Opera like you’ve never seen it before

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By Jennifer Schmidt

The prima donna was dressed in a stunning white gown and draped in a matching fur stole. She opened her mouth to sing — but all she said was, “Meow.”

Yes, you heard correctly: “Meow.”

Kinga Mitrowska continued to make cat noises through the rest of her duet with Mark Dubois, who responded with his own meowing. The pair of celebrated Canadian singers were performing the “Cat Duet” as part of the recital at the Ford Centre’s George Westin Recital Hall on Sunday Mar. 7. The program was called In the Mood for Love, and featured operatic love themes performed by Mitrowska and Dubois. Ryerson’s Oakham House Choir sang choral pieces between performances by the two singers.

It was more entertaining than your average recital. Dubois spoofed Pavarotti’s signature song, “Oh Solo Mio,” dragging out the high notes and mimicking Pavarotti’s flourishes with an oversized white handkerchief.

It also wasn’t a normal evening by the Oakham House Choir’s standards, as they are used to having the show to themselves at their two yearly concerts in December and May.

The Oakham House Choir, now in its 15th season, sang famous works such as Verdi’s “Glory to Egypt,” from Aida (one of the themes has been used in an Aero chocolate bar commercial). It was no small task for a group that brings together amateur voices from Ryerson students and citizens throughout Toronto.

But music like “Glory to Egypt” could be considered easy in comparison to the choir’s usual repertoire, which has included mammoth works such as Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah — choral works normally performed by professional groups.

“We offer the chance for not-particularly-good singers and musicians to sing in the really big works,” says Marie Dowler, manager of the choir and a member of Ryerson’s English department. “If you are a very good singer, then Toronto offers its of opportunities. If you are not that good, it doesn’t. Your chances of singing the Messiah or Mozart’s Requiem are very small. We offer you that chance.”

The choir has members between the ages of 15 and 80. They’re worried about funding their May concert. “What I think is going to affect us, is that we’ve had our grant cut at the beginning of this year from $4,000 to $2,000,” says Dowler. The difficulty is that Oakham has its fiscal year end in April, which keeps the choir from planning for May.

“We won’t know what our position is until the end of this year,” says Dowler.

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