Power Women–taken at Little Women dress rehearsal, March 8, 2023 (l-r Kira Omelchenko, Kimberly Barber, Kate Carver, Dana Fradkin)

In honour of International Women’s Day, I bring you: Power Women. At Opera Laurier, I have built a reputation for hiring amazing artistic women in every element of the production team: women composers, directors, lighting and set designers, music directors and staff, stage managers. And this year was no exception–as you can see, Conductor (Kira), Producer (moi), Music Director, Coach and Colleague Extraordinaire (Kate) and Director (Dana), all women. And not pictured, but also featured, in this year’s iteration (Mark Adamo’s Little Women, naturally!) are our two assistant directors (both young women, Maddy and Nuha), and our loyal and true stage manager of many years, Jennifer Schamehorn, who has never missed a show (except one pre-pandemic year when Stratford spirited her away) in the last 10 or 12 years.

It is a pleasure and inspiration to work together with these folks who have vision, creativity, spontaneity and empathy in equal measure. Their work with the students is so wholehearted, it bears bragging about. And what’s not to love about that classic coming-of-age tale by Louisa May Alcott? It awoke in me a creative urge as a child (I think I first read it when I was 8). Little did I know that I would one day embody Aunt March (I would have been hoping for Meg in this opera version–I just LOVE her music–but I got too old before I got the chance!) not once, but twice? I’ve been wanting to program this piece for several years at Laurier, but never had the right people until this year. So what a gift it has been to bring this piece to life with such amazing, powerful women!

Little Women is a really special work, particularly (IMHO) this operatic version by Mark Adamo. He has a very personal take on the story, specifically as it pertains to the role of Jo. He portrays her as a women who is finding not only her artistic voice, but her personal one. She learns–through loss–that nothing is forever except change. Thus, there is something that feels all at once timeless and very timely here. And I find it especially moving in the final moments of the opera, where the four sisters stand together and say: ” for a moment: we were four sisters, one soul”, reflecting on their female and familial bond. It’s powerful to hear 4 singers do this together who will all graduate this year, and will (more than likely) move on to other things independently, despite the connection they have forged in their time together at Laurier. And all of this as envisioned and created by four “artistic sisters”: Kate, Kira, Dana, and me. All hail, the women!