Article by Lara Boleslawsky
Photos by Noriko Nasu-Tidball
Walking in, one is greeted by a jovial atmosphere; the afternoon sunlight filters into the room, illuminating the dark wood of the piano at the front of the room. There is a small buzz, with the audience waiting in anticipation for the concert to begin. We begin with the classics: Jane Perrett’s soprano voice is soars as she sings ‘Quando Me’n Vo’, teasing her lover as Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème. It is then Gerard Satamian’s turn to take the stage, and the tone immediately shifts as he laments love in Poulenc’s heartbreaking ‘Les chemins de l’amour’. Each performer embodies not only their respective characters, but also the songs themselves. It is a truly magnificent spectacle, and the brief intermission is needed, if only to refresh after the emotional outpour of each performance.
Indeed, we are treated not only to Jane Perrett and Gerard Satamian’s brilliant voices, but also to breathtaking piano instrumentals by Jane’s son, David. Performing classics such as Chopin’s ‘Prelude in B Minor’ and Beethoven’s first movement of ‘Leichte Sonate in G Major’ he brings a voice to these songs, flitting about the room as if truly alive.
Following the intermission is a brief performance by mezzo soprano Ayako Komaki. She beams brightly before beginning her performance, only to transform before our very eyes, becoming the tragic Queen Dido, mourning her own lamentable future whilst singing ‘When I am Laid in Earth’. The intensity present in the room soon reconstructs, with Jane Perrett’s rendition of the classic Disney tune, ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’, whereupon everyone is urged to join in. Continuing along this nostalgic frame, Gerard Satamian ends the concert with ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ prompting the entire audience to clap and sing along. His baritone fills the room and the jovial atmosphere that marked the inception of the concert is restored. There is smattering applause for all of the performers and everyone in the room is left with a sense of wanting more. An encore performance perhaps? Alas, the two hours have flown by.
Opera Zone, a free concert series occurring once a month at the Kerrisdale Community Centre, may only have two events under its belt, however both have been a resounding success. In truth, Gerard Satamian and Jane Perrett are swarmed by their audience after the concert, with each and every conversation ending in almost the same way: “See you next month!” Seated in the corner, with David playing Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ in the background, Jane Perrett and Gerard Satamian were able to shed some light on their careers, their song choices and also about the origins of Opera Zone itself.
Opera Zone is driven by passion. As Gerard mentions, “I always wanted to do this.” This is Opera Zone, a safe space where music lovers can come together and appreciate classical music. Gerard found himself in possession of this great idea, however he had no space for it to come into fruition. Luckily, Gerard’s love for music led him to the solution: “It was through Keiko [Honda]. I teach her daughter piano and we got to talking,” he pauses, looking around, “and now we’re here.” He continues: “I wanted to share my passion for singing and for opera,” adding that, “I thought of Jane immediately.”
Jane, a classically trained vocalist, started singing at age five. “I loved to sing,” she recalls keenly. When she was seventeen, Jane met her opera teacher, marking the start of her fifteen-year training period. “I began as a mezzo soprano, I remember my teacher telling me that there were no limits to what I could do, I even performed ‘Queen of the Night’ once,” Jane remembers fondly.
“Ultimately I sing because it’s fun, because we want to have fun,” Jane says, and Gerard nods in agreement. Jane is a great lover of the Romantic Era, citing her favourite composers as Verdi and Puccini; something that is reflected in this past month’s set list. “Mostly, I like to brush up on my repertoire, and revive the classics that I love,” Jane answers when asked about how she selects the songs for each month’s performance. Gerard’s approach is similar: “I dig into my repertoire. But I always like new things. You should always sing things you like.”
As such, their passion manifests itself in the emotion that permeates the air during each respective performer’s turn on stage. This prompted the question: When you sing, is there an element of each individual character that you tap into? Both Gerard and Jane take time to contemplate their answers. “I tap into a zone of feeling,” Jane replies, and continues, “the meaning begins like a seed inside, and its something I really want to share.”
“I try to tap into a character,” is Gerard’s answer, “each song is very different and you have to remember what you are singing about.” He pauses a moment and then adds, “I don’t like to over-act though. There is a certain intimacy when you sing and over-acting can take away from that.”
In the end both singers are driven passionately forward by the art that they create. When asked what they thought a modern audience could gain from opera and the stories told therein, both were eager to answer. Indeed, Opera Zone was in part inspired to share opera and music with today’s diverse audience. “Opera Zone allows you to hear different styles of music. It’s a great venue for different voices and sharing live music. There’s something about live music, its very raw in a way,” Jane says.
Gerard agrees, adding that, “Many of the things we sing about are the same from two hundred years ago. Love, betrayal, despair are all themes that are eternal and universal. They apply today as much as they did then.”
Opera Zone is a rare treat in the mist of today’s frenzied day-to-day life. It provides an escape route, a tunnel extending out from the mundane and into the sublime. The free concert is free for everyone and a brilliantly entertaining and fulfilling event that brings people together. Music builds a sort of community through its effortless ability to bring people from all walks of life together and for one brief afternoon, allows them to connect. Opera Zone occurs on the first Sunday of every month at the Kerrisdale Community Centre. I encourage you to check it out!