When Nathan Berg first attended Augustana (then Camrose Lutheran College) for grade 12 and his first year of university in 1988, it wasn’t too big of a leap from his parent’s house just down the street. Having lived and studied in the United States, Paris and London and performed all over the world, he made the journey back to his hometown in late November to put on a show for friends, family and anyone looking to witness a very unique opera experience.
“I always liked the familiarity and sort of coziness that Augustana afforded,” said Berg, who was excited to be back to perform for the same reasons. “That familiarity was really quite nice at that point in my life.” The point he speaks of was fresh out of high school and into his first year of university when he knew that he loved to sing. Berg participated in the concert choir and jazz ensemble as well as touring group while studying singing and piano at Augustana. He also sang at church.
Thirty-or-so years later, Berg is no longer just a few steps from his parent’s porch. Instead, he has been on the road for a few months, performing as Alberich in Siegfried at the National Taichung Theater in Taiwan and in Das Rheingold with Opéra de Montréal.
While performing in concert halls all over the world, Berg followed the development of the Jeanne & Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre online as it was built, having a fondness for the campus where he began his musical practice. He’s was excited to simply be inside the building—let alone perform in it—to an audience that automatically felt like friends and family.
And that audience was able to get a glimpse of the great variety of performances Berg has accomplished throughout his career. The show included selections from the high-drama Wagner opera he was performing in Montréal, as well as some other opera selections and songs in various languages. The second half was all in English and much lighter, with some jazz standards and spirituals.
“This show [represents] all of the variety I’ve done in my career in one evening,” Berg laughs, mentioning that the variety is something that’s a bit rare for a classically trained singer to do. “I find it intriguing to be able to show people that all of these different styles are about communication and things that are accessible to everyone. The scene from the Wagner opera is just as accessible as some jazz standards, if not more so, even though it’s in German.”
For Berg, that accessibility and shared experience are what motivates every one of his performances.
“One of my goals is to try to make sure that at some time during the performance people have forgotten that I’m singing, and have really experienced the ideas behind it all,” Berg says. “I get a great joy out of being a kind of catalyst for a group of people to have a similar experience, as a sort of social contract with total strangers.”
Berg was excited to be back in Camrose to see old friends and family, and once again savour that sense of community and connection.