Friday, April 30, 2010

Stolen tickets at Vancouver Opera

Vancouver Opera's tweeting today about tickets stolen from someones mail being resold. The theif has been caught but if anyone has bought tickets to VO's Marriage of Figaro for the May 1st or May 4th shows from anywhere other than VO or Ticketmaster, call the company at 604-683-0222

Opera in Concert chorus audition time

My email box was just hit with the announcement of the 2010-2011 Opera in Concert chorus auditions. Anyone in school, or new to Toronto may want to check them out. A lot of the soloists came up through there as it gives Guillermo Silva-Marin a chance to see what you're made of, as well as getting a chance to work with the excellent Robert Cooper. Plus, all of the comprimario and a lot of the small roles are filled from the chorus. Get on down and sing for them. The email is:

Please consider joining us this coming year or forward this along to a colleague or a student who might be interested and available.
The OIC Chorus under the expert musical direction of Robert Cooper has been a positive starting point for a great number of artists now enjoying a national and international solo performing career, among them, Bret Polegato, Monica Whicher, Jacklyn Short, Torin Chiles, Russell Braun, Isabel Bayrakdarian , Michele Bogdanowicz, Wallis Giunta and Giles Tomkins. All benefited from the Opera in Concert experience early in their careers.

It is part of Opera in Concert’s vision and mandate to promote the advancement of young Canadian soloists. Many of our chorus members are selected for solo assignments throughout the season.
The 2009-2010 Season was filled with passionate and thrilling music from LA DONNA DEL LAGO (The Lady of the Lake) by Gioacchino Rossini on October 25, 2009, 3 of Each GALA CONCERT on Nov 29, 2009, GIULIO CESARE by George Friderik Handel on Jan 31, 2010 and I PURITANI by Vicenzo Bellini on Mar 28, 2010…maintaining the trend of cutting-edge success so typical for Opera in Concert.

OIC’s 2010-2011 Season will present single performances of:
RUSLAN AND LYUDMILA by Mikhail Glinka on October 24, 2010
LA DAME BLANCHE by François-Adrien Boïeldieu on November 28, 2010
LA FEDELTA PREMIATA by Franz Josef Haydn on January 30, 2011 (no chorus in this opera)
THE DEVIL AND KATE by Antonín Dvořák on March 27, 2011

Join the Opera in Concert Chorus for the 2010-2011 Season and add OIC to your career development plans. Call OIC’s administration office to make an appointment.

Audition Date: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 starting at 5:00 pm
Place: Edward Jackman Centre: 947 Queen Street East, 2nd Floor, Toronto, ON M4M 1J9
Telephone: 416-922-2147
Please prepare 2 contrasting arias. OIC will provide you with an accompanist but you are welcome to bring your own.

Atelier posts dress rehearsal vids

Opera Atelier has posted up some dress rehearsal vids on Toronto Wide. Check them out - it looks like it's going to be great.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Opera Canada Magazine Goes Digital

Everyone's (second?) favourite source for Canadian opera news has gone digital. Through a deal with Zinio Digital Magazines you can now get digital copies of Opera Canada for your computer or iPad. On it's face I think that it's a great idea. I've subscribed to Opera Canada in print format for years and I'm glad to see that they're catching up to the way that people want to consume their media.

The catch? Well, to start with, there's no discount for subscribers of the paper version. At $29.50 for four issues on paper, I'll be hard pressed to put out another $29.95 for the digital copies. (Confusingly, single issues are $5.95 in either format, making, um, $24/4 issues, but that's another post.) For most people I would imagine that this makes it an "either-or" proposition and with this type of periodical I just don't see the economics allowing the digital version to win. Opera Canada is an industry magazine. It's articles are being saved for posterity and reference by subscribers as opposed to, say, getting an iTunes subscription to the NY Times where you read today's news once and, should you need to check an article for something next year, you can go to their web site to read it for free. Opera Canada doesn't have a web site, (a topic I've opined on before,) so my only hope to reference something is to dig through my old copies. The solution seems simple: if you want people to read your digital version, offer it at a discount to subscribers. Opera Canada has already paid for the digitization of the issue so any subscriptions that they sell are gravy. If it were me, I'd much rather have 10% of my customers (who are already paper subscribers) subscribing to the digital version too at $2.99/year as opposed to 1% at $29.95/year, but that's just me. Other periodicals have figured it out: Rolling Stone is offered at 85% off the cover price, Hockey News is 67% off. Is there something that I'm missing here?

