Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show
I recently had the pleasure of attending Opera Mariposa’s “Here I Stand” benefit and awareness concert for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (ME/CFS & FM).
Soprano and Artistic Director, Jacqueline Ko, tells her inspirational story of living with ME/FM through a variety of musical theatre songs and opera arias with highly accomplished pianist Angus Kellet.
A big part of Jacqueline’s story is the chronic pain and emotional struggles born out of the many obstacles she has faced. That struggle was explored through carefully chosen songs and arias. The song “Anyone Can Whistle”, by Stephen Sondheim, was an insight into what it feels like to not be able to do normal things the way someone without ME/FM would.
So why not do extraordinary things? Jacqueline became an opera singer and started an opera company. She mentioned this with pride, and rightfully so.
I know how much work goes into putting on a show like this, but I was blown away when Jacqueline said she will spend months recovering from this one night. “You Learn to Live Without”, from If/Then by Tom Kitt, alluded to all the adjustments Jacqueline has had to make since she became ill at just six years old. Yet you can see how much joy singing brings to her life, and how it radiates to the other people around her.
Her musical numbers showcased how versatile her voice can be: delightfully sweet and intimate, yet also powerful and raw. It was a welcome surprise to hear her sing “Wait For It” (complete with an Opera Mariposa chorus) and “That Would Be Enough” from the highly acclaimed and very popular musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
However, two pieces were absolute standouts for me. “To This, We’ve Come” from The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti, requires a solid classical technique, while still conveying an utterly tragic frustration with how immovable bureaucracy can be to the disenfranchised. It’s chilling to hear Jacqueline sing lines like “I’m asking for help, and all you give me is papers” as she sings with her whole body and every ounce of emotion.
The second standout piece for me was “Elle a fui, la tourterelle” from The Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach. Jacqueline makes a quick joke about how she just had to sing this aria. It’s about a woman that is forbidden to sing because of her illness, but she sings anyway. I was very moved with how graceful, lyrical and resonant her voice was. It was as if the aria was written for her.
This concert was a unique experience, with a very important purpose. I’m grateful to have been there.
Photography by Diamond’s Edge Photography: https://michelledohertyphoto.smugmug.com/
Kathryn grew up in Vancouver as a proud geek & nerd. Her love of sci-fi led to her first big dramatic dream of becoming the blue alien from the Fifth Element. Instead, she graduated with a Bachelors of Music degree as an opera singer. She is also a regular photographer for various performing arts groups and recently has been most interested in fun boudoir & body positive photo shoots. You can contact her here.