one of our concerts that you can make it to this year, Cinderella is THE ONE.” Taking place inside the exquisite Willistead Manor, the audience and story will move from room to room throughout the house, for a rare intimate performance. “It’s really fun to walk around the house, you get to experience a really neat immersive feeling.”
Willistead Manor’s dinning room will be converted into a “dream sequence” for the scene where Cinderella reminisces about the prince after attending the Royal Ball. “We’re going to convert the rooms on the other side of the house (where the billiards room is) into the Ball Room for Cinderella,” Erin said.
Last year Abridged’s Willistead Manor event had a capacity of 65 people, 45 people were able to sit in chairs and 20 on the stairs. “Last year we had plus 10 standing room, people just stood in the entrance because they really wanted to be there,” explained Erin.
Cinderella will be performed by local soprano, Amelia Daigle. Windsor Symphony Orchestra Assistant conductor Daniel Wiley will lead the chamber orchestra while Erin Armstrong directs. Abridged Opera’s Cinderella show takes place on March 27 & 28.
Jake Flynn, performed a piece by Mozart from The Magic Flute. “Fun fact, actually today is Mozart’s birthday,” explained Jake during his performance. “For my piece I play the role of Papageno, basically this guy is super lonely, he just wants someone to hold, someone to cuddle, he just wants a soul mate, and that’s essentially what he’s singing about in this piece.”
The Magic Flute was one of three pieces performed that are from Mozart. The other’s included The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni. “We did three excerpts from three different Mozart Operas today in honour of his birthday,” explained Erin.
Abridge’s “Chauvinism” theme for the season comes in the form of one of Mozart’s most famous operas, Don Giovanni, the exploits of Don Juan. Erin explained that they will do a full production with the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra at The Capitol Theatre (May 22 & 23). It will include local youth from the Windsor and Detroit area who are currently working with the British Opera.
“Don Giovanni, as you saw today, is not the nicest guy, in the end Mozart did write, that there was a moral to the story,” Erin said. “Mozart’s moral was, if you treat women badly you’re going to go to hell. Don Giovanni acts inappropriately the entire opera, at the end a statue of the man he killed at the beginning of the opera, drags him to Hell. Which is not really relevant but it’s sort of a good point, be kind to others. The moral to apply to today is that there are consequences for your actions.”
Abridged Opera’s season will continue in the summer with a “Champagne” theme during their Champagne Gala in a hay barn located at Wagner Orchards and Estate Winery. The event will feature songs about, for, or inspired by drinking, paired with wines and ciders. “They are fantastic German cooks. Their food is always incredible and they make this homemade cider there which is really cool,” expressed Erin.
Abridged Opera brought some past and future spookiness to their season launch, fitting in with their “Chicanery” theme, with a throwback to Turn of The Screw, and a preview of Giancarlo Menotti’s The Medium.
Turn of The Screw, from Abridge’s last season, “is one of the spookiest operas that I have ever seen, and it’s super fun,” Erin told us. Brianna DeSantis sang the part of the Governess who was looking after the children, and Erin was singing the part of Mrs. Gross the maid who has seen some evil things and hauntings in the house.
“We plan to mount Turn of The Screw again at some point because it was really successful,” Erin shared. “It was our first sold out show. It’s a Henry James novel which is popular, a lot of opera you don’t really know the name of until you hear it and recognize it. But Turn of The Screw is a recognized name.”
Erin (taking on the role of Monica’s mother) and Brianna (as Monica) continued their haunting performance with a preview of The Medium. The opera, a Halloween ghost story, is a one act opera performed in English. Pieces during Abridge’s launch concert featured enigmatic lyrics and a creepy lullaby. Abridged Opera will perform “The Medium” close to Halloween.
Overall, during their season launch concert, Abridged Opera member’s strong controlled vocals successfully awoke intense emotional responses within the audience, leaving them with chills and goosebumps, at times, to smiles and fluttering hearts, at others.
For more information about Abridged Opera and their upcoming events visit www.abridedopera.com