U of L Opera workshop and Lethbridge Symphony having fun with Gilbert and Sullivan


The University of Lethbridge Opera Society are  having fun with their annual collaboration with the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra as they bring your favourite Gilbert and Sullivan songs to the Southminster United Church, Feb. 2 and 3.Hannah Nickel , Ben Jaquish and Max Hopkins rehearse a scene from the HMS Pinafore. Photo by Richard Amery

“These are three of the most enduring operas by Gilbert and Sullivan,” said U of L Opera Workshop director Dr. Blaine Hendsbee.

“We open with with Pirates of Penzance and a couple of familiar numbers from that,” he said.

“The second part of the show is The HMS Pinafore, though not the whole two-and-a-half hour opera but enough of it so you get the major plot points. Then it’s the Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan’s fictional Victorian portrayal of Japan — Titipu. It’s a political satire of British society and government under the guise of Japan, because all things Japanese was a huge fad at the time,” he continued.

“They weren’t considered ‘traditional opera,’” he continued, adding their operas remain popular almost 150 years later.

“Gilbert and Sullivan have been on the stage for over 100 years so their works have endured. And there is the social and political satire, which has a lot of relevance today. People got to laugh at themselves. It’s a lot of fun. And it is an extremely physical production there is a lot of movement and dancing,” he continued.

“It is also a bigger production than Gilbert and Sullivan productions usually are.”

It is a big production with 35 singers, many double cast for other parts, plus Museaus and a 30 piece orchestra.
The cast wear 80 different elaborate costumes created by Leslie Robison-Green.

 He noted the cast is 95 per cent university students plus a few community members. There are three leading ladies and there are a lot of double casted roles.
“There are also three parts for boys aged 11 and 112, so it has been a lot of fun working with them,” he said.

He is looking forward to the shows.

“ I hope people will  laugh. The cast is exceptional. There is a lot of joy. I hope people will leave with a lot of joy and feeling happy,” Hendsbee said.
Max Hopkins, who plays Capt. Corocan in the HMS Pinafore is excited to be part of his first U of L Opera workshop and Lethbridge Symphony collaboration.
“I’m just looking forward to being on stage with a  great cast acting and singing,” Hopkin said.
“And it is really fun to collaborate with the orchestra.”

Hannah Nickel is excited to play the Captain’s daughter, Josephine in the HMS Pinafore. Performing with the orchestra is her favourite part of the experience.

“Probably just performing with the orchestra. There’s this big wall of sound behind us. And the costumes,” she enthused.

“We have over 80 costumes between the three operas.,” Nickel continued, noting she is also singing with the chorus in Pirates of Penzance and the Mikado.

“I hope that people will have fun and will laugh at the jokes. There are so many, I had to read them three times before I got some of them. So I hope people will all laugh in the right places,” she continued.
Ben Jaquish  is part of his fifth collaboration with the symphony.
“It’s definitely bigger,” Jaquish observed.Ben Jaquish, Hannah Nickel and Max Hopkins rehearse a scene from the HMS Pinafore. Photo by Richard Amery

“I’m definitely enjoying  performing with a large symphony behind me,” said Jaquish,  who plays Sir Joseph in the  HMS Pinafore.

Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra director Glenn Kassen always looks forward to working with the university  for their annual opera.
“The cast, the symphony, Vox Musica, the costume designers, the set designers. It takes a  lot of people to make the show,” Klassen said.

“It is very much a lot of fun. It is really well put together,” he said.
“And we’ve changed some of the text in the Mikado to make it more relevant to today,” he said adding one of the songs is about an execution, which lists the names of people they’d be better off without, so they added some modern names.
He noted the symphony has been rehearsing for this show since Jan. 9 as the members haven’t performed any of the opera’s numbers.
“Though the University did the Mikado 14 or 15 years ago,” he said.

“It’s a great educational opportunity for them to play with a symphony. It’s a great experience for people who are planning on doing this for a living. So the symphony is happy to play a small role in helping them begin their careers,” Klassen said.

Tickets for Gilbert & Sullivan range from $25 - $75, and are available anytime at www.lethbridgesymphony.org or Monday through Friday, 1 - 5 p.m. by calling 403.328.6808 x 101. Compose Your Own Subscription packages are still available. Audience members aged 15 - 29 can sign up for Access Pass and receive further discounts, while those 14 and under who are accompanied by a paying adult may take advantage of the Children’s Pass discount program.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor