Donnie Ray Albert has never read a blog, never mind been anywhere near Twitter. Nonetheless, when the 59-year-old baritone steps into title role of Vancouver Opera’s Rigoletto at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre this Saturday (March 7), his every move will be documented and noted by laptop-wielding technophiles.
For the second time in as many operas, the VO has invited local Internet notables to live-blog the production, in the hopes of stirring up interest among the 18-to-40 demographic.
“Most of our opera-goers are 50 and above,” explains Ling Chan, assistant to VO managing director Christopher Libby and the engine behind forays into on-line social media, including a Facebook page, a Flickr account, and a newly launched Twitter feed. “We thought, you know, young people read blogs, they’re very active on-line. So that’s a way that we can approach them and let them know that we have these things in store.”
When Miss604.com, DeliciousJuice.com, and NetChick.net visited Carmen at Chan’s invitation, the result was plenty of breathless buzz in the blogosphere. The quartet unanimously raved about the production, and Kimli Welsh (aka DeliciousJuice), who had never been to an opera, says that in at least one case the postings inspired ticket sales.
“I did have some friends in Vancouver who said after they read about our experiences they wanted to go to opera as well, so they went out and bought tickets,” the punk-rock lover reports in a phone conversation.
Vancouver Opera is clearly hoping for more of the same with Rigoletto, which will again be attended by Miss604, DeliciousJuice, and NetChick, along with TrisHussey.com and SoMisguided.com. And as far as Albert’s concerned, the opera—which can also be seen on March 10, 12, 14, and 17—makes for a perfect introduction to the genre.
“It’s a great first opera to go to,” he says in conversation at his hotel lounge, in a deep, rumbling voice that could be mistaken for James Earl Jones’s. “The story line is there, the music is there. Giuseppe Verdi is always a good thing to go to [for your first time].”
This opera has got it all, he adds: the hunchbacked court jester who keeps his beautiful daughter locked away; the depraved count who defiles her; and a failed attempt at revenge that ultimately robs the cursed clown of that which he holds most precious.
This production, directed by Glynis Leyshon, mixes traditional costumes with a contemporary set that has Rigoletto imprisoning his daughter, Gilda, in a cage rather than a cottage. That’s a bonus for Welsh, who admits that her previously held impression of opera as “a fat lady in a powdered wig singing on-stage” has been shattered.
“I did a little bit of reading and the story sounds really cool,” she says, confessing she’d never even heard of the opera. “There’s murder; there’s people in cages! It sounds totally awesome.”
If that enthusiasm translates to the computer screen this Saturday, Vancouver Opera will have plenty to Tweet about.