Opera in Cottage Country

Richard Margison and his wife Valerie Kuinka were approached with a vision of bringing Opera to Haliburton. The Highlands Opera Studio was born and is in its eighth season.

I joined 18 other singers for a 5-week residency amongst beautiful lakes sunny skies.

The program included masterclasses, lessons and coachings. I performed in 5 different concerts and sang in the Anglican church where all rehearsals were held.

My main event was singing Popova in William Walton’s “The Bear”. This piece was challenging because of the rhythms and disjointed tonalities. On several occasions I simply had to use muscle memory to get my pitches. The piano part was simply no help at all.

The one-act opera featured 3 singers. I was joined by Matthew Gamble (the only American of the group), a baritone with gorgeous high notes and Nathan Keoughan , a bass-baritone with a flair for the dramatic.

The story was quite over the top. I loved singing my aria where I commented on my husband’s infidelity in comical ways. I also got to handle a real dueling pistol!

The Opera Studio reunited me with old friends and colleagues– some of whom I had not seen/heard in 7 years. Atelier alumni such as pianist Jérémie Pelletier and soprano Chantale Nurse were there.

Catching up with Christiane Riel, Chantal Lambert. Keith Lam and Justin Welsh were also highlights .

It was an honour to work with Richard, Wayne Strongman, and Maestro Daniel Lipton.

What struck me was the community of people surrounding the program: the volunteers who made our lunches everyday, the church members who attended every concert, master class and opera performances. The hosts who allowed us singers in their homes and took us out on their boats!

Many thanks to everyone who made Highlands Opera Studio a reality, especially Richard and Val.


Richard Margison and his wife, Valerie Kuinka

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