Aviva Fortunata remembers paying rapt attention at the Jubilee Auditorium as a 10-year-old budding opera enthusiast.
Ten may seem a touch young to be a budding opera enthusiast. But Fortunata was already a devout convert by this point, soaking up productions such as Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in between school and voice lessons.
“I remember sitting forward all the way in my seat,” says Fortunata, in an interview with Postmedia while on a break from rehearsing Calgary Opera’s Norma. “I couldn’t wait to hear more.”
The soprano can’t pinpoint what it was exactly about opera that appealed to her preteen sensibilities during those first couple of shows. It was the music, of course. But it was also the grand gestures, the complete lack of subtlety, the larger-than-life melodrama.
“It just seemed so fun,” she says.
So it’s fitting that Fortunata, who now divides her time between Toronto and Berlin, has returned to her hometown to perform one of opera’s most iconic and challenging leads. Of course, “fun” is not the first word that springs to mind when thinking of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. As the titular character, Fortunata not only has to navigate what is generally considered one of the most technically difficult roles for a soprano, but also master the tricky roller-coaster of emotions that the powerful but tragic heroine requires.