About a year ago, Barbara King from Calgary Concert Opera Company asked Cara Lianne McLeod to head south to perform Robert Devereux by Donizetti. The always-eager soprano soloist was excited for a new opportunity, but she wasn’t without reservations. “I was not familiar with the opera. And technically, it’s a challenging role, vocally.”
Even for her, one of Edmonton’s most established and obviously sought-after opera singers?
“Yes,” she laughs. “Even for me.”
But it went well — so well, in fact, that it wasn’t enough for McLeod. “The music is amazing. And to work so hard at these big roles, particularly the four main characters, and then do two shows and be done with it — I said why don’t we bring this to Edmonton?”
So, as head of her newly formed company, CLM Productions, McLeod collaborated with Calgary Concert Opera Company to bring the show to Festival Place, in her hometown of Sherwood Park.
The story is based loosely on Queen Elizabeth I, played by McLeod. Roberto Devereux is the Earl of Essex, and she loves him. He goes off to fight in the war, and shows leniency to those he defeats. His army calls for him to be killed for his mercy, and for disobeying the queen. Oh, and he’s having an affair with the Duchess. Things get kind of dramatic from there, involving a scarf, a ring, some imprisonment and, eventually, some death. “There are so many amazing moments where I’m mad, and then the next minute I’m like, But I love him! So fine, go and be with her — I just want you to stay alive.”
If the drama doesn’t get you, the music will. And the subtitles will ensure you can follow both. But for McLeod, who’s performed around Edmonton and the world, it’s all about bringing opera to the masses. “Even when I was doing ‘Music in the Air,’ standing in front of a microphone at Ezio Faraone Park, it’s still the music, it’s still the story, and you can still get it across. Don’t get me wrong — I love a good staged opera with an orchestra. But this theatre is beautiful, it has a real community feel, and there’s something really intimate about this production. We are right up close, facing the audience. And it’s just the music and the drama.”
Face the music and drama on March 11.