Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year and the Top Posts of '09

Here's wishing you all an opera-filled new year. It's time for the obligatory end of year Top Posts blog post: Here are the top five posts of 2009 - This blog's first year!

1. Scores! All The Scores You Could Want - Free!
2. COC Chorus Audition Time Again
3. The Best Free Options For Listening To Opera Online
4. To Equity Or Not To Equity
5. Working With Living Composers

This site seems to do two different types of blog posts: The agregating of Canadian Opera news (for those of you who just can't wait for your Opera Canada subscriptions to arrive,) and some original posts with either original research or insights into Canadian Opera. I guess it's no surprise that the most popular posts are those that you can't see anywhere else - after all, you can set up Google alerts for content as easily as I can. I guess that this blog's New Year's resolution is going to be coming up with more original ideas for posts where either I find things that people want (like lots and lots of free stuff, or singing grants) or getting off my duff and doing a couple of more interviews, like the TSMAF post where they told me that not all is lost for their opera program (I still have my doubts,) or even the Battlestar Galactica/Vancouver Opera post where I actually asked VO's Selina Rajani to comment on the Twitter posts that lead to a BSG/VO opera rumour (nothing more to report on this yet, btw).

It's been a fun '09 and I hope you stick around to do some reading in 2010. Is there anything in particular that you'd like to see from me next year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

It's been a very busy month as I'm sure you've noticed in the volume (but not the quality!) of this blog's posts. Between Messiahs, Hanukkah, and this whole week, it's been a little slow. Things will pick up though after Christmas.

Let me wish you a happy holidays - posts will resume at a regular pace again next week.

And, because I'm a bass, and because it's my blog:

Monday, December 21, 2009

CD/DVDs of Canadian performances/performers on sale

Hey all, an online store that I've blogged about before, Premiere Opera, is having a sale where all of their CD and DVD sets are on for $5/disc. It's a fantastic source for CDs but a really neat source for DVDs as they carry a bunch of stuff that you wouldn't normally be able to see otherwise. Plenty of Canadian content too, with 60 or so Jon Vickers performances on CD and DVD, 40 with Heppner, a handful of COC performances and some of the old Vancouver Opera performances. It's worth checking out, at least.

Premiere Opera

note: I receive nothing from them for this posts. Just like anything I mention on this blog, I post them because I think that they're a good idea, or at least an idea that won't (in all likelihood,) bring you, my readers, harm.

It's not that I'm above such things though, it's just that no one's offered yet.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vancouver Symphony turns down sham Olympic gig

Bramwell Tovey and some members of the Vancouver Symphony have turned down a contract from the Vancouver Olympics to pre-record music for the opening ceremonies that would have other people mime the performance, including the conducting. From the Vancouver Sun:

“My participation at the opening ceremonies was dependent upon my agreeing that music I recorded would be mimed by another individual and I regarded that as fraudulent and withdrew,” Tovey told The Vancouver Sun."

The worst part in that the explanation that VANOC doesn't even make sense:

"The artists and ensembles at the ceremonies will be performing live and all of them will participate in the recording sessions, but “some sections of the pre-recorded music will understandably feature a larger ensemble than appears on stage,” Atkins said in a statement given to The Sun."

I would sort of understand then why then they would have the whole VSO record the music and then have only some of them on stage, with Tovey conducting, if there were space issues, but there's no excuse to bring in musicians who didn't even play on the recording.

Good for Tovey and the members who refused to be a part of this. This Brave New World of "safe" performances is no fun for anyone involved.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Getting singing grants

Okay, this posting frequency is just getting sad but it's a busy time of year. Hanukkah, then Christmas, then New Year's means lots of obligations and lots of singing. Who wants to count Messiahs with me?

But with New Year's coming up I want to talk about resolutions. I want to start applying for more grants next year and fortunately I've found a site that can help. What's more, it a government site so I know that there's no vested interest in the site. The only down side is that it only covers Government grants (but not just Federal - provincial too).
is the Fed's repository of arts grants. Splitting the grants into a bunch of different categories with a handful of search narrowers, it covers, for us opera folk, not just "Music" but also "Performing Arts." There are some other resources too, and although not all of them (or even most of them in fact,) cover singers/opera, there's enough here to get your search started the next time that you have a project in mind that needs funding.