The other issue that I have with it is it's format. The digital version is published in a proprietary "Zinio" format locked down with DRM. While there are some major magazines signed on to Zinio, any closed system makes me uncomfortable subscribing, particularly when (as detailed above,) I'm effectively being forced to chose between it and and the paper version. Heck, even iTunes has dropped it's DRM. Combine that with a requirement to use Zinio software to read the digital version and it's still a pass for me, I'm afraid. What happens when Zinio closes up shop, or gets bought out? Do I still get to access my content? What happens when they change formats and my old copies don't work anymore? When they're locked down with DRM, I'm out of luck. No thanks, Zinio.

I love digital formats. Heck, I love technologoy more than the next guy. But I can't abide poorly implemented technology. I'll revisit the issue in a year but without any changes on the horizon, I'll stick with my dead tree version for now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ooooh, opera games for fun and prizes!

Alright folks, it's time to put your music degrees to use. The Operaplot 2010 contest is almost underway - it runs April 26-30, and offers some amazing prizes, including Edmonton Opera and Vancouver Opera tickets, as well as, for their headline prize, tickets from Dublin Ireland's Opera Theatre Company, 3 nights accomodation, and 1000€ to cover flights! How do you play, you might ask? It's easy. Starting April 26th, tweet a 140 character (yes, you need a Twitter account) opera plot along with the tag #operaplot (included in the character count), be judged by none other than Jonas Kaufmann, and win. It's that easy! Full rules are here. Good luck all!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Audition: Winnipeg

The Little Opera Company has just passed along their audition notice for their upcoming Dido and Aeneas co-production with the Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers. They'll be hearing singers on May 1st. To arrange a time, email

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Company Profile: Opera Kitchener

We have another profile done by one of the country's growing companies: Opera Kitchener. OK grew out of a combination of events: Opera Ontario pulled out of the region just before the Artistic Director of Brampton Lyric Opera moved to the region. Seeing a gap and an audience looking for opera, their new Artistic Director jumped right in and created Opera Kitchener and today he has graciously agreed to complete a profile for us.

Opera Kitchener
Location served
: Kitchener / Waterloo Region
Number of productions/year: 2 - 3 Main Stage ( 1 - 3 free summer outdoor operas included )
2009/2010 season's operas: Jan 09 - Marriage of Figaro
Feb 09 - La Traviata
Mar 09 - Richard Margison in Concert
June 09 - Cinderella ( free outdoor )
July 09 - Hansel & Gretel ( free outdoor )
Aug 09 - The Magic Flute ( free outdoor )
Oct 09 - Cosi fan tutte
Jan 10 - Die Fledermaus
Mar 10 - Madama Butterfly

2010/2011 season's operas: July 10 - Cosi fan tutte ( free outdoor )
Nov 10 - La Boheme
Apr 11 - The Barber of Seville
Approximate annual (or per-production - please specify) budget. I know that it varies, but try to guess: $80K - $100K (Annually)
Rehearsal period length and frequency:4 rehearsals a week for 4 weeks. Rehearsals are usually 3 hours long.
Are rehearsals generally evenings or days? Nights during the week and anytime during the weekend. We also rehearse during the day on weekdays if the artists are available.
Number of performances per production: 2 - 3
Performance venue(s) and size:Centre in the Square - Kitchener
Waterloo Public Square - Waterloo - ( outdoor only )
Humanities Theatre - Waterloo
River Run Centre - Guelph
Rose Theatre - Brampton
Living Arts Centre - Mississauga
What are your ticket price ranges? $25 - $55 depending on venue
Typically, are your productions with orchestra, piano, or small instrument ensemble with piano?Staged with soloists, costumes, chorus and orchestra
Are your roles paid? Lead roles? Secondary? Small roles? Chorus?Leads are paid an honourarium and the chorus was paid in 2009 for the first time.
If your roles are paid,what is the typical fee range for a lead role? All compensation depends on funding and sponsorship.
Do you have a relationship with Actor's Equity/Union des Artistes?
Regardless of a relationship or not, how does Equity effect your management of your company?It effects the singers but not the company. There are lots of singers to hire and if an equity contract gets in the way it is up to the artist to make suitable arrangements in order to be involved with Opera Kitchener.
What is the typical level/amount of performing experience that your lead and secondary singers have?At least 2 main shows as a lead under their belt, but we will hire first timers also.
When do you hold auditions? Every 2 - 3 years
Who do you want to hear from when you audition singers? Established artists? Fresh faced kids hungry to prove something?Everyone - locals mostly
How far in advance do you cast? 1 year
How far in advance do you choose productions? 1 year
When you audition, do you want to hear arias from the operas you're casting, or not at all? No. The same era or composer is important though
How often do cast members get re-cast in other productions if they do well in their first one? Very often.
In an audition: Sing it or act it? Both!
What else would you like singers to know about your company?People who drop out as a principle or chorus member are usually never hired back.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Controversial production from new Opera London

