Celebrating 10 years of Opera By Request William Shookhoff, founder & director of Opera By Request. Photo courtesy of OBR.

Celebrating 10 years of Opera By Request

Greg Finney

Hello Schmop-Tops,

Coming up this June in Toronto, one of our well-loved operatic institutions will be having a pretty big birthday.

Opera By Request was founded 10 years ago by director William Shookhoff after noticing a small void in the performance availabilities for singers embarking on their “grown-up” careers as soloists. Shookhoff understood firsthand what young professional singers were lacking and realized that true knowledge of a role can only come from performing an entire opera with a full cast on stage. From the beginning, Shookhoff has invited singers to propose and co-produce operas, with the intention to build the singer’s repertoire and performance experience.

Thus, OBR was established with the mandate of providing emerging artists with meaningful performance experience to help develop their careers while building appropriate repertoire.

Since its inception, OBR has produced more than 200 performances of 90 different operas featuring hundreds of singers. They are celebrating this momentous anniversary with an ambitious production of a dream opera - Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. I myself have been involved with a number of their productions (Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, Adriana Lecouvreur and Bluebeard’s Castle, to name a few) and can vouchsafe for their ability to bring beautiful works to the ears of Torontonians on a regular basis.

Shookhoff, whose own operatic career spans four decades and includes opera companies on both sides of the Atlantic as well as university, festival, and music theatre engagements, sees OBR as a way to give back to the operatic community and to provide opportunities for emerging talent, just as established mentors (including Canadian icons Herman Geiger-Torel, Ernesto Barbini, and Mario Bernardi) provided those opportunities for artists of his generation.

This tenth anniversary production of Der Rosenkavalier, conducted by Maestro Shookhoff, is a culmination of the work, mentoring, encouragement, and crucial performance opportunities given to OBR artists.

German-born, Calgary-based bass Uwe Dambruch, who has performed throughout Europe and Western Canada, sings Baron Ochs. Dutch-American soprano Katharine Dain, recently of Dutch National Opera; Aldeburgh Festival; and Vienna‚Äôs Musikverein, sings Marschallin. Barbara King, fresh off her appearance with the Edmonton Opera in Elektra, sings the title role, while Toronto soprano Danielle Dudycha, current doctoral candidate at UofT and former resident artist with the Calgary Opera and Ottawa’s Opera Lyra, sings Sophie. Brahm Goldhamer will deliver a pre-concert talk.

The chamber orchestration, created for Victory Hall Opera of Virginia, will receive its second airing in Toronto.

Der Rosenkavalier takes place June 9-10, 2017 at Church of the Redeemer, 162 Bloor Street West. Tickets are available at the door or can be purchased online. More information can also be obtained via email, on Facebook, or by phoning 416-455-2365.

Let’s get out there and celebrate another of Toronto’s great opera gems.

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