February 9, 2023
By Kyra Droog
This February and March, we’re bringing the opera to you. We won’t show up on your doorstep with an entourage and serenade you with arias, of course. Instead, we’re bringing you an opportunity to learn everything you ever wanted to learn about opera and more – without having to leave the comfort of your favourite armchair.
Children of Orpheus: The Story of Opera is the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s latest Music Appreciation Online course. Tuesday and Thursday evenings from February 28 to March 23, the fantastic musicologist D.T. Baker will be taking attendees through the stories behind the ultimate collaboration of artistic disciples. “Opera is every great art form rolled into one,” says Baker. “It’s music, set design, acting, staging, production, storytelling, and more. It’s everything that you could bring together for a live performance. There’s simply nothing else like it.”
The truly wonderful thing about this upcoming course is that it takes attendees through one of the most fascinating aspects of a not-so-well-known aspect of musical history. Even Baker admits that it took him years before he really understood opera. “For a lot of people, including myself, opera is that last hurdle for classical music appreciation: there’s a barrier of some sorts,” he says. “Once I crossed that barrier, I became a really big opera fan, and I want to bring people along that same journey I had and share my appreciation and love for it.”
And there really is a lot to learn about opera – so much so that Baker has prepared a glossary for attendees to read over in advance, full of words specific to opera. “Having the vocabulary means that we can talk about opera the way it’s intended to be discussed,” says Baker. He does note that there’s no prerequisite knowledge required: “If you’ve ever seen a Broadway musical, then you have the basics down.”
There are lots of moments in the course that Baker is looking forward to, but his special excitement is reserved for the musical examples he gets to play. “Ten hours isn’t really a lot of time to cover the entire history of opera,” he laughs, “so it might feel a bit like ‘opera’s greatest hits.’ I anticipate there will be a lot of ‘oh so that’s where that song is from’ moments.” He’s hoping that it will be an ear-opening experience for all participants, giving them the opportunity to learn about and experience opera in a new way.
For anyone interested in the course, one big question still remains: Why is it called Children of Orpheus? When I asked Baker, he laughed, noting that it was one of the first things he intended to cover in the course. “The Orpheus myth has been a subject of operas from the very beginning, and has been a consistent thread in terms of subject matter. Opera, then, can be looked upon as the children of Orpheus – many of them were born from that specific myth.” This, of course, is just a small tidbit of what attendees will get to learn during their 10 hours with Baker.
One particularly special aspect of Children of Orpheus: The Story of Opera is in its setup. The courses are delivered through Zoom every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7:00 to 8:15 PM, which means the course is accessible to individuals far and wide. The greatest benefit of this course, for Baker, is the engagement. “I stop at regular intervals and ask for questions, and if there are particular aspects of opera I haven’t thought of, I can research them and bring them up.” He really enjoys the conversation and the benefits that those conversations create. “Getting together to learn about music nurtures your soul in a way that very few things can. If I can bring that into people’s lives, then I’ve more than accomplished what I’ve set out to do.”
If you’re on the fence about taking this course (of course, we highly recommend that you do take it), Baker has one more thing up his sleeve to share in advance of the start date: a Spotify playlist featuring just some of the incredible operatic works that his course will cover. You can check out the playlist, and get excited to learn everything that D.T. Baker can teach you about opera in 10 hours, here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3QJfvzy2UshniaFBHN1l3N
To sign up and join Children of Orpheus: The Story of Opera, click here. We hope to see (and hear) you there!