Friday, November 22, 2013

Bringing opera to Sudbury and Timmins' communities

Co-written by Nathalie Prézeau, Marketing Manager at Prologue to the Performing Arts
and guest blogger Katherine Semcesen, Associate Director, Education and Outreach at the COC 

 The cast and crew of the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour production of La serva padrona, 2013. Photo: Chris Hutcheson

For six years, Prologue has been instrumental in establishing relationships in Sudbury and Timmins in an effort to bring the Canadian Opera Company's Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour to schools in northern Ontario. We had to share our latest experience with you!


2. Claire de Sévigné as Serpina and Clarence Frazer
as Uberto in the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour
production of La serva padrona, 2013. Photo: Chris Hutcheson
1) It all started with a partnership between Prologue and the the COC

For over 30 years, Prologue has facilitated the COC's touring opera production for young people in Ontario. Based in Toronto, the COC is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America (and one of the founding members of Prologue!). 

The COC's school tour is generously sponsored by Glencore (one of the world's largest global diversified natural resource companies with sites in Sudbury and Timmins). The COC wants to give back to the communities in which Glencore operates, hence the tour up north.

2) La serva padrona: a comic one-act opera
 (l-r) Claire de Sévigné as Serpina, Geoffrey Sirett as Gatone and Clarence Frazer
as Uberto in the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour production of
La serva padrona, 2013. Photo: Chris Hutcheson

The COC is touring a new production of Pergolesi's classic Italian comedy, La serva padrona. First performed in Paris in 1752, the opera caused a controversy which would greatly influence the development of French opera. 

This comic opera from the 18th century tells the story of a man, Uberto, and his impertinent servant, Serpina. When Uberto announces that he must marry so that his new mistress can put Serpina in her place, Serpina hatches a plan to find a suitor of her own, by tricking Uberto into marrying her! (* Read more on the controversy around this opera, and the Pamphlet war, at the end of this post!)

3) Growing the partnership one school board at a time

Stéphanie Filippi, Prologue's Education and Outreach Touring Manager, reached out to her contacts at the Rainbow District School Board (serving all the public schools in Sudbury), the Sudbury Catholic District School Board, and the District School Board Ontario North East in Timmins, about hosting performances of the COC's La serva padrona for students in Grades 6 to 12.

In the spirit of partnership and collaboration, Sudbury Secondary School also hosted a performance in their new auditorium for students from the Catholic School Board.
 Clarence Frazer as Uberto in the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour production of La serva padrona, 2013. Photo: Chris Hutcheson
(l-r) Clarence Frazer as Uberto, Claire de Sévigné as Serpina and Geoffrey Sirett as Gatone
in the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour production of
La serva padrona, 2013. Photo: Chris Hutcheson
4) As a result of everyone's efforts, over 1600 students experienced a professional opera in the comfort of their school communities!


Clarence Frazer as Uberto
in the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour production of
La serva padrona, 2013. Photo: Chris Hutcheson
The COC's cast, featuring Canada's top emerging opera singers, performed in full costume with sets, props and piano accompaniment. An informal question-and-answer period with the cast followed each performance. 

One student's reaction after seeing the performance: "The performers were magnificent. My personal favourite was Uberto. I was awestruck at how he was able to perform, for a great amount of time, without having a drink of water, and how he could hold notes for such a long time. The pianist was another favourite of mine... I was enthralled at how fast she could play."  

Ralph McIntosh, Arts Education Co-ordinator for the Rainbow District School Board, echoed the student's sentiment: "Please extend our thanks to the performers and to the musical director and the accompanist for their first-rate performances on November 14 and 15. Their skill and enthusiasm as well as their passion for the operatic art form were evident to all the students and adults who attended the performance."

Building strong partnerships between professional arts organizations, school boards and founders is the key to providing high quality arts experience for student.


To learn about the production and how to book a performance for your school, search La Serva Padrona in the search box of prologue.org !


Please LIKE Prologue on Facebook to get more anecdotes 
and fun bits on the great adventure of arts advocacy 
in the schools and communities!

Claire de Sévigné as Serpina and Clarence Frazer as Uberto
 in the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour production of La serva padrona, 2013. Photo: Chris Hutcheson
* About the controversy 
As you can learn in the COC's study guide, the comedic nature of the story and lightness of the music caused a divide between audiences: those who enjoyed the new Italian comedic style and those who preferred the more traditional "serious" French lyric opera. This divide was known as la Querelle des Bouffons (war of the comic actors) and it was a source of great contention. 

It initiated a flurry of pamphlet-making known as a "Pmaphlet War", during which printed leaflets, booklets, and other publications were used by both sides of the controversy to sway public opinion and to attempt to convince readers that one opera style, whichever was being propagated and defended by the author, was superior. 

Perhaps in this day and age the show would start a Twitter was sooner than a Pamphlet war!

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