Meet the Friends & their Seven Deadly SinsInterview
“Cabaret band, silent film, inverted morality & more, in a pocket-sized production of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Die Sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins).”
Shows are at 8pm at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, 509 Dundas St. E. For tickets and details, follow the box office links below. In the meantime, get to know The Friends themselves: soloist Stephanie Conn (singing Anna) and conductor Scott Gabriel.
Hope to see you all at the show!
1. How did you first get into opera?
Scott: I guess just via the intersection of music and theatre, which are fascinations for me. For a couple of decades I had a partner who is a singer and that certainly channeled a lot of data about what the life and the work are like for a singer. Working with singers — as a conductor or chamber musician — has always been special and rewarding.
I’ve listened to a lot of opera and experienced it from the pit, but I wouldn’t say I’m an “opera guy”. It’s a jumping-off point for experimenting with theatre and music.
Stephanie: My parents had an old LP of Cavalleria Rusticana. It was their only opera recording and so I used to listen to it a lot. In retrospect it seems an odd entry into opera but perhaps it is more prescient than I think, because like The Seven Deadly Sins it’s also a very short work, isn’t it? (I jest; it’s so different in every other way.) My first degrees were in Musicology so I attended a lot of opera during those years. As for first-hand experience, I have only ever performed in 17th and 18th-century operas. But I also adore many 20th century operas. I like the sense of experimentation in both these periods, which really were watershed times of almost constant change, weren’t they?
2. What have you learned about the industry since starting your own company?
Scott: I hadn’t known just how many small companies were at work on opera and musical theatre education. It’s exciting.
Stephanie: Exactly, and many of them are quite young. But also, I had always noticed a greater number of younger folks attending opera than other classical genres, so it seems natural that there should be a lot of them wanting to make it, too.
3. What do you look for in young professional singers?
Scott: Openness, a sense of adventure, and good musicianship.
Stephanie: As a singer Scott has hired, I’d add that thankfully, he also doesn’t have a set idea about how a singer ‘should’ sound but is open to different kinds of expression.
4. Who have been your influences or mentors?
Scott: I think we owe it all to the people who have given of themselves and allowed us to grow. I’ve sopped up the wisdom of a lot of compassionate, intelligent, interested people, including my own students. Special mention should go to Adelina Burashko, Jorma Panula, Tom Rolston, and Vondis Miller.
Stephanie: Many years ago as a CBC production assistant, I worked on a recording of Nic Gotham’s Nigredo Hotel (produced by Tapestry under Wayne Strongman, directed by Banuta Rubess). That blew my ideas of what opera could be out of the water and stayed with me for a long time. As a singer, I owe so much to the master teacher Carol Forte, who is just amazing at helping singers to get out of their own way, vocally and emotionally! Every minute with her is a master class and she is lovely, too.
5. What do you get out of your work with The Friends of Gravity? What do you try to accomplish with each production?
Stephanie: We’re lucky so far in that we only work with people we really like, who are also very good at what they do, so it never feels like work. And working with Scott and others reminds me of the power of a great team. We can do so much more together. And it’s thrilling to be making something live!
Scott: I get to work with really smart people and learn new things every day. I look for ways in which the music, action, and design can be folded together to make a special world where its own unique rules apply, slightly magical.
Don’t miss The Seven Deadly Sins, September 25th & 26th at 8pm. Details in the box office links below!