Ottawa Opera Debut!

Last weekend I had the immense pleasure of making my operatic debut in Ottawa singing in both Suor Angelica and Pagliacci with South Ottawa Performing Arts Collaborative (SOPAC). From our very first rehearsal,  I was SO excited to sing with such a great group of artists. A cast ranging from 12 – 65+! For me, it meant a lot to be included in these productions, since I *just* moved back to Ottawa and was struggling with my identity as a singer through all of life’s recent changes.img_5604

What I loved most about this experience was the people. First, the production team was outstanding (amazing, organized and collaborative WOMEN! YEAH!!) and the singers were also top notch. Not just in skill, but they were lovely human beings. As per usual, there are always moments of stress when you’re putting a production together (especially in 4-5 days!), but everyone was always kind and thoughtful, and everyone lifted each other up. People were genuine and I was so happy to be back in Canada, performing in a place that I have always loved and called home!! I left the first rehearsal thinking ‘yep, opera people are my kind of people’! Hooray for new music friends!

It was a new experience for me leading up to these shows – my first productions where I’m single and living on my own (no one to come home to for hugs/food/debriefing) and also, the first time singing in a place so COLD and DRY. Omg, that was fun – yay Ottawa winters! Also, I was juggling my full time government job with the singing rehearsals and shows. It was a lot to handle, more than I think I had anticipated it would be. Turns out your body actually likes to rest once in awhile when you’re asking it to make beautiful sounds, think clearly and have energy to give in rehearsals and performance. Who knew? 🙂 Lol. img_5647 Being a crazed villager and running while singing in Pagliacci was a challenge at first, but super fun in the end – opera is not just stand and sing, my friends!! I’m really grateful to have an incredible support network, both in the government and with my singing colleagues – I would not have been able to survive the past few weeks without everyone being so understanding and amazing. Hugs, chocolate, naps in church pews, coffee and laughing about the craziness of life with friends definitely kept me sane.

I had several favorite moments during the productions, but I have to say one of the biggest things that struck me during rehearsals was how much one’s body remembers about particular phrases and interpretations when you’re singing an opera for the second time. I am fortunate that I came into the production of Suor Angelica, having performed it in Italy this past summer. However, despite the musical parts of Italy being a glorious experience (and, well, Italy) , personally I was struggling with my massive life changes that were coming – I felt broken and I didn’t know where my life was headed in July, which was scary. I was preparing to live and be on my own for the first time ever, I didn’t know how I would necessarily support myself or know where I should go; if I should change careers yet again, give up on my opera singing dream, throw in the towel or carry on. There was a lot of emotional turbulence on the personal front this past summer as I was singing the beautiful music of Suor Angelica. As I rehearsed 6 months later in Ottawa for the same opera, my body certainly reminded me of the massive change and personal growth I’ve undergone since last summer. With exhaustion setting in, and the beautiful Puccini melodies that brought up all of the emotion, I broke down during a break in one of our rehearsals. One of my new singing buddies caught me and I so appreciated the hug and chat – thanks TL!! It was a lot to process, but I had to release the memories and pain that bubbled up to heal. I felt like I shed an outdated piece of me (much like a snake sheds its skin) and it was so incredibly cleansing!! Music is such a powerful healer when we allow ourselves to open up to it.

The other absolutely amazing thing that happened from being part of these productions was the sheer number of people who came out to see an opera, for the FIRST TIME! Woohoo! One of my friends exclaimed ‘I never knew opera could be this fun!’ and I had a lovely chat with a friend’s daughter who was nine about the fact that the singers in our production didn’t use microphones. 🙂 For me, I am always thrilled to expose people to this often misunderstood art form, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so, especially given my recent move back to Ottawa. To all of those who made the trek to the Glebe to support us in these productions – THANK YOU!!! It was incredible to share what we are passionate about with so many people and to have such an overwhelming response, even on Superbowl Sunday! 🙂

Here are a few pics that were taken during the production and also a few backstage selfies! Wearing a habit never seems to get old….

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To sum up, I’m so grateful for everyone who contributed to the success of these productions. The people always make it, and the passion and dedication to the details for these shows was evident. Morgan, Tania, Nadia, Alaina, Maureen, Susanna, Jason, Alan and everyone who sang – BRAVI, BRAVI, BRAVI! Thank you so much for the opportunity to be part of this, for making this such an amazing experience for so many of us, and for your commitment to this beautiful art form. I cannot wait to see what is coming next!

A la prossima volta, tutti!

About Melanie Anderson

Singer, basketball player, scotch enthusiast, Canadian. http://www.MelanieIAnderson.com
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