The first opera Gordon Bintner ever saw was the comedy Così fan tutte by Mozart. Coincidentally, it’s the same opera he’s poised to perform in as the bass-baritone character, Don Alfonso, next month at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
“It’s kind of funny how it happened like that,” said Bintner, who lives in East York.
“I consider myself entirely lucky to be a part of it. It’s acting, it’s singing, it’s moving and it’s at such a heightened level because you get to sing with an orchestra.”
He recalled being glad the first opera he saw was a comedy, noting it was helpful that it wasn’t completely tragic. The story follows two young couples who become entangled in a fidelity testing wager proposed by Don Alfonso, Bintner’s character.
It’s an opera Bintner considers “accessible and not challenging from a listeners perspective,” because it was created by Mozart.
As he watched the singers perform live with an orchestra that night he remembers feeling excited and completely awestruck.
“I wondered how is it possible that 50 people are in this orchestra and I’m still hearing this human voice without projection, no microphone nothing?” said Bintner.
On Feb. 7, Bintner will get his chance to leave an audience in awe after he, along with the other performers in the Canadian Opera Company (COC) Ensemble Studio, will perform in Così fan tutte on the main stage.
“(It’s) full costumes, set and props. It’s a real professional performance with an orchestra,” said Bintner.
“This is our big show. It’s exciting and wonderful.”
This is the chance for the singers to shine after being understudies for months. The opera is led by Canadian director Atom Egoyan with musical director Johannes Debus.
Bintner is considered one of COC’s rising stars. He’s won countless awards including first place in the Audience Choice Award at the Second Annual COC Ensemble Studio Competition in 2012, and was named one of CBC’s “30 Hot Classical Singers Under 30” in 2013.
“That feels great, it’s very sweet. I’ll never be used to that or be comfortable for me to hear,” says Bintner of being called a rising star.
“It’s my job to carry on and keep working hard.”
Bintner moved to Toronto in July having spent a few years in Montreal, while he was studying at McGill University. Currently, he lives near Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street, an area he says he instantly fell in love with.
“It’s such a great neighbourhood. You get the sense that everyone is active and out with their families. They’re friendly and it’s just a beautiful and social area,” said Bintner.
Originally from Regina, Bintner said he knew he wanted to take singing seriously at a young age. He admits there wasn’t a major, or even minor opera scene there when he was growing up.
“I didn’t grow up listening to opera or being involved in opera in any way,” said Bintner. “I took voice lessons when I was a kid and did choirs when I was in school, but aside from that I just knew I was a singer and that I loved singing.”
It wasn’t until he enrolled in McGill’s Schulich School of Music that he began to dabble in the world of classical singing. Bintner said he went to university to receive classical training because he knew it would be beneficial to understand how his voice worked in a “more clear way.”
“That’s why classical technique appealed to me. Once you start studying that it’s quite common to start studying opera,” said Bintner. “I fell in love with it over night and never looked back.”
He credits his successful path thus far to his mentors and teachers Sanford Sylvan and Michael McMahan, both successful musicians, who have helped him develop on a professional and personal level during his journey. He also credits his caring family, who he says was supportive from the very beginning
“There’s this idea that .... it’s easier perhaps to take on a ‘normal job’ with a regular paycheck that’s 9 to 5. But there’s been no pressure to do any of that (from my family). Instead I’ve been encouraged to pursue what I’m passionate about,” said Bintner.
He was accepted into the two-year COC Ensemble Studio program in August and has been training with them as well as taking the acting and coaching lessons provided. The program only has nine other students who are involved in the six to seven productions put together over the course of a year, said Bintner.
“We’re either in them in a small way like supporting roles or we’re understudies for the main stage. If they get sick we go on, which is a real thing. It’s hardly back up,” he said.
“This company brings in the best singers in the world. Period. So to have this chance to observe and watch them sing is beyond anything you could imagine in an institutional setting.”
In a few weeks, Bintner will hit the stage and perform for an audience of hundreds and he couldn’t be more excited to play his character, although he admits he would have liked to play the role of the younger character Guglielmo.
“He’s the romantic, he’s the lover, so of course I would gear towards the young handsome lover as opposed to the old man,” he laughed. “But I’m still so thrilled to be singing this role. It’s thrilling that we’ll be up on that stage performing in less than a month.”
For more information regarding tickets and scheduled performance times, visit www.coc.ca/performancesandtickets.aspx.