Attending a live in-concert opera for the first time in almost two years was thrilling. The first post-pandemic production of opera in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, was made even more memorable by the fact that it was performed at the Lunenburg Opera House, built in 1908 but despite its name, had never been a venue for opera. It was originally intended as a vaudeville concert hall and live theatre until the 1940s, when it was converted to a cinema. Since 2006 the Opera House has been undergoing extensive restorations and finally, Maritime Concert Opera could perform in a fitting local venue.
The concerts on the 23rd and 24th of October combined a tribute to a local musical idol with a production of Cavalleria rusticana. Pearl Young Oxner was a musical powerhouse in the Lunenburg community from the 1920s until her death in 1968. She was a singer, conductor, director and producer of operettas as well as a teacher to several generations of children. The performance (seen Oct. 24th) included a selection of songs from her performance repertoire presented by a children’s chorus and by several highly accomplished adult musicians: Erin Bardua, Nina Scott-Stoddart, Katie Cochrane and Jason Davis.
Pietro Mascagni’s verismo one-acter, Cavalleria rusticana, was dynamically and forcefully performed despite the startling lack of a baritone, who was taken ill on the day. The improvisational ingenuity of Maritime Concert Opera must absolutely be commended. Alfio’s role was voiced by the versatile, flawless and brilliant pianist Tara Scott. The rest of the cast were splendidly oblivious to the lack of their Alfio and never let the audience down. As Santuzza, mezzo-soprano Lucy Hayes-Davis offered a powerful and heart-wrenching portrait of a victim of unrequited love and betrayal. Her formidable voice filled the theatre with glorious anguish. The magnificent tenor of Jason Davis as Turiddu made Santuzza’s despair at losing him entirely credible. Katie Cochrane was an animated, lively and charming Lola. Nina Scott-Stoddart lent her mellow mezzo to a perfectly exquisite portrayal of Mamma Lucia. Scott-Stoddart had a very busy performance on the 24th: she directed the children’s choir during the Pearl Oxner tribute as well as the eleven-member adult choir in Cavalleria rusticana and also sang in both segments of the performance. Her witty welcoming introduction to the event set the perfect tone for the production
One admirable feature of MCO is its unfailing inclusion of local community members in its productions – a very effective method of drawing a wider, younger, and potentially more faithful audience to opera.
More details on MCO and its upcoming productions available here.
Daphna Levit was born in Israel, served in the army, and received undergraduate degrees in linguistics and literature from Tel Aviv University. She has contributed numerous articles in both Hebrew and English to various publications such as Ha’aretz and The Other Israel and is coauthor of Israeli Rejectionism: A Hidden Agenda in the Middle East Peace Process. She lives and teaches courses at academic institutions in Nova Scotia.