For many opera fans, Italy would be the perfect stop on a summer vacation. 

Hannah O'Donnell and Parker Clements, two opera singers from P.E.I., got to experience the country this summer during a six week intensive opera program in Lucca, in the country's Tuscany region. 

"It seems like it's a fun vacation, but it was very much work, work, work when we got there," Clements told Island Morning.


A view of Lucca, Italy. (Hannah O'Donnell/Submitted)

They went to the country to study opera singing through a program called Accademia Europea Dell'Opera in a partnership between two schools: Western University and Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini.

Mutual support

The two worked on separate operas — O'Donnell was in Handel's Alcina, and Clements had the lead role in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Although they were performing separately, the duo, who have been friends for seven years, said knowing somebody in a new country makes the process easier. 

"If you'd asked us seven years ago where we thought we would be, this was definitely not it." — Hannah O'Donnell

"It was kind of a happy coincidence," O'Donnell said. "I had a little support to come to Italy."

While they supported one another, Clements said it was nerve-wracking, particularly since they were performing in Italian.

"It's really intimidating when you set foot in the first rehearsal," he said. "It's very intimidating to open your mouth and think 'is this going to be good enough?'"

When the duo were studying music together seven years ago at UPEI, they never thought they would wind up singing opera. Clements started his undergraduate in piano, and O'Donnell in double bass.

"If you'd asked us seven years ago where we thought we would be, this was definitely not it," O'Donnell said.

An authentic experience

The pair said Italy provided authentic ways to learn about opera performance.

"You have the opportunity ask questions, you have this mass of knowledge that's coming from some of the greatest opera houses in the world," O'Donnell said. "The opportunity to sit down with those people over a cup of coffee … that was a really fortunate professional experience."

Hannah O'Donnell

Hannah O'Donnell on stage in Lucca, Italy. (Submitted)

Clements added that performing operas in their original language is an authentic experience.

"To be able to do it for people who speak the language, and know intimately — for the most part — the shows that you're doing, is really interesting," he said. "A very gratifying experience."

With files from Island Morning