Reviews and Such Fringe and other Theatre

Underground Opera – Garden Party

Last night I attended a Garden Party put on by Underground Opera. Underground Opera is one of the five opera companies that operate here in Winnipeg. The other four, if I’m correct, are Manitoba Opera Company, The Little Opera Company, Flipside Opera Company, and the Contemporary Opera Lab.* 

'Miranda Sings' at CAST PAR...
'Miranda Sings' at CAST PARTY

Members of Flipside joined in the performances. Five may seem like a lot of companies for one city. However, last night showed Winnipeg has more than enough operatic talent to go around.

Underground Opera Stage.
The stage on the grounds of St. Boniface Cathedral

*I was corrected by Brendan McKeen of Manitoba Underground Opera. Three Little Birds Production is the fifth company. They specialize in opera for children.

Before I say more about the evening, let me add: Just because you missed the Garden Party is no reason to be too disappointed. Underground Opera will be performing a summer season. Like their Facebook page to be kept informed. You can also catch performances from Flipside Opera beginning in the fall. Put your cash to work in our local economy and help support young talent by buying tickets to the performances.

The garden party was held in the courtyard at Saint Boniface Cathedral. This is a quite lovely space, with the towering walls of the ruins of the old cathedral, creating an open yet intimate setting. The walls also provide shade and there are openings to let the breeze blow through. This kept things comfortable even on a fairly warm evening. As well, each table featured a beautiful centrepiece created by Verde Plant Designs.

The Underground Opera evening made for a great introduction to opera. A variety of composers and eras appeared on the program. The garden party also featured two or three well known arias. Yet, it didn’t simply go through a set list of arias that the non-opera fan public would know. None of this, however fun it may be.

Underground Opera and other Performances

This garden party contained a little something for almost everyone. For me, Andrea Lett’s performance of Il Dolce Souno from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, stood out from all the others. This aria, chronicling Lucia’s descent into madness requires great concentration and control throughout. Lett did an exceptional job of delivering both.

Underground Opera Veggie tray.
A tray of vegetables that was part of the evenings food offerings.

Another performance that really caught my ear, was Jayne Hammond’s rendition of The Trees on the Mountain, from Susannah, a mid-20th century opera by American composer Carlisle Floyd. I really appreciated the way in which Hammond captured the folk music sensibility at the root of the piece.

All the performers acquitted themselves very well. It was also good to see perfromances from members of Flipside Opera as well. It’s great when companies decide to collaborate instead of simply competing.

Garden Party Treats

Tickets for the evening were $25.00 each. The singing alone would make that a good value. Yet there was more than that included in the price.

Underground opera centerpiece.
One of the many attractive floral centerpieces, provided by Verde Plant Designs

Good food and beverage aids the success of any garden party. Both were in good supply throughout the course of the evening. Stella’s, David’s Tea, and Poplar Grove Winery supplied the food and drink.

I didn’t try many of the treats. Having time to kill between leaving work and the start of the Underground Opera Garden Party I enjoyed a delicious dinner at Promenade Cafe and Wine. I did enjoy a little bit of the dessert that was laid out including a slice of date square and a spice cookie which I really enjoyed.  On the other hand I didn’t let my drink ticket, (included in the price), go to waste. I enjoyed a glass of Merlot from Poplar Grove.

All in all the garden party was very enjoyable. Being able to stroll around eating and drinking while listening to some great singing is a pleasant way to spend an evening. I hope they do this event next year. I certainly will make sure to go.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.