$20 (Student) / $25 (Senior) / $30 (Adult) at Metro Youth Opera
I have been getting to know many of the indie opera companies in Toronto, the latest one of which is Metro Youth Opera, founded by Kate Applin who founded the company in 2010, with their first production of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutti in 2011.
Her latest production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel & Gretel opens April 25 with a 3 day run at Native Earth’s Aki Studio Theatre in the Daniels Spectrum Building (585 Dundas Street East), a vibrant arts and culture hub nested in Regent Park.
This is the first production of Metro Youth Opera that features a chorus—with members of Canadian Children’s Opera Company—and also the first time that they have brought their show near the downtown core of Toronto.
“We did our first three season at the Cresent School’s Centre for Creative Learning near Bayview and Lawrence. It was a great venue but I wanted a more central location and bring in audiences that haven’t experienced opera before.” Said Applin during our phone interview.
Introducing new audiences to the operatic experience is a tenet of many of the indie opera companies that have popped up in Toronto in the last few years, and Applin is committed to offering a complete package; even if it means an incredible amount of work.
“Everything from finding the theatre, organizing auditions, marketing, fundraising, responding to press, finances, that’s all me!” This is on top of her responsibilities managing a music school in Leaside, and her own engagements as a performer.
Opera has always been a part of Applin’s musical life, who was an avid member of the Canadian Opera Company’s children’s chorus. Being on stage with the cast which included Isabel Bayrakdarian, and finding herself in a fully realized production of a fairy tale, was a transformative experience.
“Having done this show as a kid, I was very determined to have a chorus as part of the show. We have adults in the role of children, but having actual young people is an important part of the production.”
While there are minimal sets, the production is fully staged and costumed, a benchmark that Applin set for the sake of the emerging performers that are eager to apply themselves in a professional context.
“There is a huge market of singers coming out of training programs every year, and not a huge demand to hire them.“ Explained Applin. “My goal is to give the singers as close to a professional experience as they can get, such as walking into rehearsals where it’s just staging, and setting very high expectations over all.”
Casting has been difficult, due to the sheer amount of excellent talent that has increasingly showed up for her auditions. It is this incredible pool of emerging performers that is buoying up companies like Metro Youth Opera.
Applin will be in performance in the role of Gretel, along with Lyndsay Promane as Hänsel, Kelsey Vicary as Mother, Peter Bass as Father, Karine White as Sandman, Alexandra Smither as the Dew Fairy, and Stephanie Tritchew as the Witch.
The artistic team is rounded out by stage director Alison Wong who has been a close collaborator every since the beginning, and Blaire Salter will serve as the Music Director on the piano.
“I want to bring out audiences who might happen upon our listing and come out to check the show out.” Said Applin when asked about the audience she is reaching out to. “I am looking for someone who has minimal and no experience with opera and offer them a chance to experience it in a intimate setting.”
The show opens tonight, with a show Saturday evening and a matinee Sunday performance. It may well be a transformative experience for you too.