Don't miss: Macbeth in VancouverInterview
As their name suggests, Vancouver-based Heroic Opera is all about the big and grand. Their production of Verdi’s Macbeth (July 5-6) is a continuation of their company mandate to present the dramatic works of Verdi, Wagner, and Strauss. Even pared down in a cabaret-style venue, and Music Director Perri Lo in place of a full orchestra, it’s a fairly rare treat to see these large, hard-to-produce operas, and to hear the singers fit for their roles.
We spoke with stage director Jeanine Fynn about her Macbeth for Heroic Opera, and the unique need the company satisfies in Vancouver’s opera scene.
What niche do you think is filled by Heroic Opera’s mandate to perform opera specifically by Wagner, Verdi, and Strauss?
These are works that are usually only done by large companies because they’re so grand, which means very few singers get the opportunity to sing through these full shows – they’re often only getting to perform arias and scenes. Heroic Opera recognizes that there are singers who want to sing this repertoire, and audiences that want to hear it. In Vancouver, that was a space that wasn’t being filled.
What are the unique challenges of a larger or more dramatic voice in young singers?
I think we need to be careful not to give too much to singers too soon. Just because they can hit the notes doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for their voice. And then with this repertoire, it is easy to tend to push and over-sing in large halls. We’re in a smaller hall, with piano, which lends itself to singers who may still be developing into these roles. Our Music Director Perri Lo is doing a great job navigating this with our cast.
As a director, what do you find most exciting about directing Verdi’s Macbeth? What do you find most challenging?
I mean…I love me a salacious tale, and this is Game of Thrones-level drama. Treachery, swordfights, murders, wild women in the woods telling the future…what isn’t to love? And the way Verdi tells the tale musically, he really makes my job easy – I just have to listen to what the music is asking of us.
The most challenging? Probably the technicality behind that damn ghost of Banquo appearing and disappearing. Although that may be because we just staged that scene, and it turns out real people can’t physically do what my brain decided they could.
What do you hope your production of Macbeth will say about power, jealousy, and husbands and wives?
Oh geez…well husbands and wives (or spouses of any kind really) – it’s a complex relationship. They won’t always agree, and yet they have a bond that can see them through some seriously messed up stuff. For better or worse, as they say. Side note – this is my first time directing my husband Kevin Armstrong, who’s playing MacDuff, which has been an interesting experience on its own.
Jealousy: it can drive some seriously questionable life choices.
And power: I’m playing a bit with the roles of some characters observing the madness in this castle so that we start to question who really has the power and where. When it comes down to it, that’s what most of these characters are striving for throughout, right? So I thought it would be interesting to explore whether they were really in as much control of what goes on as they seem to think.
What operas are still on your directorial wish-list?
I’ve been wanting to do a collective production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress forever – I have so many talented friends that would be so great in those roles, and I can see it all like snapshots. Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges has been on my list since grad school because the story is so quirky and Prokofiev is ear candy for me. And I really want to work collaboratively on something new. I’ve only done traditional pieces for the most part, although I do like to twist them around when I can, but the prospect of helping create something new and fresh that speaks enthusiastically to today’s audience is super exciting for me.