Janessa O’Hearn is excited to be coming back to her home town once again with the Vancouver Island Opera.
O’Hearn will be performing the role of Cherubino in Vancouver Island Opera’s (VIO) production of The Marriage of Figaro at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre on Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 23 at 2:30 p.m.
“Just to be in the town where I fell in love with this is really special to me,” O’Hearn said.
The Marriage of Figaro is O’Hearn’s fifth production with VIO, after joining the cast of Faust five years ago.
O’Hearn said she started acting at the age of 12 in local productions and workshops with Thea Stavroff, Bard to Broadway and ECHO Players productions.
Janessa O’Hearn, right, with Tatiana Vasilieva, the artistic director for The Marriage of Figaro. This year’s opera is dedicated to Vasilieva. – Maureen O’Hearn photo
One of the biggest reasons that O’Hearn said she’s back is not only because of this character, which she said is really important for her repertoire, it is also because of Tatiana Vasilieva.
“I feel like I really want to do this for her because she was the one who gave me this opportunity five years ago,” O’Hearn said.
The VIO has dedicated The Marriage of Figaro to Vasilieva, the founder and artistic director.
O’Hearn said she’s fairly new to the opera world in comparison to most people in the business.
“I started delving into classical voice five years ago,” O’Hearn said, adding that at first, she just wanted to get some vocal training.
At the time, O’Hearn said she didn’t read sheet music or have a second language. But she said she’s been working on her Italian since moving to Italy and studying opera earlier this year.
But she’s been back in the Lower Mainland practising for her role since the end of summer.
O’Hearn said she will be playing a trouser role, which is when a male character, like 14-year-old Cherubino, is played by a woman. O’Hearn also said that in quite a few operas, they have mezzo sopranos playing boys.
O’Hearn said that while she’s familiar with the role and some of the pieces, this is her first time portraying Cherubino.
“This specific character is really good for my voice type,” O’Hearn said. “Everyone told me I needed to learn pieces of that for audition material.”
But she added that she’s excited to be playing the role.
“He’s just a character of so much energy, and as an actor, I get to play a lot more than in other roles I’ve done,” she said. “There’s a huge allowance with these trouser roles.”
The Marriage of Figaro is an opera buffa (a comic opera), and O’Hearn said that has been the most exciting for her.
“I get the opportunity — or should I say opera-tunity — to play around and actually be funny,” O’Hearn said of her character. “Which is something I’ve been craving to do in a lot of the work that I’ve been doing.”
The Marriage of Figaro, which was first performed in Vienna in 1784, tells the story of servants Figaro and Susanna who succeed in getting married while foiling the efforts of their philandering boss Count Almaviva from seducing Susanna, meanwhile teaching him a lesson in fidelity, according to the VIO’s website.
While the VIO has been in operation for 16 years, VIO president Hugh Sinnott said this is their 13th fully-staged opera.
Sinnott, who will also be playing the role of Antonio, said while this is one of the more challenging operas to put on, it’s one of Mozart’s most famous operas.
“You can’t mistake it,” Sinnott said. “Everybody recognizes it, even if you’re not an opera-goer.”
Sinnott said it’s challenging for all of the singers.
“All of the singers almost have to learn each other’s parts. It’s almost like a singing conversation,” he said.
O’Hearn said that while opera can be such a beautiful thing, if the performers aren’t working together as a team, it will fall flat on its face.
“The thing that was such an amazing experience was how stupidly challenging doing something like that was,” O’Hearn said. “But then when you’re onstage and you have an orchestra behind you and the conductor with you, you’re a part of this amazing team.”
Tickets for the Oct. 22 and 23 performances at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre can be purchased locally at Chocolates Plus and Cranky Dog Music.
Tickets are $30 in advance and includes a copy of the program, $35 at the door, $20 for students and children aged 12 and under get in free.