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wainwright's Luminato premiere gets new director

I had presumed when I saw that Luminato would be hosting the North American premiere of Rufus Waiwright's new work Prima Donna, which we've discussed here before, that it would be a remount of the World Premiere production which got mixed reviews when it came out in July. Today's news, though, seems to dispell that, hopefully for the better. Tim Albery, who will be known to Luminato audiences as the brilliant director behind last year's "The Children's Crusade" for the festival, is going to helm the production for Toronto's festival. Hopefully this pairing will bring everything together for the opera - I can't wait to see!

Friday, December 11, 2009

And the Rat Laughed pictures

Sorry for the slow week folks. We'll double post today to make up for it.

Some pictures of Opera York's And The Rat Laughed have made it up online that I hadn't seen before today. It's just a small sample but they give you an idea of the tone and imagery of the production last month. Take a peek here, via Lance Glitter's PBase site

The general public's view on opera

I stumbled across something neat today. Often we can take a look at online message boards, read magazines, or listen to the radio to find out about what experts or amature opera lovers think about a company or performance but in general, a singer or opera company isn't going to be the subject of what used to be called "water cooler" talk in the same way as tv shows or movies. It's hard to get to get a more general population feedback for opera than it is for other entertainment mediums.

That's why I was tickled to find the Ticketmaster feedback area today where people who bought their tickets via Ticketmaster can leave feedback about the performance/company. Under Manitoba Opera, for instance, you can read several reviews of recent performances from people who don't throw around words like passagio or who refer to the performance as a play. They're great and give an insight as to what matters to the bulk of people who aren't subscribers:

It was our first time at the Opera, I'm really happy that we've chosen this play. Very good performers, very good music, a little bit of humor, easy to follow. I would recomend this play to people willing to experience what the Opera is about.


Barber of Seville was highly entertaining, and the story was easy to follow. The main characters were well balanced, each with a fair bit of time on stage. The stop action and slow motion techniques greatly enhanced the experience.

I also love to see:
This was my frist time to the Opera and The Barber of Seville was unforgettable! I had no idea what to expect and i laughed the entire time. it was a great intro to the Opera and i would recommend it to anyone young or old. The voices were amazing and the story is so easy to follow even without the handy subtitles at the top. Grade A performance :O)
I think that it's definitely worthwhile for singers and producers to take a peak at these and see how we can really appeal to the population at large, outside of beaming us into movie theatres, of course.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nominated for a Canadian Blog Award (or three!)

Hi folks,

Well, this blog has been nominated for a Canadian Blog Award, not an official measure by any means, but a fun little competition none the less.

If you'd like to throw a vote my way, I'm nominated in Best New Canadian Blog, Best Canadian Culture and Literature Blog, and Best Canadian Blog. Head on over and vote!


New Opera tix on sale today

Luminato tickets for next June in Toronto go on sale to the general public today meaning that you can go and grab your tickets for Rufus Wainwright's new opera Prima Donna. This blog talked a little bit about it when it had it's world premiere earlier this year and took a look at the reviews but love it or hate it it's bound to be talked about when it opens next summer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Opera Atelier takes a loss

Okay, essentially they broke even. The 08/09 numbers are out and they took a loss of $68k on a budget of $2.3 million. That's not bad - I can barely balance my cheque book that well. Unfortunately the shortfall means that senior management is taking a 3% pay cut, though the article says that singer's pay isn't affected (not that it would be under either individually negotiated contracts or under CAEA minimums). Looks like it's time to feature Colin Ainsworth naked on the advertising posters again next season!

Regardless, they did show some great numbers in the mix with subscriptions up 31% and more than $1 million in fundraising money.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Not all is lost at TSMAF

It looks like there is still hope at TSMAF. Yesterday there were rumours about the demise of the opera program brought about by the conspicuous absence of any opera information on their website. Today however, I've managed to coax a comment from TSMAF Marketing Manager Danielle McCann about the situation:

At this time, details about the 2010 Opera Studio are still being confirmed...we hope to have more details confirmed by (February 2010).

