Monday, July 6, 2009

Small Opera Companies

I just got a notice in my email (well my Facebook account actually, now that I think of it,) from a small Vancouver company named DragonDiva Operatic Theatre (web site, FB group) and it occurred to me, and not for the first time, just how really, really important these smaller companies are to both singers and to audiences.

For audiences who, in North America, might get 2-3 full operas a year if they're lucky (German cities can offer up 3-4 full operas a night, in season,) from their local large (by Canadian standards) company, this is an opportunity to see not only solid productions, often with orchestra, of works that they love to listen to but wouldn't get the chance to ordinarily see, but also to see a broader variety of talent, mainly young artist, which are occasionally more exciting to see because every time they step on stage, it's a big deal to them.

For the singers, these companies are even more important. There are a lot of steps in between university and, say for instance, Manitoba Opera, and a lot of those steps aree what are known as pay-to-sings, where the singer pays a fee to the company in exchange for working on a role. These too are valuable, but the real sweet spot here is the small professional companies like DragonDiva, Opera York, The Little Opera Company, Pellegrini Opera, and others who are able to pay singers to sing. These make singing just a little more viable for those singers, as well as rasing the quality bar accross the board.

I think that these are important and so I'm going to start profiling some of these. If you are involved in an opera company of a small or moderate size, and would like a little attention, just let me know, via email (gtheule a t gmail dot com) and I'll send you some questions for inclusion in an upcoming post. And as always, if you know of anything post worthy, (news, auditions, wacky stories,) just send it on over.


DragonDiva Operatic Theatre said...


Thanks so much for mentioning DragonDiva in your post. I should clarify that we are not yet able to pay our singers, but we're certainly working toward that in the very near future (next season if we can swing it).

I agree with you about the importance of small companies. That's why I started one. Some days, I feel like beating my head against a brick wall, but when I am standing in front of the cast conducting a show, and I see how capable the performers are and what good music and drama they are able to make, it's all worth it. I think we all need smaller companies where we can shine and hone our craft where the big companies may not yet be engaging us for those larger roles.

Again, thanks for the mention, we can use all the PR we can get! Hopefully someday we will be able to employ all our singers for a fair wage.

John Arsenault
Music Director
DragonDiva Operatic Theatre

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you haven't confused Manitoba Opera with Saskatoon Opera, perhaps? Manitoba Opera certainly operates as a fully professional company, not as a stepping stone for emerging professionals - as indeed, local Winnipeg emerging pros have some cause to complain about. MOA's policy is to hire only managed singers for leads; only comprimarios may be cast with local singers or chorus members.

Saskatoon Opera, on the other hand, has frequenly provided work for the emerging sector.

Gerrit Theule said...

Nope, no confusion here. I meant exactly what you mean. Manitoba Opera (MO) is indeed a fully professional company and an appearance there is,for most people, a long ways away from being a university student. A lot of the steps in between university and a "B" level house like MO include pay-to-sings and the small companies mentioned in the sentence following the MO reference.

Throughout the blog I try to mix up my use of A and B level houses so I'm not constantly using the COC and L'Opera de Montreal as my examples. MO was my example this time. Sorry for any confusion.