Grand Opera Gets ‘Graphic’ at Vancouver Opera

Everyone knows that I am a huge proponent of bringing the arts to new audiences. That’s why I love the marketing tactics that Vancouver Opera is utilizing to introduce young people—those who might be more apt to go to a rock concert or sit in front of their plasma screen playing the latest Wii game—to opera. Television soaps have been replacing stale storylines with ones that incorporate teen and twenty-something drama for the last two decades, so it’s fitting that the opera world should follow suit to bring this audience through its doors and into the lush and melodramatic world that is the opera—the ultimate Soap! We all can appreciate the Soaps, can’t we? So why not le opera?

Lucky for me, my grandmother was a Live from the Met fanatic (and an As the World Turns connoisseur, I might add). At age fifteen, it was thrilling to me when she took me to see a concert to benefit the Mexican Earthquake Relief Fund with Placido Domingo (I got to go back stage to his dressing room and speak with him in Spanish!). I was also part of the ‘Hunt’ (Brothers) for Excellence program, while in high school in the Dallas area, having the chance to see the late Tatiana Troyanos live in concert. In college, as a vocal performance major at SMU, we were afforded the opportunity to receive free tickets to the Dallas Opera and were treated to the best the opera world had to offer from Grace Bumbry as “Carmen” to Flicka (Frederica Von Stade) in the world premiere of Dominick Argento’s The Aspern Papers to a De Falla festival featuring Flamenco master Maria Benitez, as well as master classes with Jerome Hines and more. I wish I had appreciated it all then as much as I do now. It took being a substitute chorus member in the Portland Opera productions of Turandot, Der Rosenkavalier and the West Coast premiere of the Dallas Opera’s production of Janacek’s Jenufa, directed by Johnathon Pape (starring Vancouver Opera favourite Judith Forst), for me to realize the power of opera as an art form and how relevant it can actually be to contemporary society.

That’s why it’s cool that Vancouver Opera has chosen to be so “cool.” In browsing the company’s web site, I discovered that opera fans, and those who are curious to learn what opera is all about in the least intimidating way possible, can experience opera plots and characters through manga representations, by Vancouver illustrator Roy Husada, of the stories (think graphic novels) that have delighted audiences for more than a century. Vancouver Opera may just be the only opera company in the world to utilize this contemporary and colorful art form to reach a whole new generation of opera-goers. Visit http://www.operalive.ca/ to check it out for yourself.

Ellen Bradshaw: Making an Artistic Journey Upstate By Way of Chelsea

For most adults, taking a mental step backwards to revisit childhood memories can often seem like a luxury, especially in these busy and trying times. Thank God for art! Art affords, both its creator and its admirers the opportunity to reflect upon a lifetime of experiences. In my opinion, everyone should allow themselves the time to delve into the past to spend some precious moments there. Nothing is more rejuvenating than to honor the places that we have known–the ones that we remember with great fondness. Products of our own specific environments, the “where” impacts us the most and make us who we are. It is the thing that makes each of us special, and, in many cases, helps us find common ground with one another.

Who hasn’t been touched by the facades and the innocent perfection of a “Main Street” somewhere? My mind’s eye frequently flashes to memories of lonely, winding, foliage-lined roads that lead out of town. Artist Ellen Bradshaw’s latest show, Heading Home, Keuka Lake, at Pleiades Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, takes the spectator on a journey through just such places.

Known mostly for her distinctive cityscapes inspired by the Ashcan School, Bradshaw, a Rochester native, departs from the urban jungle and heads Upstate to the openness of New York’s Finger Lakes region and all the beauty of Keuka Lake and the villages of Hammondsport, Penn Yan and Branchport. Artistically, this was a logical progression for Bradshaw, since these are the places where she has spent so much time getting to know the land, its sweeping vineyards, and the moodiness of the lake itself.

In Heading Home, Keuka Lake, Bradshaw has compiled a wonderful mix of works that easily transition from the varying blended greens and azures of brilliant summer scenes, to stark, solitary brown, cobalt blue and gray depictions of fall landscapes, to peaceful winter holiday scenes that are shaded with melancholy.

Bradshaw’s paintings could easily persuade one to quietly slip out from underneath the pretense of the city and head for the uncomplicated, single-layered lifestyle of small town America, where “overscheduled” refers to long, spontaneous walks in the woods (leaving the timepiece on the bureau) or lazy afternoons with a pole and awaiting fish, not to mention fall country drives in the shadow of trees bedecked with orange, red and brown leaves.

While the works in this exhibition evoke intense emotions for the spectator, even if they’ve never had the opportunity to know the subjects that inspired them firsthand, Heading Home, Keuka Lake is clearly a communion with the past for Bradshaw. Her artist statement says that the development of this series was tantamount to reclaiming part of her soul. Keuka, known as the “Lady of Lakes” because of its exquisite beauty, has always beckoned Bradshaw lakeside. What is most special about this show at the Pleiades is that the artist openly and lovingly shares her artistic journey, and gallery goers will be equally drawn to the landscapes that she knows so intimately.

Heading Home, Keuka Lake runs through November 22 at the Pleiades Gallery located at 530 West 25th Street, 4th Floor in Manhattan. Visit www.pleiadesgallery.com for gallery hours and more information.