By way of a follow up to Tuesday's post on the newly developing Opera London, I have heard whispers about their new production from someone "close to the new company". It sounds like this summer's production of Giulio Cesare by the "new" group will be one of the most controversial stagings to hit Canada in a while. According to the email that I recieved:
They have a young canadian (sic) director that I know from people inside is doing something very radical and strong to the piece, remaking it all to be about American and coalition forces in Afghanistan now, and there will be quite a lot about radical islam,(sic) terrorism, violence, and America's part in the middle east. The orchestra is trying to downplay this aspect because they don't want to create too much controversy or something (maybe afraid of something), but from what I hear from orchestra folks inside this director and his team are pretty radical, and it isn't going to be like anything else seen in Canada usually.

This, needless to say, should be pretty interesting. The director in question, Timothy Nelson, has a blog of his own and goes into some detail about what is going to be coming in the production:
My desktop is full of images of the blown bits of buses, buildings, hands, faces, and lives. It is heavy, and yet I don't think it exceeds the fullness of the work, and that is a good sign. What I love about “Giulio Cesare” is that, contrary to how I think most people approach it, the piece really is a fantastic collage of grays. No character is defined as all good or all bad, they are remarkable three-dimensional, and each has a unique perspective. Probably that, more than anything else, is why I'm drawn to this opera like a moth. I don't think we can begin to understand that horrors of terrorism, radicalism, fundamentalism, or any ism without first recognizing that all isms have a perspective, and even more terrifying, that the potentiality for all those isms exists in ourselves.

In a YouTube video post, he calls the production "What opera should be," "it's about good and evil; wrong and right; ... justice and vengeance" and "that we can meditate on some of these issues and come out changed ... it's my hope that you'll come with and open head ... and find"(it) meaningful for your own life:

and that's just his first post in a series about the production. This will definitely be a production to watch this summer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The first company survey/profile: DragonDiva Operatic Theatre

About eight months ago I published a post wherein I talked about getting some of the small and medium sized companies to answer some questions so that I could put together profile posts of their companies on the blog to get a state of the industry for singers who haven't yet made the jump to A and B level houses. The thought was that, in addition to a little bit of PR for the companies involved, singers could have their questions answered without having to email every company to ask. I'm also willing to ask questions that most individuals don't. It's also a good, if brief, look at some of what goes in to setting up auditions and a production, as well as the costs involved. The answers are pretty much verbatim with the questions in bold and the responses following. As always, let me know if I've missed a question that you want answered.

Well, I may not be fast, but I'm slow. My friend and colleague John Arsenault, Music Director of DragonDiva Operatic Theatre has bravely volunteered to be the first one up. DragonDiva has been around since 2007 and is run by a dedicated group of singers who saw a gap in performance opportunities in Vancouver and actually decided to do something about it, for which they should be loudly applauded.

