Opera Canada review of Armide, 2022

Opera Canada Review

“A magical show” says the Opera Canada review of our 2022 opera, Armide! Thanks to reviewer Daphna Levit and congratulations to all our participants!

Read the entire review at the Opera Canada website

“The production was double-cast and although it was the same production, same staging, some of the same singers and the same orchestra—each cast produced a spectacularly different outcome. On August 13, Armide was performed by Megan Cullen, a dramatic soprano with an enormous voice, who clearly controlled the full range of her vocal power to suit the capacity of the hall. Her Armide was an imperious warrior, commanding and unbreakable. Tenor Colin Frotten as Renaud in both casts was superbly and completely diminished by the spells and the force of Megan Cullen’s Armide. Released from the spell, Renaud became the haughty, glory-seeking hero he had been before meeting Armide. His character changed, but his voice was constant.”

Daphna Levit, Opera Canada

MarKo Hubert: Featured Festival Artist

MarKo Hubert, baritone

Originally from Québec, baritone, MarKo Hubert is now based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A frequent collaborator with HSOF, MarKo made his debut with us in 2017’s Carmen as Moralez and le Dancaïre, and returned in 2019 to sing all the villains in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann. We’re thrilled to have him back with us, bringing both his beautiful and powerful voice and his extraordinary acting skills.

Interview with MarKo Hubert, baritone

What role are you singing with HSOF this year?

Ubalde, one of the crusaders who rescues Renaud.

Tell us where you’re from and how you first got interested in opera or musical theatre. Did anyone in your family listen to opera?

I was in my first year at college studying trumpet. That Christmas I went to visit my uncle who was a opera lover and that day Aida by Verdi was on the television. I didn’t like opera and he kind of forced me to see it with him. He was explaining all the action, singing the beginin.g of all arias. I became like an opera junky since then.

Introduce us to the character you’re playing in Armide. Who are they? What are their wants/desires? What are their obstacles/challenges? Do you have anything in common with them?

Ubalde is a soldier who is in charge to bring back with his colleagues one of their heroes who is under the magical art of Armide’s influence. For him the glory is paramount and way more important than love. While at Armide’s palace we came under a spell where we see our mistresses and we’re tempted to stay, enjoying a soft and disgraceful idleness until the charms we received to protect us broke the magic. I’m very close to Ubald. Like him I distrust love and it’s negative influence. Glory is more important for me than any human love which is irrelevant and not real.

What is the best part of starting a new operatic project for you?

Creating my version of the character I’m working on.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the opera world?

Maria Callas for her interpretation. She brought the emotions and the character as none before her were able to bring. Even sacrificing the beauty of the music for the reality of the emotions.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the non-opera world? Why?

Tina Turner because with all the difficulties she had in her life, she was able to believe in her and be the queen of her musical genre.

Opera in the modern world: How should we as interpretive artists deal with standard works that are racist and/or sexist?What can be done to make opera both contemporary and relevant to the next generation?

Write new operas without the offensive contents. We see this in pop culture after all. Those opera of the past show how things were at the time they were written and the time shows in the action. They should be as they are and be examples of what we wish to not replicate. The new fashion to change everything for the sake of anti racism, and slavery, anti murder, anti sexism is just hiding things we don’t want to see and believe we are so much better than that. But we aren’t. Black people are still mistreated in many countries, murdered, live in poverty. They fill prisons more than any other people only because they are black. Gays are still beaten to death. The number of gay teens who commit suicide is still more then any straight kids. Those actions to make opera more socially acceptable just hide the reality and stop the social reflection about who we really are. The same as our ancestors.

Opera in Halifax this summer!

The return of opera!

On behalf of all of us at HSOF, I’m so happy to let you know that the Festival will be back with public performances in July and August, after two years of pandemic cancellations!

For 2022 we will present just one production: Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Armide (1777), sung by a cast of wonderful young singers from Canada, the United States and France, all of whom are thrilled to be back performing for live audiences.

Gluck was a pioneering opera composer, who sought to strip away the ornamentation and artifice of Baroque opera and restore the balance between words and music.  Gluck is perhaps best-known for his Orfeo ed Euridice, was admired by Mozart, and he died just four years before his much younger colleague.

Armide was Gluck’s fifth opera for the Parisian stage. Set in a fantastical Damascus during the First Crusade, the opera explores the line between love and hatred and the struggle between East and West, masculine and feminine, reality and illusion.

We start reherasals on July 23 and have a few concerts in town (two at Halifax Central Library and our Opera Backwards show at the Bus Stop Theatre). Then we present four fully-staged and costumed performances of Armide at the LIllian Piercey Concert Hall at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts.  The opera will be sung in French, with projected English translations, and will be accompanied by piano and small orchestral ensemble.

