Art is Important

by Megan Ejack

Sitting in the audience of the Vancouver Opera’s wildly popular rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen on closing night, I was struck by deja vu. Not my own, but a reminiscence so acute, that it hung from the rafters.

Carmen - Vancouver Opera

The Queen Elizabeth Theatre was sold out, the ticket sales exceeding any other run in its Box Office History. The reviews, out for a week, were stellar- the show was a hit. An outstanding feat for such strange, economic times; but something was different.

In the hard times of the 1930’s and 1940’s, people needed to escape. Entertainment and theatre, particularly comedies and musicals, became a crucial enterprise as people strived to forget their financial woes.

The world is not so different now than it was more than 50 years ago. In these trying times of economic despair, when money is down, the desire to escape appears to be up.

As the passionate lives of Carmen and her cohorts played out on the stage, there was an electricity buzzing in the audience. Rinat Shaham’s fiery portrayal of the title character literally spat in the face of adversity, and her zeal for life transformed everyone she encountered, for better or for worse. The story reflects the desire for Freedom above all things and the renunciation of worldly goods, in the pursuit of passion.

Freedom, Beauty, Truth and Love… the Bohemian Ideals… but at the Opera? Hmmmm . . .

Through two intermissions and a glass of wine, I realized that this audience had, itself, begun to embody a new kind of Bohemia. The patrons of the arts who complemented these ideals were rather an eclectic group – both in age and in dress – although their attitudes, as a whole, suggested the acceptance and coalescence of their contemporary ideals with the raucous, visceral performance they were experiencing onstage.

By the beginning of Act 3, even the string section of the orchestra, led by acclaimed guest conductor Antony Walker, reached up and waggled their bows to our applause. Freedom was definitely in the air.

It has become clear, that in our version of the Great Depression, freedom is all we have . . . a different KIND of freedom. Whether it’s through music, film, or the Opera, we must allow ourselves to be strengthened by the fabulous artistic landscape of this city; and as the curtain fell, this particular Vancouver audience seemed rejuvenated, ready to face another day.

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