The week of April 12th the COC is streaming a series called Exploring New Opera. It’s slanted to young audiences and those new to opera and deals with aspects of the in-development piece Fantasma by Ian Cusson and Colleen Murphy. It’s all free and doesn’t require pre-registration.
There have been a lot of discussions lately about diversity in opera and how, particularly, race and gender are represented in very limited and problematic ways, especially in the canonical operas of the long 19th century. The latest to come my way is a very good panel discussion hosted by the COC (on their Youtube channel) and moderated by Aria Umezawa. This one tackled gender issues but, inevitably broader questions came up and that’s what I want to explore here. You might want to watch it either before or after reading the rest of this piece.
The only revolution to ever start in an opera house….
Yesterday the COC hosted an update session on the Digital Stage initiative and one of its key components; the Performing Arts Digital Lab (PADL). This is a joint project of the COC and the National Ballet) and yesterday’s update curiously coincided with the Federal Heritage department announcing major funding for the next stage of PADL. I’m not going to report on the update in detail because all the materials and the session itself will be archived at coc.ca/digitalstage. (All the stuff prior to yesterday is already there but yesterday’s material wasn’t at time of writing)
Pickings are still decidedly slim in terms of locally created on-line content with many postponements due to the current lockdown in Toronto. What I have lined up is as follows:
- The UoT Opera Student Composer Collective’s annual show is being streamed at 2.30pm on Sunday 21st February. This year it’s called Escape Room and it’s a comedy with a scenario of characters trapped in a darkened room with no memory of how they got there. It’s being streamed via Zoom and preregistration at this link is required.
- The COC has a roundtable on Gender and Opera on its Youtube channel on March 5th at 7pm.
- Confluence Concerts are offering a tribute to John Beckwith; specifically his songs, on March 7th at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. That’s on Confluence’s Youtube channel.
- Tapestry have two shows coming up on their Youtube channel. March 6th at 8pm sees Mireille Asselin and guests perform a range of works celebrating their French heritage. Then on March 27th at 8pm Morgan-Paige Melbourne performs Where Do I Go?; an intriguing looking mixture of piano and dance.
There’s also new short but fun content on the appropriate Youtube channels from Opera Revue, Alexander Hajek and Domoney Artists.
Do check to make sure that there aren’t further changes before planning your life around these events!
There was a really interesting announcement from the COC earlier today. To cut a long story short it announced that the four principals of Amplified Opera; Teiya Kasahara, Marion Newman, Asitha Tennekoon and Aria Umezawa, would become “Disruptors in Residence”. I think this is a very positive move. Many of us have been following the various conversations about evolving opera beyond being the preserve of (almost) dead white people to being an art form that more fully reflects the diversity of our communities. I have to admit to being somewhat sceptical about how much of the energy and goodwill that has been generated will survive the return to some sort of post-covid normality. It.’s surprisingly hard to make change in large, hierarchical organisations go viral.
Usually by December I’ve had a pretty good chance to see the COC’s Ensemble Studio. Not this year of course. So it was good to see at least a few of them in a stream of a short concert recorded at the Aga Khan Museum.
I just watched the first in a projected series of “aria films” by Carson Gilmore. The first one features Morte col fiero aspetto from Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra. It features the rather impressive British mezzo Rachel Labovitch and it’s rather dark and disturbing. My sort of thing!
In other news the COC has announced a series of “solo spotlights” with some members of the COC orchestra. The first one is on December 15th with Marie Bédard. All the details are here.
The waiting is over. The COC has announced the successor to Alexander Neef and it’s Perryn Leech who currently runs Houston Grand Opera. I think there’s a lot to like in this appointment. Leech is a guy who has done a lot in his career and I like that he comes from a technical background; in lighting as it happens. I would worry that someone from a stage direction background would want to hog that aspect of opera production. After all, it’s happened before at the COC. A conductor background would be redundant given we have an excellent music director. And the last thing we need is a business person with no real passion for opera.
I’m quite disturbed by some of the things I’ve been reading in the wake of Alexander Neef’s departure from the COC. Much of it seems driven by a kind of cultural chauvinism that I find as unpalatable as other kinds of chauvinism. There’s an underlying (or not so underlying) assumption that a Canadian GD would have looked out for the COC while Neef was just looking out for himself. I have two problems with this. One is the rather obvious point that if you hire someone who is on a career trajectory they are going to devote some time and energy to their career. It doesn’t mean they won’t get the job done for you (and likely better than a mediocrity) because if they don’t that career trajectory will disappear rather rapidly. ny organization hiring a high flyer knows this..
The COC has announced a virtual (almost) fall season. It’s mainly community outreach with an emphasis on young people which is entirely consistent with conversations I’ve had with the COC (and indeed other companies).
- In November there will be a three day festival of concerts from the Richard Bradshaw amphitheatre backed up by interviews etc.