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. Read on…
“Opera has the best chance out of all the performing arts to engage those new audiences, because it’s at the extreme end of the live performance spectrum.” ~ Michael Mori, Artistic Director of Tapestry New Opera
Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the “indie opera potluck”, a get-together of independent opera companies that have recently emerged in Toronto. Michael Mori, artistic director of Tapestry New Opera initiated the first one back in January, and this second event was hosted by Rachel Krehm, general manager of Opera Five.
“Do the companies here mind sharing when they actually got started?” Maureen Batt of Essential Opera asked on a hunch during a discussion between courses.
There is something about telling stories that is timeless. Whether it’s a play, a musical or an opera, we are sharing in the telling of a great story. We (hopefully) slip away from all the things pressing on our minds and enter into something new and different, which then (again, hopefully) stirs something in us afterwards and makes us think.
In the second part of our two-part Q & A with Against the Grain Theatre, founder and artistic director Joel Ivany shares with us his passion for storytelling through theatre and for making opera accessible, as well as some particular challenges of the art form.
Emerging companies are an essential part of the arts ecosystem and we need to produce innovative work to inspire and support the work of our bigger compatriots.
Ad-hoc performing arts collectives, such as Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), often don’t qualify for operating funds. For these collectives, the scramble for resources is an ever-present challenge. Yet it’s amazing how often the most unique and creative works, even when they’re reinventions of oft-produced classics, come out of such collectives when every production can make or break them.
One such production is AtG’s upcoming adaptation of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, titled Figaro’s Wedding (May 29-June 2, 2013, Burroughes Building, 6th Floor), which takes place in contemporary Toronto and is intended to make audiences feel as if they were attendees of a wedding rather than an opera performance. The unconventional setting and new English libretto offers a new way of connecting with an old classic, and we’re pleased to be doing a two-part feature on the team behind the scene!
In the first of the two-part Q & A with Against the Grain Theatre, general manager Nancy Hitzig gives us a glimpse of the kinds of challenges faced by ad-hoc theatre collectives.
We knew going in that starting an opera company would be a huge challenge, requiring lots of time and resources. I wish someone could have reaffirmed for us from the beginning that we really would be okay to simply trust in strong material, talented performers, and that audiences are smart and curious.
Erin Bardua & Maureen Batt, photo by Katie Cross
Maureen Batt and Erin Bardua are the co-artistic directors of Essential Opera, almost a guerrilla operation. With limited resources, they draw on their experiences in language studies and theatre production to create an experience that speaks to the seasoned opera-goer without alienating a general audience. They translate much of the dialogue into english themselves to convey the story, and create their own english subtitles when they sing in other languages. There are no fancy sets, which offers a creative challenge for an art form that is known for being over-the-top.
Essential Opera offers a very immediate and intimate way to experience an operatic repertoire that is well loved by singers but rarely performed to the public. They are perfect for this budding opera company that does not seem to be daunted by obvious challenge of being both the producers and the performers of their own shows.
Their 5th production next Friday, aptly titled “Two Weddings and a Funeral” featuring two one-act comic operas by Puccini and Donizetti. Check out the trailer to their show at the end of this post. We’ll be running a contest to give away two tickets to their show on Monday, so stay tuned for details!
As any independent artist knows, it takes a lot of time, effort, discipline, and sacrifice to live this kind of life. But I keep at it because when a project comes together beautifully and successfully, it’s worth everything I’ve gone through to make it happen.
Sarah Thorpe, artistic director of Soup Can Theatre
Toronto-based Soup Can Theatre provides reinterpretations of older theatrical works as a way to explore contemporary issues for a contemporary audience. In the company’s upcoming double feature of one-act pieces, Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, characters in dysfunctional, even hellish relationships are trapped in the same space for the span of a game of bridge and for all eternity, respectively.
It’s a thought-provoking theme, and fortunately one that is not reflected in the theatre company’s mutually supportive environment. Quite the opposite in fact, as artistic director Sarah Thorpe and music director Pratik Gandhi can attest. Check out this Q & A double-bill as the two team up to share their experiences, perspectives, and advice. And be sure to catch their Valentine’s themed cabaret fundraiser on February 12!