Essential Opera offers an appealing format for local audiences to experience a more intimate form of opera, and pique audiences’ interest in opera with fresh vocal talents.

Get your tickets to see Essential Opera at BeMused Network!
(Sept 27, 2014, 8:00pm) Paride ed Elena at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre in Toronto ($25/$20)
(Oct 1, 2014, 7:30pm) Paride ed Elena at Registry Theatre in Kitchener ($25/$20)

Essential Opera is kicking off its 5th season with remarkable signs of growth. They will be presenting Gluck’s well-loved Paride ed Elena on the stage of Trinity St. Paul’s Centre on September 27 (home to Tafelmusik and Toronto Consort), followed by the Registry Theatre in Kitchener on October 1.

While financial considerations informed their concert format with piano accompaniment, the company has come up with an essential formula: Great music presented with wonderful vocalists and personalities to present the operatic experience in miniature. There is enough to engage all our operatic senses, while the spaces in between encourage deeper listening and trigger our imagination.

Erin Bardua & Maureen Batt, photo by Katie Cross

Erin Bardua & Maureen Batt, photo by Katie Cross

Co-founders Erin Bardua and Maureen Batt started the company as two sopranos who wanted to create their own opportunities for performance with fellow colleagues. Their creation, the Essential Opera company, has slowly but surely become a big part of Toronto’s indie opera scene, and a platform for constant experimentation with new ways of engaging performers and audience alike.

“The first feelings that come to mind are ones of pride and surprise,” say Bardua and Batt about the launch of their season. “When we look back at our inaugural performance of Le Nozze Di Figaro, it’s absolutely amazing to think that we’re still producing shows. As we often say, this endeavour began as an idea for that one show — Figaro — but it quickly blossomed and here we are!  We didn’t necessarily expect it, but we’re happy to be here.”

The pair “will continue to offer shows in the GTA, but we’re also expanding.” This is certainly a year of expansion, as the company reaches out to the classical music and opera community in Kitchener for support ranging from billeting out-of-town performers to helping out at the door.

A city that is often overlooked as a happening place, Kitchener was host to the bi-annual Open Ears Festival. Gregory Oh, artistic director of the festival calls it “a hub of cultural innovation [with] an amazing support for creative art in the community.” (source)

The foray into Kitchener’s art scene is just the first step, Bardua and Batt hope. “Having performed as a company with summer festivals, we are looking for more opportunities to take Essential Opera farther afield in Ontario and other provinces.”

Being such a light and relatively mobile company, Essential Opera offers an appealing format for local audiences to experience a more intimate form of opera, and pique audiences’ interest in opera with  fresh vocal talents who are in their early- to mid-careers. The selection of Gluck’s opera was in part to celebrate his 300th birthday, but also to present some beautiful music written for female voices.

“Paride ed Elena is a gorgeous score, and getting to know it has been very rewarding. It’s full of exciting ensemble music for women’s voices. And it’s given us a chance to invite back a couple of excellent performers from past productions — Julie Ludwig, Emily Klassen — as well as present a hot new talent — Lyndsay Promane as Paride.”

There is an emerging arts market that is being carved out by intrepid young singers, directors, and designers who have a passion for the operatic form and a drive to share it with an audience. Opera training doesn’t always include classes on how to start a company, but Bardua and Batt are embracing the best form of learning by doing it themselves.

“As co-artistic directors, we’ve both learned a lot about the nitty-gritty details and logistics that go into producing a show, and about reaching our ever-growing audience. And, most importantly, we continue to grow and work really well as a team, having a great time while we’re at it!”

Despite its humble beginnings, Essential Opera creates professional-level productions; this is a community of volunteers, mentors, advisors, in-kind contributors, and performers putting their best into each show.

They are having a Wednesday Madness sale starting at 3pm, with 33% off the price of general tickets. Grab this chance to experience an operatic favourite, or come out and discover that the art form is not the stuffy business you thought it was.