courtesy Karen Klassen and Calgary Opera

Opera for all

U of C professor hopes to make opera more accessible through new symposiums

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In a world where people avoid foreign films because of subtitles, opera can appear daunting and inaccessible. A new pilot project is attempting to change that, organized by University of Calgary professor Maria Euchner, from the department of linguistics, languages and cultures.

Coinciding with the opening night of Calgary Opera’s production of Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, on Feb. 1, a free symposium will be held at the Rozsa Centre to provide background and context through which to understand Wagner’s opera. Euchner, along with five other U of C academics from music, English and drama, will talk about aspects of Wagner’s work. Pianist Kathleen van Mourik will perform two of the opera’s melodies and there will be a round table discussion with the director of Calgary Opera’s production of The Flying Dutchman, Kelly Robinson.

“I think there’s still this belief, by many, that opera is an elitist art form,” Euchner says. “I really would like to dispel that belief. It’s not an elitist art form and shouldn’t be.”

She says anyone can see aspects of their own lives reflected on the operatic stage, just as in film, television or theatre — it is just that the story is delivered in a different way from what most people are used to.

Euchner is hoping to organize future symposiums alongside Calgary Opera’s performances and bring in national and international guest speakers and panelists.

Euchner is also looking to start a work group on art and politics with the U of C’s Calgary Institute for the Humanities, a project which would include developing a conference on Viktor Ullmann’s surviving operas and feature international guest speakers.

Email wagnerrich2014@gmail.com by Friday, Jan. 24 to register.