You wouldn't think that opera and comedy went together so well, but the opening concert of the Symphony of the Kootenays 36th season was a hilarious triumph. "La Diva and the Maestro" featured soprano Natalie Choquette in an extensive range of opera arias. I think she may have sung one aria "straight", but the rest were targets for her comedic talent. I don't believe I've laughed so hard at a symphony concert before.
Choquette has blended her exquisite musical talent with a tremendous sense of humour for the last 20 years or so. She appeared on stage as "La Fettucini", the conceited, over-the-top diva who knows that the concert is all about her. The orchestra exists only to make her look good. She demands standing ovations and generous applause, because she deserves it. She carried it off. So did Bruce Dunn, the Symphony's Maestro, but not without some grumbling behind her back.
Choquette also chose a few "victims" from the audience for her good-natured hi-jinks. As she explained to one, "in opera, emotions and gestures and facial expressions have to be exaggerated and over the top." She definitely was over the top, and had the audience in stitches most of the night.
There were a massive number of costume changes for each bit. After La Fettucini, she became a guttural German singer, a Japanese geisha, a Russian athlete who sang while pantomiming being an Olympic athlete (singing the final part of the aria while standing on her head), and ended up in a nightgown with curlers, slurping spaghetti as she sang the final song of the night.
After thanking the audience for performing its role so well, she ended with three encores, although it was clear that the audience would have loved her to continue. It was a wonderful opening to what promises to be a delightful season.