#Doras2017: "yes, and..."

#Doras2017: "yes, and..."

Jenna Simeonov

The nominations for the 2017 Dora Mavor Moore Awards are announced, and there’s a familiar sentiment that follows, a mix of pride and unfinished business.

To look at the nominees from the opera division, one might think that Toronto has only five opera companies, two or three of which are significantly represented. That the Canadian Opera Company and Tapestry Opera have dominated the 2017 spots make sense; shows like Tapestry’s Rocking Horse Winner and the COC’s Götterdämmerung are deserving of the recognition they receive, as are the performances by Carla Huhtanen, Sondra Radvanovsky, and Asitha Tennekoon. Against the Grain Theatre got a nod in the Outstanding New Musical/Opera category for A Little Too Cozy, and both Opera Atelier and the Canadian Children’s Opera Company earned nominations for Outstanding Performance - Ensemble, for Dido and Aeneas and Brundibar, respectively.

It’s a case of “yes, and…”

Perhaps it’s similar in the dance and theatre divisions, but the Dora nominees are a small, and oddly selective slice of what’s happening in Toronto’s opera scene. The COC, with the world-renowned status of its artists, deserved its nods, yet it’s almost accidental that it’s part of the Toronto-specific, Dora-recognized operatic scene. In reality, the COC is an international company with a Toronto address, and it’s almost a David-and-Goliath situation to see it alongside companies like Against the Grain Theatre or even Tapestry Opera.

What’s more, the list of jurors for the opera/music theatre/touring division for this year seem to include precious few members who have a true and informed connection to opera. A small number have affiliations with the COC and Tapestry Opera, but the majority - including the chair of the opera/musicals division - have little to no substantial connection to opera at all.

Finally, the candidates for nominations come from the companies within the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA). TAPA membership requires an application process and an annual fee, and not every Toronto-based organization has the status or budget to get itself involved.

None of this is to minimize the work and merit of the 2017 Dora Award nominees. Yet it’s a list that’s desperately incomplete. Perhaps the juror qualifications exclude too many people with knowledgeable and unbiased connections to the Toronto industry. More importantly, maybe the TAPA membership qualifications are prohibitive to what much of Toronto’s opera and theatre scenes can manage.

One thought: with the new collective of Indie Opera T.O., perhaps a fundraising event is in order, to find at least the money needed to make TAPA members out of more small Toronto-based companies (doing incredible work!).

It’s likely that the Doras are a reflection of what many already know about Toronto’s arts scene - and any city-specific scene, really: it’s a small group of people, interconnected in their work to almost incestuous proportions, many of whom are too busy creating theatre (and writing grant applications!) to get themselves nominated for awards.

At any rate, congratulations are in order for all the nominees. Theatre-goers in Toronto and beyond are truly in luck, since for those hunting for their next operatic pick, the award-nominated makers of theatre are just the tip of the iceberg.

For a full list of the 2017 Dora Mavor Award Opera Division nominees, check out the PDFs below:



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