The Canadian Opera Company welcomes Toronto-based Amplified Opera to the COC Academy as part of the company’s newly developed Disruptor-in-Residence program. The two-year residency will offer resources and support to the emerging opera company during the critical transition period from start-up to established organization, as well as share valuable learnings about digital content creation in the current cultural climate. The artistic collaboration aims to support increased equity, diversity, and inclusivity within the arts through workshops and training for fellow artists and activities that foster greater community engagement.
“The idea for this program evolved organically from the COC’s Company-in-Residence,” says COC Deputy General Director Christie Darville. “We are proud to support emerging opera creators through our COC Academy. As a national performing arts organization, it is our responsibility to boost the voices of those that regularly challenge artistic norms, practices – and us. In naming Amplified Opera our Disruptor-in-Residence, we are committed to supporting the work to make opera more relevant and resonant than ever.”
Amplified Opera is co-founded by Canadian performing artists Teiya Kasahara 笠原 貞野 (they/them), Marion Newman (she/her), Asitha Tennekoon (he/him), and Canadian stage director Aria Umezawa (she/her). The company launched publicly in the fall of 2019 with AMPLIFY, a series of concert recitals and panels that explored stories of blindness and vision loss; gender expectations in opera; and differences in Black identity across the US-Canadian border. One of the featured recitals, The Queen In Me, was created by Kasahara and welcomed by critics and audiences alike for its candid exploration of conventional opera roles and their reliance on gender and sex stereotypes. The opera-inspired solo piece is being further developed through Amplified Opera, Nightwood Theatre, and Theatre Gargantua, with plans for a Toronto premiere to be announced soon.
“Amplified Opera places artists at the centre of public discourse,” say Amplified Opera’s co-founders. “We are pushing to decolonize how we create and share opera by welcoming and including the voices of creators and opera fans in all aspects of the performance. We look forward to this unique residency with the Canadian Opera Company which will allow us to work together in a way that is slow and deliberate. By building a foundation of trust, we will navigate the difficult and challenging conversations that are integral to interrupting the status quo and forging new, generative paths forward.”
“Through our early – and enthusiastic – conversations with Amplified Opera, it was clear that the name for this residency needed to reflect the very mutual partnership we hope to achieve through this collaboration,” says Nina Draganić, Director of the COC Academy. “In less than two years, the team at Amplified Opera has already carved a name for themselves as creators with a bold artistic vision and understanding of opera as a means for social change. Their work invites important conversations about representation and inclusivity, within the industry and beyond, and we are just as keen to learn from them as our Disruptor-in-Residence as we are to lend guidance and mentorship in their path forward.”
COC in Conversation: Gender and Opera
The digital roundtable and live Q&A focuses on the confluence of gender, music, and drama. Online audiences can submit questions in real-time to panellists who regularly confront the question of how gender constructs affect those working in opera, the art form itself, and beyond: Amplified Opera co-founders Teiya Kasahara, Marion Newman, and Asitha Tennekoon; COC Ensemble Studio baritone Jonah Spungin; performer, creator and transgender advocate Avery Jean Brennan; and actor/singer Jonathan Christopher. The virtual event will be moderated by Aria Umezawa and full details are available at coc.ca/GenderAndOpera.
More information on all the Canadian Opera Company’s artistic residencies can be found at coc.ca/Academy.