Conductor: Melissa Doiron
Stage Directors: Nina Scott-Stoddart and David Mosey
Accompanist: Giancarlo Scalia
Costumes: Andrew Pelrine

Performances August 11-14 (7:30 pm except for a 2:00 pm matinee on Sunday)

More details of the opera and the production are available on our website

Please join us as we celebrate opera in person once again!

Nina Scott-Stoddart
Artistic Director

Tickets are available now at Eventbrite.

But first, on June 23, Maritime Concert Opera presents a special in concert performance of Lehar’s The Merry Widow, in English, at Lillian Piercey Hall in Halifax at 7:30 pm.  This stars Nova Scotian soprano Meghan Jamieson as Hanna Glawari, Toronto baritone Justin Welsh as Count Danilo, with supporting singers Maureen Batt, Colin Frotten, Patrick Simms and MarKo Hubert, the MCO Chorus all under the direction of Tara Scott at the piano. A frothy evening of some of the most tuneful operetta music ever written!  Tickets available at the door.

Halifax Summer Opera Festival 2022 — Gluck’s Armide

Join the Halifax Summer Opera Festival for 2022 and rehearse and perform a role in Gluck’s Armide.

We’re an artist-centred and supportive program which has grown over 16 years into one of the two largest opera training programs in the country. We offer an encouraging environment, hands-on training and real performance opportunities.

The workshop runs from July 23 to August 14, 2022.

It’s been a tough time for those of us studying live performance. We know that over the last two years that getting the practical experience of performing onstage and adding credits to your operatic resumé has been hard to come by.  Let’s change that!

We’ve got a small, one-opera, three-week season planned for this year, in light of the pandemic that cancelled opera and opera programs across the world for the last two year. We’re committed to keeping ourselves, our artists and our audience safe as we all explore public performances again. 

Armide is a mid-Classical operatic gem about a powerful sorceress who wants to conquer her enemy through love, not hatred. We’ll be working on it in French, with conductor Eszter Horvath and stage directors Andrew Pelrine and Nina Scott-Stoddart. There are lots of roles, especially for sopranos, each of which has at least one featured arioso. It’s a great piece to collaborate on with an enthusiastic and experienced creative team and a vibrant cast.

Extra classes this year will include Alexander Technique, acting, auditioning and the business of opera.

There are no age or citizenship limits for HSOF, and we welcome students who are newer to opera performance as well as experienced performers looking for larger roles. We remain committed to diversity in casting at all times and in all ways. Always.

It’s important that you’re able to commit to whatever quarantine or testing requirements may be in place for Nova Scotia in July, or for Canada in general if you wish to come from outside Canada. All participants and staff must be fully vaccinated agains Covid.

The fee is $1900, which doesn’t include travel, housing or food. We do have some limited partial scholarship money and you can apply for. We will have full refund policies in place if we have to cancel the program because of covid restrictions.

We will accept digital uploads until all roles are cast. To be considered in the first wave, please send us your materials by Feb. 26, 2022.

To apply:

1. Scroll to the bottom of our website main page to learn the details of our online application process. There are no age or citizenship limits for HSOF, and we welcome students who are newer to opera performance as well as experienced performers. As long as you commit to any necessary travel restrictions needed for this summer.

2. Fill in the Application Form and pay your $20 Canadian fee, all done online.

3. You will be sent instructions to send in your digital audition materials.

I can’t wait to hear you and for us all to make music together again!

Nina Scott-Stoddart
Artistic Director, HSOF

UPDATE re: COVID-19 and the 2020 Halifax Summer Opera Festival

Dear Artist:
I want to update our plans for the 2020 Halifax Summer Opera Festival in light of the ever-changing conditions surrounding COVID-19.

Other local arts organizations have been cancelling events up to the end of April or May. Because of the unprecedented situation, it’s not clear to anyone what the reality will be for mid-July. 

Our Board of Directors and I have decided to leave the season open for the time being. We still hope we can have the Festival and will continue to plan for it, while reassessing things as conditions change. We will send updates in April and May, by which time we hope to have a clearer idea of what the situation in July will be. 

If you’ve already been cast, we want to assure you that any money paid to us from now on will be totally refundable if we have to cancel the Festival. We’re not going to actively collect money, but if you do send it in it will be refundable from now on.

I will be leaving the application form up, and taking off the fee. Please feel free to apply for roles if you like — I will go ahead and cast as if we’re going ahead.

If we do end up having to cancel the 2020 Festival, we will plan a regular season for 2021. We will also make special arrangements with any of our artists who accepted offers for this year who choose to return in future years. We are very grateful for your support!

I want to thank you all for your patience. You are why we run an opera training program and your talent and passion make everything possible. Please stay safe, take care of your precious respiratory systems and we’ll make a decision about the season by the end of May.


Nina Scott-Stoddart
Artistic Director
Halifax Summer Opera Festival

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