Article by Susan Tsang
Stepping into Opera Zone located in the sunroom at Kerrisdale Community Centre, a host of possibilities awaited for me unbeknownst. The people coming in were shuffling and rearranging themselves so that they all got their favourite seats to enjoy the upcoming show. Some of the regular audience made themselves comfortable and at home with their companions. The two ladies that took their place behind me began discussing their favourite opera singers and each of their vocal types, plus a series of music recommendations. Buzz of anticipation rose for the familiar artists’ lineup such as the beloved dramatic soprano Jane Perrett, pianist/singer/composer Gerard Satamian, and the mezzo soprano Ayako Komaki, plus other new additions and surprise guests that will astonish with their talents that none expected.
Before attending my first opera performance, I had not expected the richness and the possibilities that one can do with opera singing. The Opera Zone is mainly composed of pieces from opera shows. The songs did not merely rely on the composition and the singing skill, they were enriched by the stories behind the voice. Jane sang several love stories that afternoon. She began the second portion of the show by bringing ‘Un bel di’ (One Fine Day) to life. The song was first composed for the Meiji-period tragedy Madam Butterfly (1904) – an Italian opera that narrates a wistful Cio Cio san who expects her American lieutenant husband to return to Japan. As Cio Cio san, Jane drawled out her voice like a lonesome wife imploring to see her husband again, but gradually, the hopeful, light soprano voice ascended and resonated with the faith in her lover’s return.
Another facet to that day’s performances was singing duets. The session’s special guest that wrapped up the awe-inspiring show was Arthur. He sang a duet – “Arrivederci, Roma” the English version – with his friend Jane. They assumed the roles of Marc professing his love to Rafaella after they parted. Not only did their tenor and soprano voices produce pleasing and romantic harmony, they acted out their roles with affectionate eye contact. Though singing is not his career, Arthur looked at ease in front of a sizeable audience. He told me after how he was able to stand on that stage, “It’s because of my love of music. And I love Jane’s voice. I was dying to sing with somebody who knows music and how to sing. It’s not for any show, it’s just that I love doing it.” Arthur’s love for singing showed at a young age when he was a soprano in a choir. Arthur is now a senior but his passion for singing continues. Singing is for all ages at various stages of experience regardless of their main persuasion. In addition to Arthur reconciling with his passion of music, the young student Ayako had her first experience of performing in the Opera Zone. She was afluttered in the beginning, nonetheless, her budding talent shone through during her solo and duet with her teacher. The audience cheered enthusiastically which gave the newcomer the confidence to connect with her listeners in her true voice.
Arthur and Jane’s duet ended the breathtaking concert on a good note.
No matter who you are, whether you are a professional, an amateur, or a trainee, you need the supportive audience to let your voice be heard. “If it wasn’t for Gerard and Keiko, I wouldn’t be standing here to perform,” said Jane. We need passionate listeners and fellow musicians in order to share the joy and the possibilities of singing. And the possibilities are boundless in the Opera Zone; you can watch for your favourite artists to stroke your heartstring through entertaining stories of the opera act or original songs. They can be new artists that contain unexpected talents or seasoned artists that know their way on a stage. They all need listeners who appreciate their musicalities. It is fortunate that many of the opera-goers asked questions and talked about music with the lingering artists that were happy to exchange everything about music even after the show. After the thundering applause receded, it was no mistake that many will return next month and the months after. The Opera Zone also invites you to join them to enjoy the wonder and the possibilities that opera will bring every first Sunday at 2pm-4pm.