So it looks like there is still a possibility of an opera program this summer - yay! They're a good program with great faculty that does interesting works like 2008's Ariadne. I hope that they're able to stick around.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

TSMAF drops opera from the festival?

It looks like the Toronto Summer Music Academy has pulled the plug on voice and opera for the second year in a row. Despite having opera listed on their site's opening page, once you go inside there's no mention of an opera program or any voice faculty at all. Developing.

Thanks TMR

Oh God, what have they done?

When Stephen Harper took the stage at the NAC earlier this year, who knew that we'd see more of the same happen again?

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier and former Liberal deputy prime minister Sheila Copps are going to be hosting "Opera on the Hill:" a fundraiser for Opera Lyra and the NAC Orchestra. Am I the only one who wants to see, instead of a Beatles tune, an O soave fanciulla between these two:

COC Chorus audition time again

In my inbox this morning was the annual COC Chorus audition notification. The details are:

The Canadian Opera Company will hold chorus auditions in Toronto for the 2010/2011 season at the end of January 2010. Singers who are interested in auditioning should send a recent photograph and résumé to:

Chorus Auditions
Canadian Opera Company
227 Front Street East
M5A 1E8
or by fax (416) 363-2660
or by e-mail to

Each candidate should be prepared to sing two operatic arias in contrasting styles; at least one of the arias should be in Italian. An accompanist will be provided.
The candidate should demonstrate secure musicianship and an aptitude for operatic performance. Please note that applicants for the Chorus must be legally eligible to work for the Canadian Opera Company.
All members of the Canadian Opera Company Chorus are members of Canadian Actors' Equity Association.

Make me wonder what happened to the cast of thousands from War and Peace from two years ago. I'm generally a bit wary of chorus contracts if only because of the Equity implications (covered in this post,) and the fact that the money from one show can be tough to turn down but that there's no guarantee of being re-hired the following season, (to be fair, there never is in this busniess!) but the COC can be a good one if only because the money from that one contract can supplant a whole lot of days waiting tables or what have you, and it's a great organization at the top level of opera in this country. I say go for it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

COC's Nightingale comes to radio

This Saturday's SATO (Saturday Afternoon At The Opera) on CBC is going to be October's The Nightingale & Other Short Fables. I wish I'd caught it in person - by all accounts it was fantastic - but this will have to do. It's too bad that we don't do what they get in the US with PBS: Putting them on TV. A huge part of this production was the visual aspect (water, puppets, etc.) and seeing it as well as hearing it would have been great. Oh well, when the CBC can't even commit to playing classical music on the radio, what chance does opera have up against Strombo...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cheap opera tix around the country for those under 30.

The Vancouver Opera newsletter that came out the other day seems to have spawned an article in the Vancouver Sun about their great deal on tickets for the under 30 crowd. As a singer, I love this: it is, to my mind, one of the best ways (although I'm also a fan of their cartoons/magna and their animation contest,) to ensure a younger current and long term sustainable audience for opera, providing me with years of work - yay! But which companies in the country provide discounts like this to their younger patrons you might ask? [I pause here waiting for you to ask, a la Dr. Bob, for those of you who get the reference.] Well I'll tell you with my handy-dandy chart below:

Vancouver Opera (pdf) - Under 30 - $25

Pacific Opera Victoria - "Students" (not defined) - A rate discount plus access to $15 Rush tickets 45 min. prior to curtain

Calgary Opera - "Students" (HS or univeristy) - A variable rate discount, depending on the section and $15 Rush tickets 1 hour prior to curtain.

Edmonton Opera - "Students" (not defined) - A variable rate discount

Saskatoon Opera - "Students" (not defined) - A 10% discount

Manitoba Opera - Student (under 21) varriable discount - they also access to dress rehearsal tickets at an unspecified discount on a group basis

Opera Hamilton - 30ish and under (it really says that! I love it!) - A variable discount

COC - under 30 - $20 (about 150 per performance!)

Opera In Concert - "Students" (not defined) - A 15-30% discount

Opéra de Montréal - 17 and under - 40% off, 18-30: $30 off the regular subscription price when you buy a subscription to two or more with full subscriber benefits