Calgary artists changing the classical music experience

Villainy features classical music, dance, and film.

Various Calgary artists have collaborated to create a new way to enjoy classical music, film, and dance, with the double world premiere of Villainy and Supervillain Duo at the Globe Cinema on Oct. 22. 


The collaboration features Juno-nominated Calgarian composer, Vincent Ho and award-winning film director, Emil Agopian, who created Villainy which features a collection of Supervillain Duos for two pianos. 


“It’s a huge collaboration. We worked with several Calgarian dancers, they are the stars of the show,” classical pianist Lana Henchell said. 


Ho was first inspired to create an immersive classical music experience after researching the psychological profiles of supervillains in the DC comic book realm. 


“He’s into the comic book realm and was inspired by various supervillains from the DC universe,” Henchell said. “He researched their personalities, and realized they were all placed in Arkham Asylum, implying they had psychological and mental disorders, which manifested in a criminal form.”


Ho then worked with choreographers who translated the supervillains’ profiles into movements.


“He used all this information to create fantastic and imaginative pieces,” Henchell said.


Henchell had collaborated with Ho on previous projects and was excited for the opportunity to showcase her talents on another work of art. 


“When I worked on those pieces, I found them so intriguing, interesting and fun to play, they had a sense of humour, they were colourful and creative, and really sparked my imagination,” Henchell said. “My thought when I was working on this project was that these pieces were so great, and I knew people had to hear it.”


Henchell fell in love with the supervillain idea and believed it was a unique opportunity to create a visual album that could also be played live in the theatre and be accessible to a wide audience. 


Ho and Henchell first began working on the project in early 2021 and were able to begin the recording process by November and began filming the visuals in April.


“It was a huge project in all facets. It was complicated, very lengthy, and intense, but very-very rewarding,” Henchell said.


Throughout the entire process, Henchell ran into many challenges that she had to overcome.


“There was a steep learning curve, anything from the accounting side of things to marketing, there was always something new to learn,” Henchell said. 


A significant challenge was ensuring all of the artists were able to meet and work on the project together, despite hectic schedules. 


“The project was very collaborative, and we ventured into other artists’ worlds. I wanted the collaborative nature of it from the beginning, that was a challenge because it pushed us out of our comfort zones, and we had to learn to put ourselves in new shoes and see things in a different way,” Henchell said. “It opened my eyes to so many disciplines and what we all have to do in our own worlds.”


Throughout the last year making the project come to life, Henchell has experienced too many highlights to count, but she reminisced about sitting down at the piano where she’s the most comfortable and creating pieces exactly how she wanted them to sound.


“Rehearsing was so much fun, the recording process, the excitement of being on stage with the two grand pianos, and then being back in the recording room listening to the edits, and making the pieces come alive,” Henchell said. 


Working classical pianist Akiko Tominaga and Ho was another special experience Henchell holds close, as Ho helped the artists spark their imaginations, and capture the spirit of the characters they were portraying. 


Henchell will also never forget stepping on the film set for the first time, seeing the cameras, the dancers, and feeling the energy.


“That was incredible. The energy was so exciting to feel, and to be a part of that and see how it was created was really special, I will never forget it,” Henchell said. 


During the premiere, Henchell is hopeful that Calgarians will experience art in a new way that they will talk about for a long time to come and will feel inspired to do things differently.


“I want people to be excited, and to have a new experience, something different than the ordinary piano concert in a concert hall. The experience of having the piano in the movie theatre will give a certain energy and vibe to the performance,” Henchell said. “It’s exciting, this a new creative way to experience art, and a really fun opportunity for Calgarians to hear new music in a setting that’s familiar and fun.”


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