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Mightier than the Sword

Art as an instrument for peace

Desautels Faculty of Music presents …Mighter than the Sword, November 9 - 10

November 6, 2018 — 

In a collaboration of multi-faculty arts at the University of Manitoba, …Mightier than the Sword marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. The production will begin with Les Arts Florissants by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, performed by the Desautels Chamber Opera Group.

“The theme of Les Arts Florissants is that the arts can be an instrument for peace,” explains Katherine Twaddle, opera studies coordinator. “The characters are Music, Painting (not Painter), Architect, Poetry, Discord and Peace.  We have chosen to set the opera in the trenches of the First World War and our production portrays a group of varied artists going to war, experiencing the trauma of battle, the search for a way to feel normal, a mutinous uprising and then a longing for, and realization of peace. If you look up ‘Artists who served in the First World War’ you will find a cornucopia of the great composers, poets, artists, etc. of the early twentieth century.”  

This project began life as an opportunity for singers and instrumentalists to work closely together on a baroque chamber opera.  Les Arts Florissants was chosen because of the richly textured music and its suitability for the students. The theme of the opera, how the arts can be an instrument for peace, and the dates of the performances made this a perfect opportunity to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and to invite other arts faculties to join.

“Les Arts Florissants was chosen because it is a fabulous baroque opera and just right for our singers,” said Twaddle. “We wanted to start a chamber opera ensemble, and this opera really fit the bill for the types of voices and instrumentalists.”

Putting together an opera production is a process of teamwork and dedication. Once the opera has been selected and the ensemble put together, a great deal of work goes into the background of a production such as Les Arts Florissants.

“The singers will learn the music and work at combining this learning of notes and rhythms with their vocal technique, understanding and communicating the language, diction, musical and character interpretation,” says Twaddle. “Mel Braun, our music director, will learn the score in even more detail and also plan how he wants to shape the phrases and guide both the instrumentalists and singers. The instrumentalists also prepare the music so that they know it in advance of rehearsals.  As the stage director, I learn the piece in great detail as well and explore how we are going to tell the story, which involves a concept, design and dramatic interpretation. For this production we started rehearsing the first week of September and have had two to three rehearsals a week since then.”

The singers will also have to be very careful in the process of learning the opera, as every step is important.

“First I have to do research on the opera itself, know about the storyline, the composer and the time period,” said Paulina Gonzalez, an opera studies major who is performing in the production. “I do a word by word translation of the entire opera and make sure I understand the general idea. I learn the music and start to practice it by singing every day on my own. Then I memorize it. It takes an enormous amount of effort from every singer and musician involved in a production, as well as teamwork and dedication for the opera rehearsals and the performances to flow successfully.”

In addition to the opera performance, the evening will feature other student art from across campus. The production will also feature performances from the Desautels Faculty of Music jazz area and presentations of written poetry by students in the Faculty of Arts.

Not to be missed are exhibits from the School of Art, which will be located in the Taché Arts Complex, student gallery, and the Faculty of Architecture, located in the Taché Arts Complex atrium. The architecture exhibit, lead by Dr. Herbert Enns, was inspired by a recent trip students took to see glaciers in Iceland.  The exhibit links the design inspired by the glaciers to baroque architecture.  

Purchase your tickets

Watch the …Mightier Than the Sword on November 9 at 7:30 PM and November 10 at 2:00 PM at the vocal ensemble room, Taché Arts Complex, 150 Dafoe Road, University of Manitoba.

Tickets are $20 general and $10 for students, available at:

  • The Desautels Faculty of Music at (204) 474-9310;
  • Manitoba Opera at (204) 944-8824; or
  • At the door.

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