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Workshop (Online): Opera in the 21st Century – Banff Centre

The Virgin Trial – Alberta Theatre Projects
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Workshop (Online): Opera in the 21st Century – Banff Centre

This intensive and exploratory online residency is devoted to extending practical skills and development for emerging professional performers. The program offers classes in voice, acting, cultural leadership and entrepreneurialism, online auditioning, and business with senior professionals. Extensive time will be devoted to shop-talk amid a rapidly evolving opera industry landscape that is characterized by COVID-19’s global disruption, and by social change.
Throughout the program, participants will tackle technology and work towards a project inspired by their learning, which can include a workshop of new works, and engaging with the director, conductor, and composer. Opera in the 21st Century’s 2020 co-directors Karen Slack (soprano, USA) and Ian Cusson (composer, CAN) join director Joel Ivany (Founder, Against the Grain Theatre, Canada) and guest faculty from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. This year’s iteration of the program will place special emphasis on under-represented voices in the opera world.

What Does the Program Offer?

There are three main questions that will be a through-line within each of the online sessions:
  • Where have we been? (The past, historic structures of opera companies, decision-making, creation, the canon, Black and Indigenous work, historic Black and Indigenous inclusion in opera.)
  • Where we are now? (The current climate of the opera world, working in the field, new questions about diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism.)
  • Where we are going? (Imagining possible futures, accountability structures, who makes decisions—Considering community engagement and community representation, etc.)
Through one-on-one lessons, masterclasses, discussions, and lectures participants will explore special topics that will attempt to find answers to the above questions.

Some examples of these special topics are:

  • Staging the canon (a director’s perspective).
  • De-colonized methodologies of opera creation.
  • Topics of Opera: Staging/dramatizing trauma, challenges, pains, supports required to do this work, could the future of opera from marginalized voices examine stories of resilience?
  • A look at the history of Black and Indigenous opera performers.
  • Who tells whose stories? (Can/should a non-BIPOC person write a BIPOC opera? If so, what parameters should be in place? Who should be consulted? Can a non-Black singer sing a spiritual or Black/Indigenous art song? What about a fully-staged work?)
  • Representation on stage.
  • Agency and change—many of us feel powerless and voiceless in the massive ‘industry’ of opera. What are the strategies and places to have an increased say and power in this environment?
  • LGBTQ representation in opera (Non-binary and trans identity and experience in opera, the journey of a non-binary artist)
  • Being an ally (What does ally-ship look like for non-BIPOC people? What does allyship look like within BIPOC communities? What are the challenges of lateral violence?).
  • Diversification of your career and life planning.

Who Should Apply?

We invite applications from post-secondary students and emerging artists, already at an advanced level of accomplishment and with a well-documented record of artistic exploration. Artists from historically underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.
Note that applicants must be available for all four online program sessions. No partial attendance will be considered.

Program Sessions

  • November 23 – December 4, 2020
  • February 1 – 19, 2021
  • May 3 – 21, 2021
  • July 5 – 30, 2021
Program Dates: November 23, 2020 – July 30, 2021
Application Deadline: October 28, 2020
For more information or to apply online, visit

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