By ALAN SHACKLETON
A series of videos showcasing local opera singers features a number of well-known Toronto locations including Balmy Beach and the Ted Reeve baseball diamonds.
The five videos were the idea of Upper Beach resident Kathy Domoney in collaboration with opera stage director Francoise Racine and Coffeeshop Creative.
She told Beach Metro News that the Opera Breaks videos, which are being released this month on You Tube, were created as a way to help those in Toronto’s opera community share their performances with others in a creative way while dealing with the restrictions made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As so many singers were faced with cancellations since the pandemic has deeply hit singers and their livelihood I decided to create a fun, passionate video series showcasing these wonderful singers with high quality audio recording and filming them in scenic spots around Toronto, including Balmy Beach,” said Domoney.
Owner of Domoney Artists Management, she said the Balmy Beach performance video features singers Jennifer Taverner and Marjorie Maltais.
With the help of a red canoe courtesy of I Paddle Adventures in the Beach, the pair can be seen on the rocks off Balmy Beach and then paddling on Lake Ontario to the duet Belle Nuit from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman.
Domoney said she has always loved strolling along the Boardwalk and being close to the lake, and thought the area would make an ideal location for one of the Opera Breaks videos.
“I grew up in Victoria, BC which is surrounded by beautiful oceanfront scenery, so being near the water is my favourite place to relax and take a break from sitting at my computer,” she said. Seeing kayaks and canoes gave me the inspiration for our video, which is about two characters at a party in Venice, singing about the beautiful night of love, kisses, gentle breezes…and I envisioned water locations, gondolas, bridges…how could we film this scene to evoke the languid pleasure of an evening in Italy?”
She said the filming of the video went perfectly, and some local swans also swam over to add to the audience.
“On a breezy early evening in August, the singers and I met with our film team from Coffeeshop Creative and carefully settled them into the canoe, all before the sun set. The lighting was magical, with downtown Toronto glimmering in the background. A couple of swans paddled over to watch, and it is truly an exquisite mix of music and visuals, very impressionistic,” she said.
Along with Balmy Beach and the Ted Reeve baseball diamonds, the other Toronto locations for the videos in the Opera Breaks series are Graffiti Alley in Queen Street West, the Don Jail, and Yorkville Park.
As live performances were being cancelled earlier this year due to the pandemic, Domoney said she was able to receive a COVID Emergency Relief Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts which led her to start thinking of ways to showcase the singers she represented.
“In discussion with François Racine, we came up with the concept of using our new reality of the pandemic to reflect a series of operatic scenes, combining professional audio recordings with a cinematic capture of the singers,” she said.
Prior to starting her artist management company in 2008, Domoney had a 25-year career as a lyric soprano performing with the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Atelier, and the Metropolitan Opera Guild. She also performed as a guest soloist across the country with Tafelmusik, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Victoria Symphony and Grand Philharmonic Choir, Elmer Iseler Singers, and the Edmonton Symphony.
One of the priorities for Domoney was that the music used in the videos be recorded in person with both a singer and a pianist working together.
To do that, she booked space at Revolution Recording in Leslieville where the music for the videos was created under strict COVID-19 safety protocols. In the videos, the opera singers are featured but they do not actually sing or lip synch.
The recording sessions meant a lot to the singers involved, said Domoney.
“For most of the 10 singers, this was the first time they had sung with a pianist, in the same room, for months. Everyone was excited, perhaps a little nervous, but happy to be together and singing the music they love. It was an ambitious project, like a marathon, – just four hours to record everything. We had time for only one quick rehearsal of each piece, then it was recorded. ‘One and done’ was the theme of the busy day,” she said.
Pianist for the recording sessions was Kathryn Tremills, who is a Beach resident.
To see the trailer for the Opera Breaks series, please go to https://youtu.be/Vf98dXFX05E
The Belle Nuit video featuring Balmy Beach and the red canoe will be uploaded to You Tube on Oct. 17.
The video filmed at the Ted Reeve baseball diamonds, titled Toreadors at the Baseball Diamond, will be released on Oct. 31. It features baritones Dion Mazerolle,, Jorell Williams and Clarence Frazer in the Toreador scene from Carmen.
Opera Breaks videos already uploaded to You Tube include Quando M’en Vo from La Boheme performed by Jennifer Taverner ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Pg0dqjat20 ) and E Lucevan la Stelle from Tosca performed by Ernesto Ramirez (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz3wrSj00Zs&list=RDlz3wrSj00Zs&start_radio=1&t=55 )
For more information on Domoney Artists Management and the Opera Breaks videos, please visit http://www.domoneyartists.com/