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1. What is the mission behind MYOpera?
MYOpera’s mission is to empower the artists and audiences of today to create the opera of tomorrow. We believe that opera is not just about preservation, but that the future of opera can be written by those that attend and perform it.
What you may not know is that MYOpera is a recent rebrand of what was formerly Metro Youth Opera. I founded the company in 2010 to create opportunities for Toronto’s emerging artists to have a voice of their own. This mission and name suited the company’s goals and activities at the time, but last year, we realized we had outgrown our branding and that it was time for a change. While we’re still focused on providing excellent formative professional experiences to emerging artists, we wanted our name to reflect our belief that opera can and should be moulded not only by new artists, but also by new audiences. No longer is opera “theirs”, but “ours”…MYOpera.
2. How does MYOpera fit into today’s opera scene?
MYOpera holds a unique space in the indie opera scene in Toronto as the only company that is focused primarily on providing formative professional experiences to emerging artists. When we started out in 2010, the indie opera scene in Toronto was just beginning to blossom with new companies. It’s been an honour to grow and flourish among some awesome companies, and to watch new ones sprout throughout the city.
3. What do you offer that’s unique in the opera & theatre scene?
Seeing a MYOpera show is a unique chance to see incredibly talented emerging artists before they embark on a professional career. But this isn’t a school production or a pay-to-sing program - it’s a performer’s (or stage director’s, or music director’s) first paid, professional experience. Part of the excitement of seeing a MYOpera show is knowing that the artists you see on our stage have incredible careers ahead of them. Seeing MYOpera alumni join the ranks of young artist programs across the country is a testament to the professional atmosphere we offer our singers, directors, and music directors.
4. What does opera need more, or less of?
As an art, opera needs less “should” and more “could”. Instead of reviling productions that break the status quo, we need more risk-takers and ground-breakers. There is a future of opera that lives outside of tradition, but we need space to take chances and make mistakes as new generations figure out what that is. As a profession, opera needs more education for students and emerging artists. A career as an artist is a challenge in many ways, and we don’t yet do enough to teach artists how to manage a life and a career in this business.
5. What kind of feedback have you gotten from your work thus far?
Audiences love the intimacy and immediacy of MYOpera shows. We perform at Aki Studio, which is about 120 seats, and the sound and sight lines are all wonderfully clear. This, paired with our scaled-back productions, mean that audiences feel very connected to the music and the performers.
Because of the connection our audiences feel with the shows, they also form bonds with the performers, often following their careers as the move on to young artists programs, masters and doctoral studies, and other professional opportunities. Our audiences and patrons love to keep an eye on the progression of these emerging artists, and I think they feel a real affinity for MYOpera alumni.
6. What do you hope your company will accomplish in future seasons? Do you have any “bucket list” productions you’d like to create?
Our short-term vision for MYOpera’s future is to build out our season. In part, we’re doing this by strengthening our connection to the community we know and love in Regent Park. Next, we want to create more opportunities year-round for both artists and audiences to take part in performances.
In terms of bucket list productions, our 2016 production of The Rape of Lucretia has been nesting in my brain for some years now, and I’m excited to see it come to life next April. Other than that, my bucket list is blank! I choose shows in close collaboration with the company’s music and stage directors du-jour, and keep fairly strict requirements on the size and scope of the shows we mount, so that always plays a factor in our selections. It’s always a balance of providing both the singer and the audience with a valuable and exciting experience.