Check out: Liederwölfe

Check out: Liederwölfe

Jenna Simeonov

I met Liederwölfe Opera Collective co-founders and delightful ladies Francesca Perez and Lindsay Michael at the Banff Opera Colloquium this summer, where they wowed Canada’s opera biggies with their proposal for Opera Peep Show. The premise is delicious: a ticket gets you into a hotel bar, where you can hear a few opera samples. From there, listeners can get keys to various rooms in the hotel, each featuring previews and excerpts from various other companies. Rightfully so, Liederwolfe’s fresh ideas truly collaborative approach have made waves in Banff, and at the LeanArts program earlier this year.

Francesca and Lindsay were kind enough to chat humbly about their work, and the place of Liederwölfe Opera Collective among Canada’s music and theatre scene.

1. What is the mission behind Liederwölfe?

We’re an audience-centric company. Lots of companies are making ground-breaking art, putting together top tier versions of classic operas, our focus is trying to create new and fun audience experiences.

2. How does Liederwölfe fit into today’s opera scene?

This fits into today’s opera scene because it addresses an issue faced by every opera company today: maintaining a strong audience base. The traditional opera audience is aging and not being replaced with a younger audience at the rate of attrition. Younger audiences tend not to see opera as a medium that speaks to their interests.

We see ourselves as a stepping stone for these younger audiences and those who have never seen opera before. Our performances are affordable, short and in a familiar environment. Our project allows spectators to find an existing opera company that is a good fit for their interests - because they can sample what’s available for a low price. We see an event as being successful if we are able to direct this new audience towards other opera companies in Toronto.

3. What do you offer that’s unique in the opera & theatre scene?

Liederwölfe offers a unique perspective and knowledge base that we have attained through ten years of putting on shows in bars and experimenting with different event formats. We also don’t have a planned season or roster of singers, as the other members of Indie Opera TO do - we see ourselves more as an entertainment promotions agency than a traditional opera company.

We’re really excited that this project will bring together many different companies so we can build a vibrant opera audience together- and that will benefit all of us.

4. What does opera need more, or less of?

I don’t think opera needs less of anything- but I do think it could be more connected to the Zeitgeist. There are lots of troubling race and gender issues that opera frequently glosses over.

The established practice in opera places the art before the audience - this important in that it encourages the audience to focus on the art to fully appreciate the hard work that went into it. However I also think that there is room in the opera ecosystem to create events that prioritize the audience experience. As performing arts organizations look at new and different ways to attract audiences, there has been a revisiting of this idea of audience before the art. This as we know is not a new concept - we’re all familiar with stories of audiences eating, drinking, playing cards and gossiping at the opera house pre-19th century. There should be a full spectrum of styles in opera - from accessible to high art - instead of “right” and “wrong.” Look at the range of styles and performance experiences available in music, theatre or dance. I think as an art form, opera still has lots of room for exploration.

The good news is, a lot of that exploration is happening right here in Toronto. We are beyond excited about what other companies in the city are doing - there is such and awesome range of things. We’re really excited to see what comes next.

5. What kind of feedback have you gotten from your work thus far?

So far we’ve had a winning streak of sold-out performances and audience members who felt excited about what we do, and who were interested to experience more opera. Many of those people had never experienced opera before!

Our next project, Opera Peep Show, is in the planning phase - stay tuned for our upcoming launch date!

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