DragonDiva Operatic Theatre
Location served: New Westminster/Greater Vancouver Area
Number of productions/year: 2
2009/2010 season's operas: Iolanthe - Gilbert and Sullivan
Hansel and Gretel (in concert)- Humperdink
2010/2011 season's operas: Cendrillon - Massenet
Hansel and Gretel (staged) - Humperdink
Approximate annual (or per-production - please specify) budget. I know that it varies, but try to guess: Approximately $8,000-$10,000 per production
Rehearsal period length and frequency:Generally. we rehearse 3 times a week for 3 hours each rehearsal.
We rehearse in the evenings so as not to interfere with "day jobs". For a typical show we will have 2 weeks of music rehearsal, 5 weeks of staging, and a tech week.
Are rehearsals generally evenings or days? Evenings.
Number of performances per production: 4-7
Performance venue(s) and size:Mainly the Bernie Legge Theatre, Queen's Park, New Westminster.
What are your ticket price ranges?$18
Typically, are your productions with orchestra, piano, or small instrument ensemble with piano?Sometimes piano, sometimes piano with small ensemble.
Are your roles paid? Lead roles? Secondary? Small roles? Chorus?Unfortuately not. We are only a 3 year old company and are still building our "nest egg". We just beacame eligible for grants last year, and so were able to offer the value of the grant to our cast as an honorarium (approximately $50 each). It certainly wasn't much, but maybe covered some gas money for trips to rehearsals. We are very much working toward paying our singers, as we strongly believe in performers being paid what they are worth. Our board has four regularly working singers on it, and our Artistic and Music Directors are both professional opera singers, so we certainly value our casts.
Do you have a relationship with Actor's Equity/Union des Artistes?No (and yes) see below.
Regardless of a relationship or not, how does Equity effect your management of your company?We are absolutely limited at the moment. The Artistic and Music Directors are Equity members. We often have colleagues who we work with in a professional capacity who are interested in taking principal roles with our company, however at this time, with an $8-10K budget per production, there's no money left for Equity contracts. Of course we hope to change that in future. So at this point, the artist has to approach Equity to ask for permission to do our show. Equity has been quite gracious so far, but at some point the grace period will end.
What is the typical level/amount of performing experience that your lead and secondary singers have?Generally our leads are graduates of a university level opera training program, or at least current students in an opera training program. Our secondary roles are often either students or avocational singers, but sometimes they are also graduates of university level training programs as well. It really depends on the show, for example a G&S show tends to bring out a different kind of singer than say, Cendrillon!
When do you hold auditions? Generally in the spring of each year (March or April)
Who do you want to hear from when you audition singers? Established artists? Fresh faced kids hungry to prove something? Anyone who wants to be in a show. We've had everything from high school students to seasoned performers to emerging young professionals in our shows. We think everyone brings something valuable to the table.
How far in advance do you cast? We cast about 3 months in advance of the first rehearsal.
How far in advance do you choose productions? We have a general 5 year plan. So, we know what we would like to do over the next five years, but we finalize approximately one year in advance. Sometimes it is necessary to change the show depending on our current financial situation.
When you audition, do you want to hear arias from the operas you're casting, or not at all? We're open to hearing arias from the opera. However, I want the singer to sing what they feel shows off their voice the best. You don't need to sing the aria from the show for us to hear whether your voice will fit it or not. So, I encourage people to sing what they sing best. However, if you feel that the aria is a great fit for you and you would us to hear it, I certainly am not opposed to that either.
How often do cast members get re-cast in other productions if they do well in their first one? It is impossible to hear a singer and discuss their potential casting in a show without remembering the excellent (or not so excellent) work they have done for you in pervious productions. I would say it is quite influencial. Often you will have someone in a supporting role in one show, and if they do a really great job and they are vocally appropriate for the lead next time, we certainly would tend to consider them for a bigger role.
In an audition: Sing it or act it?A little of both. Sing as you would sing in any other performance. You don't need to go over the top with the drama, but please look alive. Our director is very capable and can show you what to do on stage, but we do want to see that you can be engaged and present in your performance.
What else would you like singers to know about your company?We would like singers to know that DragonDiva is a company that LOVES singers. We are here because we are professional opera singers ourselves and we know how difficult it is when you are starting out to find opportunities to get on stage and hone your craft. We do regret that we can't offer compensation at this time, but we will not ask you to pay any fees to be in our shows. We do fully staged productions with sets, props, professional lighting, newly built costumes and though we do our shows with piano rather than orchestra we hire one of the top opera pianist in our city, who is also on staff at Vancouver Opera. We also make DragonDiva a safe and collegial working environment, where a singer can feel comfortable with themselves no matter what their current level of experience.

