A documentary in 24 hours.

I always have mixed feelings when I finish a documentary. Like singers with post-show blues, I want to get straight back on the horse.

I have just completed an 18 minute video about the World's First Opera Binge Festival. (see end of post) It was a little different to following singers for a year when I filmed A Year in Life of Opera McGill. This time it had to be made in a day.

The festival comprised seven operas in 24 hours at five different venues around Montreal. I set myself the task of doing no pre-filming and shooting the whole thing on March 10/11 2017. Fortunately someone else was filming the shows but I wanted to capture the excitement of the singers, design team, stage directors and audience members as they moved from venue to venue.
James Brown gets ready for East O'The Sun

So I was there as people sipped their free coffee and Timbits before the 11am show, I filmed the line-up in minus 26C outside one of the theatres, I witnessed the hectic costume and make-up calls and at the end of the night I captured the exhausted musical director who had just conducted three operas in 24 hours and was heading to the bar.
Patrick Hansen, Opera McGill director

The whole idea of the B!nge Fest was to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Opera McGill in a unique way that looks to the future of how opera will be consumed. The venues included an art space with wine on tap, a former church turned theatre as well as more conventional performance spaces. It was the brainchild of Opera McGill director Patrick Hansen.

" I was watching the Game of Thrones with my teenage son Ian and I thought this is how people really take in their art nowadays and why not do that with opera? Put on a season of opera and get everyone to watch it in 24 hours," he said.

Backstage at the Theatre Paradoxe with Jonah Spungin

My first task was to get people to talk to me about what they thought of the festival and the operas. I lined up some friendly opera-lovers but I also approached people I'd never met before and asked them what they thought. This reminded me of vox pops I used to do at the BBC and it's a technique I wonder why opera companies don't use more often - getting audience feedback as a way of encouraging new opera-goers.

So when I noticed Boris Polanski at the third opera in a row - I asked him if he was going to them all. He was. Not only did he prove a brilliant interviewee but he also suggested another audience member who had travelled from Quebec city just for the festival.

Rose Naggar-Tremblay and Igor Mostovoi as Dido and Aeneas
The children who gave such great interviews after Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing made me smile when I asked if they could remember the songs. With very little encouragement they started to sing them on camera.

Opera with Pearls blogger Catherine Doyle was wonderfully enthusiastic as she tried to keep pace with which opera she was seeing next on this marathon opera weekend. She said: "It's a big change from what I usually experience when I go to the opera. Usually you go, you sit, intermission..... The whole 24 hours is different because you keep moving from one place to the other, the operas are different, it's a different cast all the time. I want them to do it again!"

Elisabeth Boudreault gets ready for the show
The enthusiasm of the Opera McGill students themselves was infectious as they chatted backstage about their characters, costumes and the music. They were in the unusual position for opera singers of having a living composer to talk to. Brit James Garner's East O' the Sun, West O' the Moon was opera number six of seven at the Theatre Paradoxe - a wonderful venue in a former church with very cool video projections above the stage for both East O' The Sun and Blue Beard's Castle.

Blogger Catherine Doyle takes a selfie of opera fans between shows.
Tapestry Opera's musical director Michael Mori had flown in from Toronto for the Binge. He said "Too often people go to opera and they are distracted because they've just come out of their world and so if you actually say Im going to commit a day to opera its perfect because the audience comes ready to take in whatever they're going to get."
Megan Miceli and Veronica Pollicino in opera no. 4
At the end of the night, when bows had been taken for Blue Beard's Castle, I asked opera goers how they felt. One said: "If you're looking at opera as a vitamin you need every day I've had about 7000pc of my daily required amount of opera and I feel fantastic!" I couldn't agree more and as I waited in -26C for a taxi home that night I began to wonder what my next documentary would be.

Here's the film and the outtakes below:

Check out more of my videos on my website: http://www.annekostalas.com
Read how Patrick Hansen made the B!nge Fest happen: patricksoperablog


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