Divas Opera wishes Calgarians a merry Christmas through song

CALGARY — Dresses and gowns, they’ve got so many they’ve lost count; quick changes, hearing those gasps when they walk out; big sparkling jewelry that shines when they sing; these are a few of Diva Opera’s favourite things.

Calgary opera singers Kathleen Morrison and Barbara King — who together form Divas Opera — released recordings of themselves singing holiday song in the week leading up to Christmas as a gift to fans and followers, including the classic, My Favourite Things.

“We really, really wanted to give out these special treats,” said Morrison, a soprano.

Seven songs were posted to social media in the seven days before Christmas:

  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • My Favourite Things
  • Silent Night
  • Silver Bells
  • O Holy Night
  • White Christmas
  • The Christmas Song

“Kathleen and I think so alike, so when we decided to do this, we basically said, ‘O Holy Night is the big one so we need to start with that’ … then after that it just sort of came together,” said King, a mezzo-soprano.

“We said, ‘Silent Night is another beautiful duet, Silver Bells is beautiful as well,’ it just kind of went from there.”

Planning on the project began in September immediately after one of their few actual live performances this year, titled The Show Must Go On, on the rooftop of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Calgary. The live entertainment industry has largely been shut down across North America since the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were planning on doing a Christmas concert because we’re kind of eternal optimists and we hoped things would be settled down by now,” said Morrison.

“Since they’re not, once we finished our concert in September, we just decided to have some stuff in the bank so to speak, just in case we weren’t able to perform live and to do an actual live Christmas concert.”

Filming was done in October in Fish Creek Park, with the pair taking advantage of an early-season snowfall.

“It’s in the park where I always take my dog for a walk, I thought, this is beautiful, it’s Fish Creek Park, we’ve got the hills and everything, and since we were already a cohort from the show, we could do it safely,” said Morrison.

Normally at this time of year, Morrison would be in Berlin working with a company called Vagalume — a Portuguese word meaning glow-worm — where performers wear LED costumes.

That inspired them to create one-of-a-kind gowns with festive ornaments, which also glow.

“It’s the crazy light costumes that are there, I usually go for about a month, starting at the first advent in Germany and Austria, performing in these Christmas markets with these amazing, lit-up gowns. Since I wasn’t able to travel this year, I was talking to Barb about it and she said, ‘why don’t we just do it here?’ So we came up with the design and concept and each built our dresses.

“They light up and we can move in them.”

Actual filming didn’t take very long.

“We did all the physically distant duets all throughout the summer, so we go really used to doing the videos together,” said King.

“Once we came up with the idea, it was so easy to put it all together.”

The editing, however, was outside their comfort zone.

“It took hours,” said Morrison. “I’m an opera singer and this COVID thing has taught both of us so many new talents and techniques. The videos aren’t perfect but it’s us who did them. It was fun but it was a lot of work.”

The seven songs can also be seen on the Divas Opera website.

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