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VIDEO: Adventures among the High Cs

Column: three opera fan favourites coming to Cowichan Theatre screen

I’ve just received my copy of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre’s Fall and Winter schedule and wow, it’s packed with all kinds of spectacular and unique shows for us.

The folks looking after the big stage have really outdone themselves this time.

As they say in advertising: Watch This Space!!! for future stories.

However, right now, my eye is drawn to two pages in this exciting catalogue.

Yep, you guessed it: The opera pages.

I first fell in love with opera in my early teens listening to CBC radio on Saturday afternoons. Actually these broadcasts are older even than me. They began in 1931. I didn’t join the audience until the 1960s.

Yes, I can hear you all now. What? You were suffering Siegfried when everyone else was bopping to the Beach Boys? Well, I was, but I liked the Beach Boys, too.

However, those erudite broadcasts hooked and landed me and I’ve been a fan ever since.

So, whenever the new fall schedule comes out from the theatre, one of the very first things I check are the opera offerings from The Met: Live in HD.

They usually try to fit in a few of our favourites along with the avant garde and esoteric works preferred by bored singers and orchestras who will do murder if they have to perform one more Carmen. (I know I am seating myself amid the oiks by saying this, but I do love the occasional Aida among the one-aria wonders or the works that were experimental in the 18th century.)

So, I’m positively delighted to see that this year’s Met lineup on the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre screen includes Puccini’s La Boheme, and Tosca, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

La Boheme is a real favourite with lots of opera lovers. This is one of those works where the music transcends everything and allows the audience to believe that a 300 pound woman is wasting away of tuberculosis in an attic while she bellows her high notes with perhaps an equally corpulent lover. If you let the music take you by the hand, you will end up in tears, too.

Tosca is as fiery as Italian opera should be. At the end, a passionate Tosca throws herself out the window, although there is a story that in one never-to-be-forgotten production, the landing-pad mattress was not placed low enough and the entire audience could see her lying on it. But when she tells you she has lived for art, you will believe her. The music does the trick.

The Magic Flute is as crazy as opera gets, with all kinds of characters singing some almost divine music that will take you off into another world, again, if you only let it. There are death-defying high notes, down-to-the-sea-in-ships low notes and everything in between. Don’t miss it.

On top of these three faves, the coming winter also includes a performance of Bellini’s Norma to start the season on Saturday, Oct. 7.

Now, for many of us the very word Norma means Monserrat Caballe but whoever sings it, the lead role in this famous work is one of the most taxing in all opera. (Yes, it’s the one where poor soporano Anna Moffo ran aground by singing it too much. Norma is onstage for almost the entire three hours.)

Three hours?

Ah yes, that brings me to my final confession: these shows are lo-o-o-ng and they begin at 9:55 a.m. or even earlier.

But, if you’re up for it and make the effort, you may find yourself planning further voyages among the High Cs.