GCAT - Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

The Bicycle Opera Project a two wheeled success

Last Thursday, July 31, I went to my first ever bicycle opera.  In fact, I went to my first opera ever.  I have never considered myself an opera fan, and have always felt that I would have difficulty sitting through an opera, since I basically have the attention span of a gnat. 

However, I thought I would try this one out, because of the “hook”  that they use to “catch” new opera goers…they travel by bike!  Really.  So, 8 or so opera singers and musicians, go from performance to performance throughout Ontario by bike.   

This map shows the places that they have performed in Ontario.

Since I really, really, like anything related to bikes, and want to support bicycle culture in Guelph, I attended the performance.  The opera was held in a perfect intimate setting with great acoustics, Harcourt United Church on Dean Avenue.  It was tremendous fun.

I had the opportunity to speak with Larissa Koniuk, the soprano of the group.  I sure wish I had the confidence and grace that this woman has when I was that age.  

I asked her where they performed their last tour.  They rode in from Brantford, Ontario.  Before that, Stratford.  After Guelph, they were headed for Waterloo, then finishing off their 5 week tour by bicycling to and performing in Toronto.

I wondered what was Larissa’s favourite part about bicycle touring.  She said that nothing specific came to mind; she enjoyed the whole journey rather than just the destination.  When riding, she notices details in her environment that become evident when traveling at a much slower pace.  A chance to “smell the flowers”, so to speak.  She also mentioned that she didn’t mind being able to enjoy fresh baked pies and other indulgences along the way.  Since they burned all those calories, eating was a delight!

Her most memorable experiences have simply been from meeting all kinds of amazing people along the way.  As well, by performing in intimate venues, she brings opera singing literally closer to the audience, and makes her feel like she can really communicate the power of the human voice.

The audience and interest in the troupe is growing. Their tour was 10 days long two years ago. Last year, they went on a three week Ontario tour. This year, the tour lasted 5 weeks.  Next year, they are hoping to do a cross Canada tour.  

As far as the actual opera that was performed at Harcourt Church in Guelph,  the young artists gave us  a fantastic introduction to opera. Almost all of the opera was done in English to make it more accessible.  As well, they performed 7 short operettas, from silly to sensual to sad to snappy.  The pace and change in the opera performances made the opera accessible to neophytes like me.  The whole crew is so fit and sensual, as you can imagine (long distance biking does that to a person), that I spent some of my time simply in awe of their form, not unlike I do when watching the Olympics.

My favourite opera was an excerpt from “The Brothers Grimm”, which was a story of how the Brothers Grimm came up with the fairy tale “Rapunzel.”  It was whimsical, authentic, and even sustainable….Rapunzel’s hair was made from old bicycle tires.IMG_20140731_201909.jpg
Larissa as Rapunzel

Next year, should they travel through Guelph again, take your bike and cycle on over to Harcourt Church.  You will love both your bike ride and your operatic experience!

For more information on the Bicycle Opera Project, visit http://bicycleopera.com/

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