Wirth Opera Studio

A concerted effort for opera

“Any major opera company would love to have the Wirth Opera Studio for its rehearsal space,” says Associate Professor Patrick Hansen, Director of Opera McGill in the Schulich School of Music. “It can accommodate a full cast of students on stage, along with everyone else – from the conductor and pianist to stage directors and managers – involved in producing a piece.”

The studio, home to the School’s opera students, was created eight years ago with philanthropic support from the late Manfred Wirth and his daughter Elizabeth Wirth, BA’64. Now, a further gift from Elizabeth Wirth is helping to refine the Studio’s acoustics and complete its transformation into a truly state-of the-art facility. “Right now we’re still acoustically challenged,” says Hansen. “A class of singers singing at top of their lungs can be loud, and it is difficult for them to hear music from the piano or other singers.”

On the list of upgrades will be technology to control the acoustics more fully. In addition, the space is being equipped with audio and video recording facilities that will enable the students to record and assess their vocal and physical performances.

The Studio, which already has a sprung floor, will have a mirror and ballet bars added to one wall, transforming it into a viable space for dance classes as well as for teaching movement training for opera singers, a critical element of their development. Finally, it will also be equipped with a small gird for hanging stage lights that can be used in master classes, and with storage facilities for props. The stage lights will also be used during productions, thereby saving the Schulich School thousands of dollars in lighting rental fees.

“All of these additions are going to make training more professional,” says Hansen, who is enthusiastic about the Studio’s most prominent patron. “Elizabeth Wirth doesn’t only give money; she comes to shows, meets the students and follows what is happening. She’s a very special lady.”