Opera is a truly European art form; its origins are strongly rooted in European history, language and culture. That is why the UBC Opera Ensemble has produced at least one fully staged opera every summer in the Czech Republic. Intimate theatres, world-class musicians, captivated audiences – there are many reasons for a young singer to make the pilgrimage to Europe. The quaint spa town of Teplice has become accustomed to the yearly influx of eager singers looking to immerse themselves in Czech culture. Meanwhile, the singers become accustomed to the quirks and advantages of the life of a performer in the Czech Republic.

1. Česnečka

This traditional Czech soup features garlic very prominently, and has become a staple for singers trying to keep up their health! The UBC Opera Ensemble quickly adopted it into their daily diet, forgetting the cozy accommodations and the close proximity of fellow singers on stage. By the end of our stay, we had all entered into a pact to overlook each other’s terrible breath.

2. Czech opera

Spending time in the Czech Republic, and working alongside Czech performers provides plentiful insight into the Czech language and musical style. Czech opera forms a small but significant part of the repertoire. Both Smetana’s The Bartered Bride and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, two major works, have been performed by UBC Opera in recent seasons.

3. Děčín Castle 

One of the highlights of the trip, the performance at Děčín Castle afforded the experience of singing in a breathtaking thirteenth-century landmark. The venue was not without its eccentricities however; most notably the presence of several peacocks on the grounds. Their incessant squawking was audible throughout the show.

4. Historic Theatres

The Czech Republic might not strike one as having the status in the opera world of, say, Germany or Italy, but Mozart’s own Don Giovanni premiered at The Estates Theatre in Prague, not far from Teplice, where Mozart’s legacy continues with performances of Don Giovanni every summer. Several students took the opportunity to visit the theatre on a day off from rehearsals.

5. Die Zauberflöte

An important aspect of UBC Opera’s performances was the particular production of The Magic Flute being staged. This production (set design, costumes, stage direction) has toured extensively throughout Europe and Japan. Working on such a storied production provides a deep appreciation to student performers of Mozart’s work and its versatility.

As educational and exciting as it was to perform Mozart’s opera in Europe, the UBC Opera Ensemble is thrilled to be performing back on home turf. Come see the now veteran cast as part of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival on Monday, August 29 or Monday, September 5 at 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.!