Organist Jim Leonard opens Okanagan festival with first opera

Maria Chapdelaine opens 4th annual Vernon Proms Classical Music Festival on June 29

A musical mixture based on a romantic and tragic story. That is how Jim Leonard describes his first opera Maria Chapdelaine, which opens the 4th annual Vernon Proms Classical Music Festival on June 29.

The organist began writing the opera when he was living and working in Barrie, Ont., in 2003, and a friend in the Simcoe County music scene contacted him.

The friend, a seasoned opera singer, suggested Leonard write an English opera based on Louis Hémon’s coming-of-age novel of the same name, set in 1920s rural Quebec.

“His confidence in me enabled me to go forward with it,” Leonard said, adding that the opera in Barrie also commissioned him to write it.

READ MORE: Vernon organist goes back to Bach

Due to budget constrictions, he only wrote the first two of four acts at the time.

“It was written in a fairly short time and it was all handwritten in pencil,” he said, adding that it is still a “cornucopia of styles.”

“When I wrote it in Barrie I was the member of an ensemble at a community choir and I was a church organist and I taught school and I played in various groups. All those influences came into the style of the music.”

By 2009, he finished the four acts in rough pencil form with only piano accompaniment.

Between 2009 and 2012, he added string orchestration and percussion.

The end result, with the help of music director Cvetozar Vutev, stage director and set designer Lana O’Brian, producer Natalia Polchenko and concertmaster Susan Schaffer, is a fully-staged opera performance.

“There is no dialogue,” Leonard said. “And there’s action, too.”

The opera actually opens with a dance scene.

“Then there’s a rumble,” he said. “And the next day they’re all in church and the priest, who was at the party, is giving them the what for, for their behaviour.

“They’re saying listen to him he was there, that pious hypocrite. However, the priest gains ground as the opera progresses, because he has to preside over the requiem for…Maria’s lover, and not the one her parents chose.”

Ultimately it is “a wonderful love story,” he said.

“A lot of the music is romantic in style.”

The chorus and musicians come from across the region, with some local favourites.

Leonard said the leads are all university-level singers who are “proving to be just excellent” and there are also a few local people from Melina Schein’s Valley Vocal Arts.

“There’s a couple of young men and they found time to be in Spamalot, which is their production, and the opera,” he said.

Tickets for the Maria Chapdelaine, which goes at 7 p.m. at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, are $40 for an adult, $35 for a senior and $16.75 for a student. The Vernon Proms Classical Festival runs until Aug. 4 with 27 concerts workshops and free events in Vernon and Kelowna. Visit www.vernonproms.ca for the complete festival line-up, event details and venue information and tickets information.

READ MORE: Monty Python’s Spamalot set for Vernon stage

READ MORE: Final week underway for Vernon Proms



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Just Posted

UPDATE: Penticton resident’s dog found safe

Nicholas Bozak thanks the public for finding his 17 month old mastiff chow

Keremeos man says stem cell therapy changed his life

Darryl Brewer says he went from being immobile with chronic pain to leading an active lifestyle

RDOS contributes funds to arts centre workshop

South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society wants input into proposed facility

Youth Wellness Gathering aims to empower, educate South Okanagan youth

The event is hosted by a non-profit located on the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) reserve July 22 & 23

Summerland Fall Fair to include zucchini race

Event is in honour of bobsleigh athlete Justin Kripps

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Survivorship Dragon Boat Team wins in Vernon

Team takes top spot in A division at festival

Kelowna car thief’s sentencing delayed

Stanley Nickason pled guilty car theft charges in B.C. Supreme Court

Development gives Kelowna community garden the boot

Glen Valley residents given a few days to break it down before land development

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

World-famous sopranos to hold concert in Okanagan

Two Canadian sopranos are bringing their world-famous voices to the Okanagan for one night only

Kelowna RCMP release video of reckless theft out of Southwest Mission

“Their tactics were anything but subtle,” states Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey

Summerland Fall Fair to include zucchini race

Event is in honour of bobsleigh athlete Justin Kripps

Most Read