Starting Afresh with Werther

It is not often I get a chance to conduct an opera where none of the participants have previously performed the opera. I do mean nobody: the singers, orchestra, pianist, stage director, conductor, and stage management! This sounds like a recipe for disaster! I have to admit, I was somewhat leery as a few years ago I was in a similar situation with a different opera company. In that previous case, however, there was one significant difference, that being a lack of team spirit which robbed the experience of any joy whatsoever. This unfortunate situation was mostly due to one particularly arrogant singer who was unwilling to consider any ideas different from their own.

Fortunately, regarding Werther which we performed last week with Manitoba Opera, the situation was entirely different. Here we had assembled a team that sought to work together and respected ideas expressed by others. The result  was astounding. Comments we heard from the audience were very positive indeed and perhaps could best be described by one word…spellbinding.

This experience served to reinforce my belief that individuals can make or break a project. In the former experience, one person sabotaged both the process and the result. In the latter experience, we all worked together in a respectful and open-minded manner which created a pleasant journey of discovery resulting in a huge triumph for all.

I know which approach I prefer! Bravo to everyone involved in this wonderful production of Werther at Manitoba Opera.

Werther “…underscored by Massenet’s stunningly gorgeous music brought to life by maestro Tyrone Paterson leading the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.” …Winnipeg Free Press – May 1, 2017

Werther – “Les belles pages musicales de Massenet sont interprétées avec beaucoup de sensibilité par l’Orchestre symphonique de Winnipeg sous la direction de Tyrone Paterson.”…Pierre Meunier, Musique Classique a Winnipeg…May 1, 2017

Werther rehearsalSitzprobe of Werther with Lauren Segal as Charlotte and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

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Conducting The Magic Flute at Western University

Having had the great fortune of conducting The Magic Flute a number of times over the years, I admit I was not expecting to have so much fun conducting this opera with the amazing students at Western University. How wonderfully refreshing it was to work with such eager singers who displayed an excellent collaborative spirit. Although the rehearsal period was longer than what I am used to, the time actually flew by quickly due to the enthusiasm of the performers. It was extremely rewarding to witness the growth and improvement throughout the rehearsal process. The results were well worth the effort as the performances, all six of them sold-out, were terrific and received enthusiastic standing ovations.

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In addition, the orchestra comprised Western University students plus one or two professionals to fill the empty spots. Let’s not kid ourselves, Mozart is not easy to play well and these students did a marvelous job indeed. It was an absolute pleasure to work with such supportive orchestral musicians. They accompanied the singers like a true professional opera orchestra. What a joy!

I feel privileged to be part of this spectacular program at Western, built largely by one of Canada’s leading singers, Ted Baerg. Congratulations to everyone involved and I am looking forward to participating again next season.

 

Fun with Manitoba Opera

 

Falstaff – “L’Orchestre symphonique de Winnipeg, sous la direction de Tyrone Paterson, a donné un accompagnement musical de très grande qualité”…Pierre Meunier, La Liberté – November, 2016

I recently conducted a great production of Verdi’s hilarious opera, Falstaff, with Manitoba Opera. One doesn’t necessarily associate hilarity with most of Verdi’s operas but it is truly appropriate in this case. It has been a few years since I last conducted this opera and it was truly a joy to have a chance to perform it again. The score is filled with brilliant lessons in orchestration which help bring the text to life. The action is nonstop, never allowing a moment for the musicians to let their minds wander. It is an amazing feat of continuous concentration for the conductor and musicians. The singers must perform with superb rhythm throughout the opera as the level of precision required between the singers and the orchestra is very high indeed. Add to the mix a very detailed staging in this particular production and we have an incredible high-energy, spellbinding performance. While it can be challenging to entice the audience to attend this opera, once they are in their seats they truly love the show as the standing ovations indicated.

falstaff1A great big thank you to the Manitoba Opera for this wonderful show and to the amazing Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra who once again reminded us of their incredible skill and commitment.

Conducting the Western University Symphony Orchestra

I recently conducted a wonderful concert with the Western University Symphony Orchestra where I am thrilled to be on staff this year leading both symphony and opera performances. Following many years conducting professional orchestras – just shy of 30 years but who’s counting – it is truly rejuvenating working with these marvellous young musicians. The students are enthusiastic and fully capable of performing at a very high level of excellence; the concert last week was indeed energetic, enthusiastic and beautifully Ty Patersonplayed. In many ways, it seems like yesterday when I made my professional conducting debut  with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in 1988. Since then, I have had countless rewarding experiences leading numerous professional orchestras in nine different countries. I can honestly say this next step in my career, working with these wonderful young musicians, is invigorating and downright fun!

http://www.music.uwo.ca/faculty/bios/tyrone-paterson.html

Conducting Carlisle Floyd’s opera Of Mice and Men

It’s not often I get a chance to conduct works by living composers and rarely have I had the pleasure of consulting the composer directly for tips on performing the work. It was thrilling to have Carlisle Floyd in attendance for the opening night performance with Manitoba Opera. This opera is challenging musically partially due to a complex harmonic and rhythmic structure. The meter is constantly changing and  some pitches can be problematic for the singers to learn. Nevertheless,  there are Ty with Carlisle Floydmany beautiful lyrical lines and heart-wrenching melodies. The orchestra is featured in two interludes of completely contrasting style. The first one beginning with a gorgeous melody played by solo viola and English horn and the second building to a highly energetic romp for the entire orchestra. I felt blessed to be able to ask the composer himself for advice as to how to handle a few of the trickier moments in the opera. This production featured a wonderful cast and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra never fails to amaze, mastering this difficult score within a short rehearsal period. The response was wonderfully positive by the audience and critics.

“Maestro Tyrone Paterson superbly led the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra through Floyd’s through-composed, all-American score infused with the spirit of Copland, Barber and Bernstein.”…Winnipeg Free Press – April 25, 2016

“The orchestra and conducting were flawless.”…CBC News – April 26, 2016

Some Shows are Just More Fun

While I have conducted more than 125 different productions over the years, there’s no question that some shows just stand out as being simply fabulous. This Western version of Don Pasquale I conducted for Manitoba Opera a few years ago was one of those great shows. Not only was the Western concept fun but the cast was truly amazing singing the roles with great skill. The superb chorus in Winnipeg had a blast and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra played with great skill and finesse. Without a doubt, Donizetti’s beautiful music makes this opera a true delight. The supportive attitude amongst the performers and sense of fun made this show one of the best experiences I have enjoyed in my career. A cast that supports each other creating a highly positive environment can make the difference between a good show and a great show. This was a great one. I liked my hat a lot, too!

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The creative process needs to breathe

The creative process requires room to breathe. It seems an obvious point but too often other people anticipating the final product inadvertently place restraints around the creative process, demanding definitive descriptions and defined boundaries. Particularly for an emergent creative process starting from barely a kernel of an idea, the final result often goes through various unforeseen transitions and sometimes even significant transformations. Clearly, the results eventually need to be articulated in a way that can be understood by others, a challenge unto itself! However, prematurely building procedures and labels around the idea can limit the growth of the idea. Not every idea requires a lengthy definitive description written down in a document! There are times when an idea has just enough depth to find traction without being completely formed. The final destination may indeed turn out to be quite different from what was originally intended but that doesn’t mean one should avoid a journey lacking a definitive roadmap. Sometimes it is best to just start the journey and see where it takes you. Who knows, the final destination might turn out to be far better than the original idea. Procedures have their place, however, rushing to impose labels and to control the process can strangle attempts to find new destinations.