10 Questions for Leslie Dala. Leslie Barcza.

Conductor Leslie Dala aka Les Dala is especially well-known out west, having conducted at the Vancouver Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria and Vancouver Bach Choir, at Banff Centre and UBC Opera Ensemble.  In October 2014 he conducted Vancouver Opera’s world premiere production of Stickboy by Neil Weisensel and Shane Koyczan, and just this month he stepped in to lead a production of The Magic Flute at Edmonton Opera.

An avid performer of contemporary music, Dala has recorded three dramatic works by Canadian composer Harry Somers, including Death of Enkidu starring tenor David Pomeroy for Centrediscs, and worked with all of the leading contemporary music ensembles in Vancouver, including the Hard Rubber Orchestra, Standing Wave and the Turning Point Ensemble. While Music Director of the Prince George Symphony he led several premieres of newly-commissioned works. Dala comes to Toronto next year to lead the Canadian premiere of Philippe Boesmans’ 2012 opera Julie in a co-production by Soundstreams & Canadian Stage.  But he’s already here at the University of Toronto’s Opera Department, leading Dominick Argento’s 1971 opera Postcard from Morocco in a production running March 12-15th at the Edward Johnson Building.

On the occasion of his return to U of T, I ask Dala ten questions: five about himself and five more about conducting Postcard from Morocco.

1. Are you more like your father or your mother?

I think I am a real cross between the two. Physically I resemble my father in a way that is almost scary and I think I share a lot of his personality traits. When it comes to the whole artistic side of things, that is really from my mom. She was a very talented and ambitious young musician growing up in Budapest in the 1940’s who studied piano, organ, violin and singing and dreamed of having a career in music. Then came the revolution in 1956 and life changed quite drastically…

She passed on her love of music to myself and my three siblings (my brother, Peter is also a conductor) and she sang in the church choir for years. Sadly she now has dementia and is in a care facility but she still responds to classical music.

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Mahler Symphony No 8
David Gordon Duke, Vancouver Sun 02.07.2018

“Mahler’s Eighth was a life-changing piece for me. I sang in the Canadian premiere in Toronto, when I was just 12, when I had no idea music of this power and scope existed. So it’s a piece that imprinted on me very early. I became obsessed with Mahler. It’s a complete drug — there’s nothing like it,” says Dala, who played harmonium during the grand Olympic year performance of the Eighth with the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra."

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Conductor Leslie Dala's Memories drive epic Vancouver Bach Choir concert
Alex Varty, The Georgia Straight 02.13.2018

"The rush is always there,” he notes. “I just find it truly remarkable. The form, and the content… I mean, it’s so inspired. And the fact that Mahler wrote, in his letters, that this symphony took a lot less time to write than the others, I just find incredible.”

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Q&A: Music director Leslie Dala does Gershwin
Shaw Conner, Vancouver Sun  05.11.2016

George Gershwin had his first piece of music published at the age of 17, and died just over 20 years later. In that brief span the composer left an indelible mark on American music. On May 15, the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to the Brooklyn-born musician. Music director Leslie Dala will follow in the footsteps of famed Gershwin interpreter Leonard Bernstein, and take on the dual roles of conductor and solo pianist. We talked to Dala about the composer’s enduring legacy and the program, which will include what is perhaps Gershwin’s most famous piece, Rhapsody in Blue.

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Leslie Dala, on Postcard from Morocco, Julie, and His Conducting Bucket List. Schmopera.

Bach Choir

Canadian conductor Leslie Dala is currently in Toronto to lead two casts of students at the University of Toronto in their upcoming production of Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco. Dala is a busy guy, as Music Director of the Vancouver Bach Choir, Principal Conductor of the Vancouver Academy of Music, and Associate Conductor and Chorus Master of Vancouver Opera. I hopped on the phone with him this week to ask him about all of the different hats he wears at work.

When it comes to conducting a staged work like opera, the distance is probably the most problematic element. "They can't really hear each other," says Dala. "You're just trying to bring together invisible forces." I asked him about working with the two casts of UofT Opera's Postcard from Morocco, and what it's like for him to collaborate with singers in the early stages of their professional careers.

"I think the main thing is to always just set the bar as high as possible, so that people know what that bar is and that you can accomplish it. I can say, for example, with Postcard, it's a very challenging score. It's a very unusual score. I've done a lot of new music, and I love doing it, and there are some pieces that sort of fall into a category or another. I would say that Postcard kind of defies [that]; and I mean musically, it has a certain sensibility, in terms of structure, in terms of the way [Argento] keeps flipping in and out of individual sound worlds to suit the story. It's really quite unlike any other piece that I've ever done. So, the amount of preparation that I'm sure all of these guys did in the fall to get ready for this was huge. So the first day of rehearsals, it was already in quite good shape. And then there are, of course, things to polish.

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Leslie Dala Featured in Opera Canada

Vancouver Opera’s Madama Butterfly rich with tradition


The slightly subterranean Martha Lou Henley Rehearsal Hall at Vancouver Opera’s O’Brian Centre is functional but, in the manner of such spaces, unprepossessing.On this day, a dozen or more people hang around the perimeter as the principals run the first act of Puccini’s ever-popular Madama Butterfly, the second last opera in Vancouver Opera’s final conventional season.
Two singers are clad in kimonos to get the correct feel for flow and fabric; the remainder are in street clothes. A piano impersonates — with astonishing vigour and sensitivity — the full orchestra that will accompany performances.
Rehearsals are work: patient, exacting, and exhausting. But when the music starts, so does the magic. Madama Butterfly isn’t one of the world’s most popular operas for nothing, and it’s extra intense up this close.

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My Interview With Musical Director Leslie Dala. Ariane Colenbrander. Vancouverscape.

Albert Herring cast photo by David Cooper; courtesy of Pacific Opera Victoria

Albert Herring cast photo by David Cooper; courtesy of Pacific Opera Victoria

Leslie Dala’s resume is as impressive as his busy cultural calendar. He currently serves as Musical Director of both the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra. Equally at home with symphonic music, opera, and contemporary music, Leslie is steadily in demand across the country. He’s also about to conduct the Vancouver Opera Orchestra in Albert Herring at the Queen E Theatre on November 30, December 5, 7, and 8, in a co-production with Victoria’s Pacific Opera. 2013 also marks Herring’s composer, Benjamin Britten’s 100th birthday! Composer, conductor, and pianist Britten is known as Great Britain’s greatest opera composer.

For eight years, Dala served as Music Director of the Prince George Symphony, the longest serving conductor in that organization’s over four-decade history. He’s been with the Vancouver Opera Music staff since 1996, and looking back at international appearances, the list is illustrious.  Click here for full article

The Magic Flute.  Vancouver Opera.

La Bohème. Vancouver Opera.

Studio 4 Interview with Fanny Kiefer.