AOC DIGITAL SHOWCASE: TARYN PLATER – SHE/HER
Mezzo-soprano Taryn Plater is a versatile performer and creator with a strong investment in the future of opera and arts outreach. With affinities for performance and production, she is active both on and off stage. Taryn created the digital artist statement First Steps through Against the Grain’s 2021 National Opera Intensive, exploring her cultural heritage through Ukrainian art song and dance. This year, she was selected as a 2021-2022 RBC Artist Fellow with the Association for Opera in Canada.
Taryn was recognized for her “dramatic and vocal thrust” (Opera Canada) while portraying the title character in the Canadian premiere of Pasażerka. She is grateful to be the recipient of a 2021 Vancouver Opera Foundation bursary and a 2019 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Western Canada District) Encouragement Award. Taryn has performed with Opera NUOVA and the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, and has featured in concerts in Germany and the Czech Republic. At home, she enjoys varied performance opportunities that range from accessible opera concerts in public spaces to jazz piano and vocal engagements.
In addition to her performance endeavours, Taryn is an aspiring community planner, a mentor with Opera InReach, and the founding Artistic Director of Opera Unbound. She earned her opera performance degree at the University of British Columbia studying with Krisztina Szabó and Marisa Gaetanne while simultaneously completing degrees in business management and linguistics.
Opera is a versatile medium limited by its own narrow canon and status quo. In the right hands, it can be a powerful vehicle for new perspectives and artistic exploration. We love opera because we want to express, tell stories, and create something original with other artists, but this industry can be so focused on a prescribed definition of success that we lose even the memory of this joy.
Opera Unbound formed as a platform for early-career artists to push the bounds of conventional performance and rediscover the joy of creation. Our work centres collaboration across mediums and genres with an emphasis on uplifting new perspectives and musical approaches. Since the company’s inception, OUB has fought against prescribed performance traditions, classical music elitism, and preconceptions about who has the right to artistic autonomy. We aim to make opera physically, financially, and emotionally accessible, and to further goals of collaboration, public engagement, and artistic agency.
We work with a wide array of partners who help shape each project. These collaborators bring unique perspective and artistic backgrounds that we really could not do without.
2. Artistic Agency
We help emerging artists achieve autonomy in realizing their own creative visions. In doing so, we reject the gatekeeping of artistry that so often limits early-career classical musicians.
3. Public Engagement
We believe that the arts should involve the public in their creation, not just their consumption, and are currently developing programming to support this vision.
In the past year, OUB’s projects have grown to incorporate numerous additional mediums – from puppetry to dance:
Mini Concert Connections \ April–May, 2021
Sweeter Than Roses \ October 14, 2021
On Christmas Night \ released December 17, 2021
Community-Created Soundwalk – UPCOMING!
Our administrative team has grown alongside our roster of artistic collaborators. OUB is now a registered not-for-profit corporation with an active board of directors.
Led by co-Directors Taryn Plater and Matthew Kim, OUB’s working board propels the organization forward while never losing sight of its guiding values.
The 2022/23 season will be OUB’s busiest year of collaborative creation. With community-engaged projects, digital commissions, and a newly created theatre piece, we are excited to see just how far we can push ourselves and this versatile art form.
Наступні кроки – NEXT STEPS
Ukrainian culture was all around me as a child. I spent Calgary evenings at Ukrainian dance classes and travelled up to Edmonton for weekend competitions. I learned the names of dance steps in Ukrainian and knew the traditional outfits and dance characteristics of different regions – my favourites were the syncopated stomping of Bukovyna and the bouncy, colourful skirts of Transcarpathian dance.
When I began university, I was in search of exciting electives to break up my engineering courses. Finding UBC’s Ukrainian course code completely empty, I registered for a Russian language class, not realising my Baba had the same experience at the University of Victoria some 40 years earlier. A surface understanding of my own culture led to an affinity for Russian literature, poetry, and music. I would only begin to branch into Ukrainian repertoire in February 2020 – the final year of my music studies. From that rainy evening spent pouring over new scores and translations, I would have almost exactly two years to build my Ukrainian art song repertory before invitations to sing at benefit concerts became the norm.
Russia’s genocide in Ukraine has pulled into focus my decision to become a “Ukrainian–Canadian artist” – I haven’t added that hyphen to my artist bio yet. The role I have taken on, whether performing at benefit concerts or conceptualising digital projects around the Ukrainian diaspora, has a definite weight. Diving into Ukraine’s rich musical history was joyous and, like so many around the world, the joy of this art has carried me through the despair of the past months.
Isn’t it embarrassing to point out silver linings at such a time? While I feel a heavy responsibility to serve a story much bigger than my own, and while I have already been faced with the callous superiority of arts organisations focused more on appearances than impact, for the first time in my artistic career, I have an incredible clarity in artistic purpose.
In the coming months, I will work on a digital narrative recital that explores themes of memory and intangibility through both my Baba’s story and my own story so far. I want to pull in Ukrainian opera, folk music, and perhaps some Ukrainian dance. I plan to include art songs by composers erroneously viewed as Russian (did you know Sergei Prokofiev was born and raised in Ukraine?) and may even translate some of these songs into Ukrainian – which I’m aware will be unpopular among much of the classical music community, but that’s fine.
I have not added “Ukrainian–Canadian” to my bio because, to me, that’s something I still have to earn. The next months and years will be spent deepening my connections to other Ukrainian–Canadian artists and community groups. Whatever I call myself, I am happily making an artistic niche for myself with Ukrainian classical music.
“What I’ve Learned”
Customizable Community Concerts: for Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland
Mezzo-soprano Taryn Plater
Pianist Derek Stanyer
Live music and community building go hand in hand, and the power of the human voice has a special way of bringing people together. Whether someone has loved classical music their whole life or has never attended a concert before, there is nothing quite like sharing the experience of live music in a room full of friends and strangers. Every audience is different! We aim to unite and inspire people of all ages, demographics and abilities, and are pleased to offer a completely customizable concert experience.
Our Concert Repertoire
Our concerts celebrate art song – the marriage of music and poetry. We love to pair beloved classics with up-and-coming composers and rarely-performed Ukrainian music. Some of our favourites are: Richard Strauss, Vasyl Barvinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Stefania Turkewich, Mykola Lysenko, and Nikolai Medtner.
We adore all the music we perform – and we’re happy to talk about it! Throughout the program, we will share information about historical context, musical interpretations, or our own personal connections to each piece. Audiences will be fully engaged even if they are not familiar with the works and genres presented, and may even discover a new favourite song.
We offer talkback sessions for audiences, students, or small groups, which can take many forms, including:
- Open Q&A
- Panel discussion on specific topics
- Pre-planned presentation
Accessible arts education for children and youth is essential for our communities to thrive. We have developed sessions to help children learn more about art song in an engaging manner. In addition to tie-ins with Music curriculum, the poetic nature of art song would suit a Language Arts class, and the music’s cultural context would complement Social Studies curriculum.
Lessons and Masterclasses
For both the established and aspiring artists in your community, we offer lessons for vocalists and voice-piano duos. With an extensive background teaching technique and musicality to all levels of musicians, we will tailor each lesson to the specific needs of the student/s.
Everyone experiences music a little differently, and we want to make sure your audience can enjoy our concert. We can provide relaxed performances, hands-on activities, or other ways to involve audience members with the program.
For bookings and inquiries, email email@example.com