Aria samplings offer tasty opera appetizer

IN CONCERT

Fear No Opera

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When: Saturday, 7: 30 p.m.

Where: Phillip T. Young Recital Hall

Tickets: $20 regular, $5 unwaged at Munro's Books, Ivy's Bookshop and at the door.

Open the program for the debut concert by Victoria's newest opera company and you'll find titles like, "The Mozart Part (because there must be Mozart)" and "The Modern (Don't be scared!) English Part."

Like a wink to the opera buffs and a nod to newbies all at once, they embody one of Fear No Opera's core mandates: to welcome a wide audience with open arms.

Fear No Opera takes the stage for the first time Saturday with a sampling of favourite arias, in advance of a full-scale show early next year. "It's like a really good appetizer," said company co-founder Amy Steggles. "We'll whet their appetites for a big meal in the spring."

Steggles and partner Neil Reimer have been building the company since they saw an unfilled niche for emerging performers in Victoria. Saturday's show will also demonstrate the group's second purpose: pairing emerging artists with industry professionals - such as host and pianist Robert Holliston, who is also principal coach for the well-established Pacific Opera Victoria, as well as soprano and UVic voice teacher Anne Grimm.

Emerging artists include Reimer and Steggles as well as Adam Dyjach and Jennifer Lang. Each will sing arias of their choosing, which means a wide range spanning the centuries.

"We wanted to give people a sampling of the great opera music that's out there," Reimer said.

Among the advantages of the more informal format, they said, is the ability to perform a range of material that will be both accessible to the uninitiated and potentially new for lovers of the form.

"The program is made up of opera blockbusters - I mean I'm doing Quando men vo from Puccini's La Bohème, which even people who don't know opera will have heard in a car commercial or something," said Steggles. "We're also doing some things that people won't have heard before."

For example, Steggles will also sing a piece from The Mighty Casey - an operatic interpretation of the popular baseball poem Casey at the Bat. She described it as very American, very modern and verging on musical theatre. "It's this beautiful moment of this girl professing her love for this guy in completely plain language," she said.

Others may be better known, but rarely performed, due to scale restrictions. Reimer will sing When My Cue Comes, Call Me from Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"It's done a little bit more, but frankly, it's got a huge cast, so there aren't very many professional companies that will do it because it would be so expensive to hire that many singers," said Reimer. "There are parts of that opera that are really fantastic, but don't get to people's ears maybe as much as they should."

The event is made even more accessible by an "unwaged" ticket price for seniors, students and others without an income.

"If they're not making an income, we still want them to be able to come," Steggles said.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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