Who wants to make a CD?

It seems like a dream to get your own CD. Whether you self produce, or have a label fall on you with heaped praise, a CD is your ticket to fame and riches right?

Well, maybe if you believe that it's good PR and not much more. With a lot of discussion about file sharing taking money out of artist's (potentially your!) pockets, it's worth taking a look at what kind of sales numbers are required to really make an album your ticket to the lap of luxury.

Here's a chart from Information Is Beautiful detail the kinds of sales, from what mediums, an artist has to sell to make (US) minimum wage in one month. It's not pretty. (Click the image to see the right hand column if it doesn't display normally).

Maybe recordings solely as promotional material are a better bet.

Read the article at

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Your input needed: Canadian opera company profiles

I've promised to do it for a while now but I'm finally putting the questions together now: I'm going to be asking some of the Artistic/General Directors of some of the small and medium sized companies in Canada to fill us is on what it takes for them to run a company and what singers can expect when they audition/work for them. What I need from you folks are the questions that you'd like to ask companies.

If you had the ability to ask anonymous questions of the Opera Company Gods, what would you like to know? Auditions? Money? Production nuts and bolts? I'll try to include most of the questions in the email that I send out to them (although I can't make them answer them,) so let me know as soon as you can because I'm going to be sending the first batch out right away.

And, if you run a company, let know if you'd like a profile post up on the blog. The questions shouldn't be too painful :-)

Email me at gtheule at or leave your questions in the comments below.

A brand new opera company for Ontario?

Well, isn't this intriguing. A tip has lead me to this as yet unannounced website: where we see what I am being told is a new actual opera company in southern Ontario to be lead by Pacific Opera Victoria Artistic Director Timothy Vernon. Apparently born from Orchestra London's dabbles in opera collaborations with POV and (as in this year) the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy at the University of Western Ontario I'm told that it's a next step in formalizing opera for the region. Opera London/ the site currently look like a group in transition where most of the links (including the "Donate" button,) re-direct to Orchestra London, and the Orchestra London website lists the production as their own, but it's clear that they are promoting the same upcomming production of Giulio Cesare as the new company. I tried contacting Orchestra London about it, but they didn't reply.

Also interestingly, although the site lists Opera London as receiving Trillium Foundation support, I can't find a 2009/2010 grant for them on the Trillium website.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New diction resource

Diction! Ain't it fun? Well I've come across a new website/podcast at The Diction Police created by Ellen Rissinger who is and American coach working in Germany, mostly at Dresden's Semperoper. The podcasts look (there are only two right now) like they're going to cover individual songs and arias in multiple languages, and featuring guests who go over the texts as well as talk about diction in general. If she can keep it going it should be a fantastic resource as it builds!

Aaaaaaand, we're back

So, 2 1/2 months, eh? Long time no see. I suppose I owe a bit of an explanation to you all.

When I left for Winnipeg in the fall I wasn't quite sure what it would mean professionally. Sure I wasn't in Toronto, or even Montreal or Vancouver, but that didn't mean that I'd be shut out completely, right? Well it turns out that it was a little more isolating than I expected it to be. In Toronto I felt like I was talking to singers, seeing operas, and generally in touch with the arts community every day, even from Burlington. This disconnect made writing the blog a little bit more difficult and, combined with a ton of extra work both in terms of shows (a fun gig with Winnipeg's Little Opera Company coming up next month) and at home, (my wife finished up her Doctoral dissertation and defense,) means that the blog was what gave.

And now I'm back.

Over the last few weeks, as people have started to notice that I was gone, people started to ask why which, to be honest, felt good as I knew that people actually read this. I've also had a strange turnabout where, in two instances, I've had people turn to this blog as a news outlet on opera in Canada; Most recently I've had someone write in with an anonymous tip on something very controversial coming up.

So here we are. Let's see what kind of opera trouble we can get into....