City Opera Vancouver says on its website that it is possible for opera to tell any story anytime, anywhere. In that spirit, the professional chamber opera company will be at the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theater on Thursday (November 4) to deliver opera to, of all things, a Marx Brothers film.
This is not just any Marx Brothers movie – it’s the unbelievably funny one An evening at the Opera, a 1935 classic that has been preserved in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.
City Opera Vancouver’s interactive concert – with soprano Michelle Koebke and tenor Martin Renner Wallace – will launch this year’s Chutzpah! Festival, which runs from 4 to 18 November. They sing the music parodied in the film, accompanied by pianist Roger Parton and a “special guest”
It will be followed by a screening of the film.
In a telephone interview with Just, City Opera Vancouver’s director of concerts, Alan Corbishley, said there will be a few small twists and turns during their performances, but certainly not something that will raise the Marx Brothers.
“We are not trying to be the Marx brothers in any way,” Corbishley stressed.
The aforementioned special guest will be Corbishley herself, who imitates the American actress Margaret Dumont, who played opposite the Marx Brothers in seven of their films. It included a great performance as Mrs. Claypool i An evening at the Opera.
“She was always the one who never seemed to understand the joke,” Corbishley remarked. “It will definitely be the leading factor for her character.”
Audiences are also encouraged to dress up as Margaret Dumont or as either Groucho, Harpo, Chico or Zeppo. The winner of the costume contest will win a Chutzpah! Fetival access card.
Corbishley pointed out that how people sang back to them and the style of the stage was very different from what people see in opera nowadays.
“Revealing stupidity, I think, is a little funny [and] for an audience to understand that we are making fun of what was – and the genre itself, “he said.
As City Opera Vancouver’s concert director, Corbishley’s goal is to make this art form very accessible and less intimidating to audiences.
“While there may be a little bit of a language barrier, we may exceed it in how we frame the music, or how we frame the concert,” he added. “So this [show] helps us along the way – and in a fun way that just does not feel pretentious.
“It does not feel outdated,” he continued. “It feels a little fresher.”