SURREY — Rehearsals are now in full swing for one of the biggest shows of Elaina Moreau’s budding career as a professional singer.
The Vancouver Opera presentation of L’Elisir d’amore (“The Elixir of Love”) will come together over the next few weeks for its Jan. 21 opening date at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Moreau, a soprano who lives with her family in the Elgin area of South Surrey, is cast as Gianetta, who has some news for her fellow villagers in Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera about a travelling doctor’s “magic” potion.
Love is in the air in this story, which features a rich and witty town beauty (Adina, played by Chinese soprano Ying Fang), a love-struck labourer (Nemorino, played by Canadian tenor Andrew Haji), his rival for Adina’s affections (Belcore, baritone Brett Polegato) and the purveyor the bottled elixir (Dulcamara, bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus).
“Gianetta is Adina’s closest friend and confidante,” Moreau said of her role in the Canadian Opera Company production, “and she is the one who discovers news about Nemorino, that he is suddenly now a millionaire, and she’s the messenger that sets a whole bunch of things into action.”
The opera’s lyrics are sung in Italian, with English surtitles projected above the stage at the Hamilton Street theatre in Vancouver.
“The show is probably one of the best operas people could go to for the first time, if they’ve never seen opera before,” Moreau noted. “It’s really lighthearted, a great comedy, something for them to see and have a really good time and laugh.”
Born in Vancouver and raised in the Okanagan Valley, Moreau studied music in Toronto and San Francisco before moving to Surrey more than two years ago. She teaches voice lessons at the White Rock campus of Vancouver International School of Music, on 152nd Street at 20th Avenue.
Growing up, Moreau could often be found listening to CBC Radio’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera with her parents.
“I heard a lot of opera,” she recalled, “but I was always more interested in musical theatre. I started voice lessons wanting to go into a career in musical theatre, but my voice teacher was more in the classical area, and she slowly introduced me to more opera, and I found that was where my voice was happiest.
“And more than that,” Moreau continued, “the stories really drew me in, and the characters, and also the spectacle. The first time I got to actually see an opera, just the incredible scale of the orchestra and the set and the costumes, everything inspired me so much. It just became a real passion for me, something I wanted to pursue.”
Now 28 years of age, Moreau is among six participants in Vancouver Opera’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program during the company’s current season. The residency program gives artists – singers, pianists and stage directors – an opportunity to train with industry leaders through master classes, one-on-one coachings and performance opportunities.
Moreau’s bio on the VO website notes recent performance highlights, including “a Dora Award-winning performance as Young Ava/The House in the world premiere of Rocking Horse Winner with Tapestry Opera, Bettina/Celidora/Mirza in the world premiere of The Lost Operas of Mozart with City Opera Vancouver, and the title role in L’incoronazione di Poppea with the Trentino Summer Music Festival in Mezzano, Italy.” A more detailed biography can be found on Moreau’s own website, elainamoreau.com.
The VO production of L’Elisir d’amore “is kind of a new step for me, for sure,” the singer said.
“It’s been incredible being part of the young artist program in general,” Moreau added, “and working with a group of six young artists for the last few weeks. Now we’re looking forward to having these incredible international artists come in, and we get to work with them and also watch work, and I think it’ll just elevate the level of performance for all of us.”
With just five leads, the production features a relatively small cast.
“It’ll be just a quick rehearsal process of getting to know each other,” Moreau explained, “and all the others, they’re seasoned professionals – not that I’m not, but this is sort of the first time I’m doing something on this scale, which is very exciting.”
As a professional opera singer, Moreau said it’s very possible to be based in Surrey and still make a career of it.
“Because the nature of this work is so contract-oriented, from one contract to another, it’s been good because I’m based in South Surrey but I’ve been able to do two contracts in Toronto in the last two seasons, and there are some really great companies here – three or four that I’ve worked with in the Lower Mainland since being here,” she related. “There are lots of opportunities here, too, and the reality is, you can kind of make your home base anywhere, and why not be in the Lower Mainland and Surrey – some of the best parts of Canada, I think.”
Vancouver Opera’s presentation of L’Elisir d’amore features some other Surrey residents as well – Brenda Glass Alexander and Dionne Sellinger as chorus members, and violinists Richard Dorfer and Patricia Armstrong in the orchestra.
The show opens on Jan. 21 with a 2 p.m. matinee, followed by performances at 7:30 p.m. on both Jan. 25 and Jan. 27. Tickets start at $49 via vancouveropera.ca, call 604-683-0222 or visit the company’s box office, at 1945 McLean Drive, Vancouver.