Dillon Parmer & Mozart's Masonic Journey

Dillon Parmer & Mozart's Masonic Journey

Greg Finney

Once again, contributor Greg Finney finds himself involved with another ‘outside-the-box’ concert presentation. This time it’s the perennial favourite, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, happening January 28 and 30th at the York Banquet & Event Center.

This concert’s a little different, so Greg asked tenor Dillon Parmer, who organized the concert and the whole event, to give us a little more insight on what’s happening with this concert, and what’s coming up for him.

Where did your singing journey start and what brought you into opera?

My singing journey began at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Toronto, in the boys’ choir under the direction of John Tuttle. After my voice changed, I joined the adult choir where I sang next to many established opera singers from the Greater Toronto Area. It was a rich musical environment, with repertoire extending from Gregorian chant to the newest compositions coming out of UofT.

The serious pursuit of singing in general, and of opera in particular, only took hold after I heard Pavarotti live in concert in Toronto.

What do you currently do to pursue opera?

That pursuit led me to a BMus at Western University. But it takes more than four years to put a professionally viable instrument together. I put singing to the side to pursue graduate and doctoral work in musicology and eventually landing a university position.

From there, I was able to take up my pursuit of singing again which culminated with my debut as Laertes in Thomas’s Hamlet and then Malcolm in Verdi’s Macbeth, both with the now defunct Opera Lyra Ottawa. That latter production led me to New York and the studio of Bill Schuman. With his help, I completely reworked my voice and learned the repertoire for an entirely different tenor Fach. With this new voice, I have performed roles as Pollione (Norma) and Faust (Damnation), various operatic recitals, and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with L’orchestre symphonique de Longueuil.

As well, I have started a small production company devoted to mounting unusual works (or innovative productions of well-known works). The company gives singers of all levels of expertise and experience opportunities to perform full roles.

Why choose The Magic Flute, and how is this one different?

For that company, Magic Flute was an obvious choice given the diversity of roles and levels of expertise needed. But to make my production different from the two others that were being mounted in Ottawa that year, I decided to cut all the dialogue and put in its place a narration that highlighted the Masonic elements of the story line: indeed, it is these elements that set this opera apart from all other operas in the standard repertoire.

I called the show Mozart’s Masonic Journey, and it was given to great success in Ottawa. For many of the Masons, it was their first experience of opera and they were sold on it! For many of the seasoned opera goers, it was (or so some of them told me) the first time they felt they really understood what Flute was about!

How did you put this show together?

The present revival of that show here in the GTA stems from an invitation from Brainerd Blyden-Taylor (Director of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale) to remount the production for the Masonic community in the GTA. Since I was not familiar with the vocal scene here, I asked my friend Kristine Dandavino (Artistic Director of Oshawa Opera) for help with casting. Her recommendations led me to cast all the principals and most of the secondary roles.

With the help of Gregory Finney (who will play Papageno), I was able to cast the remaining roles. Even though the cast was assembled as “sight unseen,” I am thrilled with how well everyone meshes together.

What can we expect next from Dillon Parmer?

After Flute, I am gearing up for a recital of opera ensembles (from Mozart through Strauss), an all Verdi program, and another Pollione. In the planning stages for later this spring and into next season are operas by Gounod, Verdi, Handel, and Britten.

But there’s more to Dillon Parmer than just singing (and teaching singing). In the world of academia (I am a professor at the School of Music at the University of Ottawa), I write about the disconnect between theory and practice, scholarship and performance, research and real life. I have delivered lectures (the last one was at Princeton) and authored articles on the matter. I am currently writing a book, entitled Facing the Music: A Musician’s Critique of Academia, in which I address the problem head on.

When I am not engaged in the vocal or scholarly arts, I train as a martial artist (Taekwondo). This year I won my first provincial gold and am currently in training for various national and international competitions. I hope to have my first-degree black belt by the end of 2017.

The real focus of my life, however, is my family: my wife, my daughter, my son.

The Magic Flute - Mozart’s Masonic Journey plays January 28th and 30th at The York Banquet and Event Center, 1100 Millwood Rd, East York. For details and tickets, follow the box office links below.

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