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Laurier alumni invited to experience stunning opera with special reception
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Dragons, sumo wrestlers, puppets, extraordinary costumes and a salvaged 450-year-old Ming Dynasty temple supply the backdrop for a spectacular showdown between Roman gods and ambitious humans in George Frideric Handel’s opera Semele.
Laurier alumni are invited to experience Handel’s soaring story of love, jealousy and revenge at the Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) final show in Toronto Saturday, May 26. The event will be followed by a reception hosted by the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association and Laurier’s Faculty of Music.
Three Laurier alumni have significant roles in the opera, described by The New York Times as “scenically stunning, theatrically absorbing [and] musically rewarding.” Two stars of the show include soprano Jane Archibald (’99) and mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy (’91), who are accompanied by chorus master Sandra Horst (’88) and choristers Kenneth Baker (’74), Craig Ashton (’88) and Lilian Kilianski (’77).
Archibald takes on the title role, while McHardy appears as Juno, the Roman goddess intent on destroying Semele before the young girl steals the heart of her husband Jupiter. Semele stakes her life on her passion for Jupiter and abandons her fiancé to flee with the great god, setting into motion the revenge of Juno, eagerly assisted by Semele’s jealous sister Ino (also played by McHardy).
Laurier alumnus Robert Lamb (’83), managing director of COC, describes Semele as “an exciting melding of the visual arts with music theatre … conceived by the famed Chinese visual and performance artist Zhang Huan.” This presentation of Semele is the first opportunity for audiences to experience Zhang’s production outside Brussels, where it premiered in 2009, and Beijing in 2010.
For McHardy, the prospect of performing the opera’s famous aria in front of a hometown audience is a special delight – she learned the piece in her third year at Laurier. Archibald agrees. “Much of my career takes place outside of Canada, so this is a special treat to debut this role here in Toronto,” she said.
Archibald won a 2012 Juno Award for her recording of Haydn Arias, and has performed on some of the world’s great stages, including the Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera and La Scala Milan. McHardy last performed with COC in its 2009 production of Madama Butterfly, after acclaimed debut performances with Opéra national de Paris, Opéra Comique in Paris and Château de Versailles and Pacific Opera Victoria.
After the performance, the performing Laurier alumni will mingle with attendees at a reception at Little Anthony’s restaurant, located across the street from the Four Seasons Centre, the performance’s venue.
Tickets for this event, which include the performance and reception, are $130 and available for purchase at www.laurieralumni.ca/opera. For more information, contact Heather Gemmill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-884-0710 ext. 4522.