Rather than sing for their own suppers, former and current students from the opera studies program at the University of Manitoba’s faculty of music are prepared to sing to yours.
"It’s a beautiful evening," says Danika Jones, treasurer of the Italian-Canadian Foundation of Manitoba Inc., of an Evening of Light Opera, presented in its 15th incarnation by the ICFM on Apr. 6 at the non-profit cultural and community Caboto Centre.
For $85 (and a tax deductible receipt of $35), attendees can enjoy a multi-course Italian dinner with wine, catered by the Caboto Centre, and a programme of popular arias by such composers as Puccini, Verdi and Donizetti.
A fundraiser for non-profit ICFM, the event this year honours Juno-nominated, Winnipeg born-and-raised soprano Tracy Dahl. However, organizer Mario Audino says the event has, from its inception, always had another, simultaneous purpose.
"We wanted to popularize opera," says Audino, originally from Calabria and an instructor of Italian at the University of Winnipeg. He is himself a member of community-based choir Viva l’Italia and a former Manitoba Opera board member.
Which, almost needless to say, means he’s a fan of the art; when asked about his love for opera, he replies, "I’m Italian" – as if his passion is only natural.
That passion may be catching on: Audino reports that the event – which first took place in 1998 with a group of about 40 at the restaurant of De Luca’s specialty food store – has only seen its attendance grow yearly ever since.
The food would seem to have helped in this direction: "People like the dinner," says Audino, who is also managing editor of Il Nuovo Sole, a local, monthly Italian community paper.
The menu this year consists of Italian antipasto, mixed field greens, osso buco (veal shank) in primavera sauce, risotto alla milanese, roasted asparagus and nocciola (hazelnut) and lemon gelato with wafer garnish.
That the emphasis is typically upon the "light" where the music is concerned may also be a determiner of success.
"The image of opera is that it’s heavy," Audino says. That may very well scare some people off: Jones herself laughs, "I haven’t been to too many heavy operas."
Hence, there will be "no Wagner or death operas," says Katherine Twaddle, an opera director who teaches advanced opera studies at the U of M, and who will select the music the students will perform.
Furthermore, Twaddle says, "People feel the kinds of huge emotions in opera, so they’re still very relatable, not just for an elite."
While Audino also fondly recalls such highlights as one year featuring 40 members of the Manitoba Opera chorus, U of M opera students have usually comprised the core of the event.
"It affords a valuable opportunity for them to perform for the general public," Twaddle says. "And it’s fortunate in this case that it’s with such a receptive and enthusiastic audience."
For more information and to purchase tickets, please contact Mario Audino at firstname.lastname@example.org 204-488-2480 or Danika Jones at email@example.com 204-487-4597 Ext. 23.