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Edmonton's Opera Nuova, a training program for young singers, celebrated its 10th anniversary in June with a staging of Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus set in 1973 New York and a conventional production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote.

Director Michael Cavanagh's highly entertaining Die Fledermaus featured as consistently good a cast as I've ever heard in an Opera Nuova production, with a couple of outstanding singers. The Rosalinde of University of Manitoba grad Jessica Strong, a confident and accomplished soprano, was the vocal anchor in this cleverly updated version. Projecting well musically, she also projects character with a real performer's pleasure. Mireille Asselin, now at the outset of a Master's degree in opera at Yale, was a delightful Adele. She has a vivacious stage presence and a soprano that both charms and brightens a room. Though not as good as these two, the rest of the student cast were nonetheless a credit to such excellent mentors as baritone John Fanning, mezzo Judith Forst and soprano Joanne Kolomyjec, the core of this year's Opera Nuova faculty.

In the opening performance of Die Zauberflote, directed by Opera Nuova founder Kim Mattice Wanat, tenor Isaiah Bell took ownership of the role of Tamino with more than steady results, while Jacqueline Woodley's Tamina was also secure. Michael Rusnak found a nice blend of musicality and comic energy to create an engaging Papageno. The Queen of the Night must be daunting for a young soprano, and UBC grad Ni Shi handled the technical demands penetratingly, albeit with room to grow into the dramatic expectations of the touchstone coloratura challenge. The trio of ladies--Katie Murphy, Christie Derksen, Eugenia Dermentzis--did some excellent ensemble work, and also opened the performance amusingly with their squabbles over an inert, but still seductive, Tamino.

A small pit orchestra made up of professional and student musicians played for both operas. Edmonton Opera Music Director Peter Dala, sporting a loud shirt and bandana to match the production's hippie scenario, conducted Die Fledermaus, while Rosemary Thomson conducted Die Zauberflote.
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Title Annotation:CANADA
Author:Rankin, Bill
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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