A couple of days ago I sat down to chat with Natalya Gennadi who will sing the title role in Tapestry’s upcoming premiere of Oksana G by Aaron Gervais and Colleen Murphy. It’s a story about a Ukrainian girl who gets caught up with a sex-trafficking ring; an all too real phenomenon in Eastern and Central Europe as the Soviet system disintegrated. For Natalya it’s a very personal piece. She is Ukrainian and much the same age as Oksana would be. It’s her era and Oksana is, she feels, a similar sort of person from a similar background and there but for…
Thankfully, Natalya’ “career path” has been rather different. She didn’t set out to be a singer. In fact she trained in linguistics before applying to, and being accepted by the Moscow Conservatory though she never studied there. Instead she moved to Ottawa with her husband where she began to study music formsally. With a degree from the University of Ottawa she came to Toronto to study for her masters. Along the way she appeared in a number of student productions and since graduating has been keeping busy with roles mainly with opera companies and orchestras in the Toronto suburbs(*); most recently in the title role of Suor Angelica with Cathedral Bluffs and the countess in Le nozze di Figaro with the Brott Festival. The latter representing something of a vocal shift from Puccini and the like to lighter rep. This is something that she sees as an important (if slightly unusual) career direction. There have also been competitions and the Karina Gauvin scholarship and a “career blueprint” award from the IRCPA.
So, now there’s a chance to see Natalya in a relatively high profile role in downtown Toronto. I asked her what the audience should be looking for in Oksana G. She sees it as a human journey and being about the many aspects of love; love for family, love for friends, misplaced love, perverted love. It’s also about being human in inhuman conditions and what we do to survive; mentally and physically. She also counselled that it’s a very realistic, almost cinematic production. Tom Diamond, the director, has described it as “opera verité”. I could see that in the rehearsal I sat in on where Natalya and Andrea Ludwig were rehearsing a scene from the shelter in Act 2. The attention to tiny details was very evident. This is not going to be a piece of grand gestures or, indeed, stock operatic ones!
Oksana G opens May 24th at the Imperial Oil Theatre in the COC complex on Front Street and runs until May 30th. Besides Natalya and Andrea, the cast includes Adam Fisher, Keith Klassen, Maria Soulis and Krisztina Szabó. Jordan de Souza conducts.
(*)Somebody needs to take an analytical look at the classical/opera scene in the GTA outside the downtown. The demise of the likes of Opera Hamilton and Ottawa Lyric have been analyzed to death, as has the so called “indie opera” scene in the downtown but what happens in the likes of Scarborough and Mississauga mostly flies under the radar of both mainstream media and the blogosphere.