Check out: Loose TEA Music TheatreInterview
Loose TEA Music Theatre is heading into its third season, currently in rehearsals for its upcoming production, Dissociative Me, which runs August 18-22nd at RED Night Club in Toronto. The show is an adaptation of Gounod’s Faust, with a new libretto by Loose TEA’s Artistic Director Alaina Viau and General Manager Markus Kopp. I do like me some devilish opera.
Even without personal experience, I can say confidently that running a small opera company is tireless and endless effort, and I have huge amounts of respect for Loose TEA’s work, and that of all the unstoppable (and compact) companies popping up amongst the big guys. I was able to chat with Alaina Viau about her work with Loose TEA Music Theatre about re-writing Faust, and how her company is “like an incubator.”
1. What is the mission behind Loose TEA?
With Loose TEA I am trying to create a viable activity choice for today’s younger, urban and highly diverse audience that is not your usual classical opera going audience. Our mission is to create social events that are centered on opera, where people can be comfortable and at ease, enjoy some amazing music and feel like they went to something new and different! We want to be one of the preferred activity choices for this new audience at par with going to a club, the movies or a pub.
2. How does Loose TEA fit into today’s opera scene?
We are part of the Indie Opera scene in Toronto for sure, but I specifically think Loose TEA is more like an incubator. What we want to do is develop ideas and singers, as well as an audience that will follow us. We want to be an organization where singers can get more experience and exposure and where audiences can get exposed to classic works and get experience with this art form.
3. What do you offer that’s unique in the opera & theatre scene?
We offer a unique experience. We think of it less of “going to the opera” as it is going to a social event to see an awesome show. It just happens to have classical music and amazing singers. We encourage the use of cell phones, talking to your neighbor, getting a drink, and relaxing in sofa seating. We provide more of a hang out with friend’s experience. We also provide a story that is relevant to the audience by updating our works into modern times, discussing current issues and having all lyrics and dialogue in English.
For example, our next show, Dissociative Me, offers a look at a psychological thriller story that directly addresses the issues of today. Our Faust is a PhD grad that can’t find a job out of school and is crushed by massive student debt. Setting it in a night club means that we can use some pretty unexpected immersive lighting and sound that you are not going to get anywhere else.
4. What does opera need more, or less of?
We need more chances being taken on new works, new productions and a fresh idea of the way opera is consumed as well as hiring Canadians. I am excited for the COC season next year but I really hope that trend continues. For small to medium sized companies, instead of outsourcing a production, I would want to see that money spent on a new local production. It would employ local directors, designers, carpenters etc. It puts money back into the community, grows a creative culture and develops the huge amount of creativity that in is Canada. I think it would give us (Canadians) a claim in what sometimes feels like a European art.
Opera needs less pretentiousness. It has to get rid of the image that the public associates with opera: the idea that it is not for them because they don’t belong to it, don’t understand it, and don’t know it. Think about how much people spend on hockey tickets, the Pan Am games, even Mirvish shows. They are comparable to the ticket price of opera, but they have a level of comfort with these other events so they will spend the money. I am really uncomfortable with the idea that our art is not being seen because of this.
5. What kind of feedback have you gotten from your work thus far?
They really like it! We spend a lot of brain energy/time trying to find something that is not only artistically challenging and pleasing for us, but also what people want to see. What does the market want and how can we deliver that using opera? We have received high levels of feedback from our audience that they want to see more of what we do! It is one of the most satisfying things to hear as an artistic director: that your concepts are resonating with your audience!
The other thing we hear about a lot is that people want to come see one of our shows. Invariably when we discuss our next production with people we always hear about much they want to come see the show. It is very gratifying to hear that what we are doing is striking a cord with people my age.
6. What do you hope Loose TEA will accomplish in future seasons? Do you have any “bucket list” productions you’d like to create?
Our biggest goal is to widen our audience and have people who have never gone to an opera engage with us. And we want to be a company that people have heard of and say “Hey, that sounds like something fun to do this Saturday”, rather than just go to a pub and hang out. Everything we do is with this idea in mind.
We don’t have a bucket list, we have dumpster list! We have many exciting shows planned for the coming years! There are probably to many to mention here, but I tend to be drawn to pieces that I have issues with and try to find solution for them. I am not necessarily drawn to interpret my most favorite works. However, I would love to interpret Die Meistersinger in Loose TEA style. It has its own challenges not just because of how immense it is, but also because of the Wagnerian history of proper presentation that follows any of his works. I will need to draw up some major courage to tackle that piece! Fidelio is up there as well. I go crazy for Beethoven. But keep an ear out for our version of La bohème, Barber, a brand new work dripping with Canadian history, and a new musical.