The powerful voice and direction behind Pellegrini Opera’s Barber of Seville
Story and photo by Kristy Strauss
Audiences usually enjoy seemingly flawless performances when they visit the opera – but for Maria Pellegrini, there’s another story and soundtrack that happens behind the curtains.
For the past nine months, her singers have been learning millions of notes in preparation for Pellegrini Opera’s The Barber of Seville performance.
“It’s a very, very difficult opera. But, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” says Pellegrini, a Wellington West resident who is also artistic director of the Ottawa-based opera company.
Performers are busy getting ready for the April 19 and 20 shows, and Pellegrini says they have been working extremely hard.
“The singers are very professional and very committed,” she says, adding that many are balancing hours of practice time and working full-time jobs.
Creating a great opera means having the right cast, Pellegrini says, but it also means having the right location.
Pellegrini Opera has chosen Dominion-Chalmers United Church in Centretown for many of their performances – including The Barber of Seville.
Since Pellegrini prefers not to use microphones during performances, she says she likes the church because it provides excellent acoustics.
“Everything is wood, and the sounds are nice,” she says. “This performance will be quite loud and quite beautiful, so I’m very excited about it.”
However, even with a perfect cast and perfect setting, Pellegrini says there is never a perfect opera performance.
Her personal opera career spans decades, and has taken her around the world – performing with famous artists like Luciano Pavarotti. But even through these phenomenal experiences, she says a perfect performance rarely takes place.
“Especially in live performances, there’s always something that goes wrong,” Pellegrini says. “People who know opera notice, but most of the time, the public won’t.”
While there’s no such thing as a perfect performance, Pellegrini said there are a few things singers should follow to make the performance a great one – remember your part, act well, complete the performance and make it beautiful.
She adds that some opera performers carry good luck charms during a performance, even though she’s never had one.
“I’m not superstitious like that,” Pellegrini says, adding that one of her famous co-workers from the past used to carry a good luck charm. “Pavarotti had a big, big nail in his pocket and I never knew why.”
Pellegrini says she would get nervous before going on stage – a feeling that many performers go through before show time.
However, she says that feeling quickly goes away on stage.
“When you step on stage, you’re somebody else,” she says.
While opera singers are performing, audiences can appreciate the beautiful high notes they hit – but, Pellegrini adds that the singers go through an intense workout to reach those notes.
“It’s very physical. It’s like going to a gym,” she notes. “The whole body works to make that sound.”
Audiences can experience the sights and sounds of Pellegrini Opera’s The Barber of Seville on April 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., in the Dominion-Chalmers United Church at 355 Cooper St.