Nelson opera singer Kevin Armstrong prepares for his newest show Opera for Heathens.

Nelson’s Kevin Armstrong brings Opera to the heathens

Kevin Armstrong has performed on stages all over Europe and Canada and is now back in Nelson.

Kevin Armstrong is a versatile and unorthodox performer who has forged a career both in Canada and Europe, performing everything from traditional opera and musical theatre, to one-man-shows where he pairs his four-octave vocal range with his skills as a guitarist. Kevin’s latest one-man-show, Opera for Heathens, mixes opera with rock, showcasing his versatile and powerful voice with his dexterity on guitar. Armstrong also recently appeared in the Nelson produced and created opera KHAOS. Before Armstrong takes the stage at the Capitol Theatre on Saturday, June 2 {vurb} editor Megan Cole sat down to ask him eight questions.

What did you think of opera when you were a kid?

I didn’t.

Did you ever see musicals or operas?

I was more interested in Van Halen and Kiss. I only got exposed to theatre or musicals later on when I was 12 or 13 when I came across Jesus Christ Superstar on TV. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 when I was interested in it.

Do you remember the first opera or musical you saw?

The first one I remember seeing would have been a touring company that came through Nelson and they were doing excerpts from Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables and I was very impressed. I went home that night and dreamed that I was the Phantom of the Opera. And then I got this tattoo [shows a small phantom mask tattoo on his chest] years later. The first opera I would have scene was a movie version of Pagliacci, the Franco Domingo version. I remember it was the first time I actually saw a man touch a woman’s boob on screen. I was really impressed with that so I knew that opera must be cool.

What do you think the biggest misconception is about opera?

That it’s boring. There is a lot going. What’s unfortunate is if you don’t understand what they are saying and it’s all coming across as nonsense. Even with subtitles or super-titles, it helps, but it’s not the same. It doesn’t have the immediacy of understanding the sung text and matching it to the actual moment. The other unfortunate thing is that English translations of operas sound a bit silly, like an English version of La Boheme comes across as if you’re singing your shopping list.

What are three things that a beginner opera goer should know?

They should know what they are getting into, so know the story ahead of time so you know better what is going on. Maybe listen to it once on CD or YouTube. Familiarize yourself with it. That will make you enjoy it much more. Even try to learn about the history. Create a little opera history class for yourself. If you familiarize yourself you’ll have a better understanding, rather than blowing it off and saying ‘pfft, I didn’t understand it.’ The thing about art is that it needs several listenings or viewings to peel away the layers and see what you are getting at, if you just blow it off after the first initial impression you could be missing a lot.


Is there an opera that you think is a good starting point for someone who is just getting into opera?

One of the classics like Carmen or La Traviata or Pagliacci as long as the guy touches the girl’s boob. Even something like Phantom or Les Miserables or something that is very operatic in its construction or nature but is a little bit more accessible. Then if you develop an interest you can go a bit deeper. That’s what happened with me I got into Phantom and then Les Miserables. When I finally saw Les Miserables I was so blown away I started diving more into opera.


What is one of your favourite roles that you’ve done so far?

I loved doing Bluebeard in an Offenbach version of Bluebeard which is a comedic interpretation. In it he doesn’t kill his wives, he tells his assistant to kill his wives but he doesn’t have the balls to do it, so he hides them in the basement and eventually they all come back and get their revenge.


Opera for Heathens starts at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 2. Ticket information is available through the Capitol Theatre box office.


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