Opera is alive and well and is coming to Haliburton

By Jerelyn Craden

As rare as a warm day in February, the Highlands Opera Studio (HOS) brings the world of opera to Haliburton County, lifting our spirits and treating our eyes, ears, and hearts to voices like angels and the type of music rarely performed in cottage country.
Due to COVID, last summer HOS performed their concerts virtually. This year, 17 artists will perform live and fans are thrilled.
“We are super excited,” Valerie Kuinka, general director (HOS) said. “So many of our young professionals have been cooped up in their small city accommodations. Having the opportunity to be in Haliburton, breathe the fresh air, get back to what they feel their life mission is and share that with the community has them bursting with gratitude.”
Part of their excitement is the performance of two new Canadian BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) operas developed and presented in partnership with Loose Tea Music Theatre, Toronto. Listed as Canadian Stories told through Opera – Inertia and The Museum of the Lost and Found will be performed on Aug. 18 and 20.

Following almost two years of online teaching, Richard Margison, HOS artistic director said, “it’s hard to express the joy and sense of freedom to be back to one-on-one in-person teaching and enjoying the glory of the human voice live! It’s a special treat for the audience to come to a Masterclass – essentially a vocal lesson in public where the singer performs and learns in a safe environment.” (Presented on July 28, 29, 30.)
“On Aug. 3, we’re bringing back our popular, From Opera to Broadway show featuring well known musical theatre selections and familiar operatic arias,” Kuinka said. “And, on Aug. 6, there’s Pop Goes the Opera! with a different mix of opera and musical theatre favourites.”
HOS is also introducing an operetta concert, A Night at the Operetta, on Aug. 9. “It’s something that patrons have been asking for,” Kuinka said. “It’s a light opera genre with selections from operas like, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Merry Widow.”

The biggest challenge for HOS is housing in Haliburton for their participants.
“We have all health protocols in place and take every precaution to be safe for ourselves and others,” Kuinka said.
On Aug.11, HOS presents Celebrating Diversity featuring the power and beauty of music created by Canadian BIPOC artists, past and present.
The big opera this summer is Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, in support of Ukraine.
“Eugene Onegin is one of the most beautiful and empowering love stories within the general literature and operatic version. The music is gorgeous and it’s a great vehicle for the singers,” Kuinka said.
Having never presented a Russian or Slavic opera, HOS chose Onegin last fall. Then Russia attacked Ukraine, which hit Kuinka hard, as her heritage is Ukraine and HOS determined to donate a portion of ticket sales for Onegin to Ukraine.

Audiences can also enjoy three pay-what-you-can community events, Why Choose Opera? (Aug. 1), Music on the Bay (Aug. 13), and Casual Song Soirée (Aug. 15).
For tickets see highlandsoperastudio.com. For questions/help call 1-855-455-5533.