The Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts is inviting Airdrie and area residents to don their best duds for an upcoming black-tie gala and film screening at the Balzac-based performance venue.
On Jan. 14, the Polaris Centre will host its official grand opening, at an event that boasts complimentary champagne, cocktails, a red carpet complete with a professional photographer, live music, and a screening of a regionally shot short film that juxtaposes Alberta's winter imagery with classical piano and operatic singing.
There's admittedly a touch of irony to hosting the Polaris Centre's grand opening in early 2023, given the venue first opened to the public back in 2019. But according to the Polaris Centre's general manager Carlos Foggin, who is also the music director of the venue's resident symphony, the event doubles as an industry night for others in the local arts sector to check out the Polaris Centre's recent renovations – including new theatre-style chairs the venue recently installed.
“We’ve never actually had a grand opening – we’ve kind of just been in business,” he said. “We were going to have one in 2020 and, well, things happened. Here we are [three] years later and figured, ‘Hey, maybe we should have a party.’”
The formal-attire event will begin with cocktails and a red carpet photo-op at 6:30 p.m., before a live music presentation gets underway at 7:30 featuring Foggin on piano and the vocals of Calgary-based opera singer Kathleen Morrison.
After an intermission at 8 p.m., the main event of the evening will commence at 8:15: a screening of the film Winterreise, the title of which translates to 'Winter Journey' in German. According to Foggin, it's also the title of a song cycle composed by Austrian composer Franz Schubert in the 1820s, based on a series of poems by German poet Wilhelm Müller that centre around a weary traveller's attempts to rid himself of a lost love.
Foggin said the film was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Mountain View Festival, which commissioned Dutch-Canadian artist and filmmaker Eveline Kolijn and Canadian opera singer Brett Polegato. The film was shot at a secluded Alberta farmhouse, and is set against a backdrop of Schubert's sombre music.
“Kathleen van Mourik, she lives just north of Airdrie and is the artistic director of the Mountain View Festival, which has been going on for decades,” Foggin explained, of the film's genesis. “She contacted a local filmmaker and brought together some of the country’s top pianists and our most famous working baritone or opera singer from Canada – Brett Polegato. They spent some time during the pandemic in a beautiful farmhouse in Sundre and recorded a film along with audio.
“Eveline put the film together and we’re really excited to screen that – especially because it’s ‘A Winter’s Journey’ and here we are in the heart of winter.”
The Jan. 14 event was approaching sold-out status as of Jan. 9. However, Foggin noted the Polaris Centre is hosting a month's worth of events to celebrate the 'grand opening' of the venue, including a Mozart-inspired classical concert on Jan. 28 by the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra and a jazz performance on Feb. 14 in honour of Valentine's Day. Details of and tickets for those events can be found at polariscentre.ca
For this weekend's grand opening, Foggin touted the rarity of such an event as motivation enough for people to check it out.
“When was the last time you wore a black tie and walked a red carpet, if ever?” he said. “If you have a ball gown or tuxedo gathering dust, or if you want to wear a dark suit, [this is the ideal opportunity because] we don’t get this kind of event very often.
“When’s the next time you’ll be able to say you were at the grand opening of a theatre? These things only happen once every 20 years. Jump on it, or you might not be around for the next one.”