HUMBOLDT — Spencer McKnight’s interest in opera began when he was a teenager in LeRoy.
“I started listening to opera music when I was like 15 or 16,” said the 27-year-old, who now lives in Saskatoon. “I realized I liked it. I sang along.”
Now, McKnight is preparing to take a trip to Italy, where he’ll participate in competitions and sing in an opera.
Yet before that, he’ll return to what he considers one of his musical homes, Humboldt, to give a performance. McKnight sang with the St. Peter’s Chorus and had performed in the Humboldt Music Festival in his high school years. It was at the festival an adjudicator encouraged him to pursue music.
“A friend of mine and I went to see Phantom of the Opera here in Saskatoon.” he said. “She decided the next year that her and I were going to do a duet from it, so I started taking lessons and it [my opera career] kind of snowballed from there.”
McKnight has won multiple awards over the last six years and was the winner of the Gordon C. Wallis Opera Competition in 2018. He’s had engagements with the Regina and Saskatoon Symphony Orchestras, and toured with a recital program entitled Songs of the Great War.
As a fan of opera, McKnight said he loves its grandness and how it includes singing, an orchestra and theater.
“It kind of involves all of the components of art. In a way, that makes it so special to watch,” he said. “Singing it, I just really enjoy that intimacy that there is onstage with an audience when you're singing to them. It’s really special.”
This summer, in Italy, McKnight will perform in Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Mozart. The opera focuses on a man, Don Giovanni, a libertine and seducer. McKnight plays Don Ottavio.
“My character is the fiance of a woman who Don Giovanni kills her father, and so that the whole opera is us trying to avenge him,” he said.
McKnight’s also hoping be in two competitions while he’s there.
The performance in Humboldt is a way to prepare for his trip, while also giving the chance for people from home to come see him.
“It'll be a tour through Italian opera during the late 1700s to the mid-1800s,” he said.
McKnight will perform Bel Canto Italian opera by Gaetano Donizetti and Gioachino Rossini, as well as art songs by Paolo Tosti.
“They were the start of a big Renaissance of opera in Italy in the 1800s that spilled out across Europe,” McKnight said. “Before that, opera was very geographical. Germany had its German opera and England did English opera. In the 1800s, Italy took over and everywhere else started doing Italian opera as well.”
With the dominance of Italian in modern opera, does McKnight have to know the language?
“You have to be able to at least know what you’re singing. I sort of speak and understand a bit of Italian,” he said. “Italian dictionaries become your best friend or Google Translate. You have to know the rules of the language and how to say things properly.”
As he’s been involved in more operas, McKnight said he’s started to understand quite a bit.
McKnight will perform at the Westminster United Church on Sunday, June 9 at 7:30 pm.