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Julie Nesrallah. Photo provided.

Preview: A Night at the Opera at Centrepointe Theatre

By Taymaz Valley on January 29, 2018

Editor’s note: Unfortunately, tenor Richard Margison, is unable to perform at A Night at the Opera, due to a case of bronchitis. He is being replaced by tenor Ernesto Ramirez.

February 1, 2018 promises to be a memorable night in Ottawa as the leading lady of CBC Radio 2, and the marvelous host of the classical music show Tempo, Julie Nesrallah returns to her hometown for a much anticipated performance: A Night at the Opera.

A brilliant actress and broadcaster, the powerful mezzo-soprano will be in Ottawa alongside some notable and outstanding friends including the extraordinary tenor and an officer of the Order of Canada Richard Margison, the wonderful bass-baritone Gary Relyea, and talented soprano Jennifer Taverner, all accompanied by Juilliard-trained virtuoso on the piano Robert Kortgaard.

Centrepointe Theatre, with its 954 seats perfectly angled towards the stage for a full view complementing the theatre’s acoustics, makes an enticing venue for this performance. The audience can expect an unforgettable experience whether they are newcomers to the world of opera or are ardent aficionados. There will be an exciting array of different operatic pieces, and a noteworthy number of tributes to Julie Nesrallah’s classic take on Carmen simply because she has come to identify with the character so much that at times, she has called Carmen her soul-sister.

Indeed, Ms. Nesrallah’s portrayal of Carmen has been so widely celebrated, winning her so many accolades, that she has founded and performed the opera for Carmen on Tap, a night of sensation and drinks at the most casual of settings like the Lula Lounge in Toronto. This is in line with Ms. Nesrallah’s ongoing efforts to bring new audiences to the world of opera, and demystify it for those who are struggling to find a connection with the artform.

Opera has been associated with the lofty elite for so long that it might seem daunting to entertain a real interest in it; yet the subjects of these operatic pieces, with their concentration on passionate, emotional, earthy and at times revolutionary ideals, should bring together people of all persuasions. Passion for opera is like passion for life itself, as messy and nonconformist as possible.

These qualities of opera are in line with Carmen and Julie Nesrallah’s devotion to the character, for who could better represent change to society and the international arts scene than the free spirited Carmen? From the day of its first performance at Opéra Comique in Paris on the third of March 1875, to this day, Georges Bizet’s take on the story by Prosper Merimee still makes women, their sexuality, freedom and their struggle for a voice in a male dominated world a subject of great relevancy and controversy. Carmen was conceived within the very decade that artists like Édouard Manet shocked the Paris artworld by taking female sexuality out of the reticent classical clouds and bringing it down to modernity with paintings like Olympia. Bizet achieved the same for opera, giving Carmen the power to choose, beguile and ruin, and even though she is met with a murderous demise, the challenge to the injustices of the day and the hypocritical snobbery of the audiences is never far from one’s mind.

Carmen gives the power to women, and I suspect this is why it has become one of the most successful operas of our time, and a favourite of the ever splendid Canadian treasure Julie Nesrallah.

A Night at the Opera will be at Centrepointe Theatres on Thursday, February 1, 2018. Doors open shortly before 8pm. Language of the event is English, however each piece will be in the original language of their production. Tickets are $41.75 each.