Opera Canada visits Manitoba Opera! Nov. 13, 2017

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Madama Butterfly kimono
Kimono courtesy of Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba in lobby of the Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg Photo: Opera Canada

While visiting a prematurely wintry Winnipeg this past weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting with Larry Desrochers, General Director and CEO of Manitoba Opera and their Director of Marketing, Darlene Ronald. They took me on a backstage tour of the Centennial Concert Hall where the company was busily moving in the sets for their first production of the season, Madama Butterfly which opens this coming Sat. Nov. 18.

Hiromi Omura as Madama Butterfly, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, Opera Australia 2014 Photo: Jeff Busby

Madama Butterfly sparks community discussion

We chatted about the challenges of producing this opera in the early 21st century in light of current discussions around cultural appropriation and racial stereotyping. To that end, Manitoba Opera held a panel discussion on Nov. 2 for the express purpose of discussing these issues. Speakers included Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura who sings the title role in this production. There was some criticism that Omura was the sole Asian on the panel but as Desrochers pointed out, “the goal is to have a wide-ranging discussion with people in Winnipeg’s broader arts community.”

Refugees part of MO’s 2014 Fidelio

Manitoba Opera’s grappling with community and social issues did not begin with this production. For its 2014 Fidelio, it invited refugees to take part in the staging, representing people who “have suffered terribly under oppressive regimes…many of [whom] sought refuge in” Manitoba, Desrochers stated at the time. The former refugees appeared in the opera’s final scene in which the title character gains freedom for her husband and all of his fellow prisoners.

Villa Rosa supplies drive

As part of their community engagement around Butterfly, Manitoba Opera is also sponsoring a ‘Babies and Mom Supplies Drive’ for Villa Rosa in recognition that the opera’s title character, Cio-Cio-San, is herself a single mother in a very difficult situation.

For more information about Manitoba Opera’s 2017/18 season opening production click here.