Introduction: With funding from the Province of Ontario, The Association for Opera in Canada recently hosted its highly anticipated Ontario Roundtable on May 2, 2023, at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music. This event brought together a diverse range of individuals involved in the creation and production of opera, including opera companies, arts education institutions and educators, agents and managers, funders, and artists. The Roundtable aimed to foster collaboration, share ideas, and discuss the future of opera in Ontario. This blog post provides a comprehensive overview of the event, highlighting key sessions, discussions, and outcomes.
Creating a Vibrant Opera Community: The Ontario Roundtable presented a unique opportunity for professionals in the opera industry to connect and collaborate. Thanks to the generous support of Artist Ticket Doubling Sponsors, the Association for Opera in Canada was able to offer 28 available registrations specifically for artists. This ensured a diverse representation of voices, fostering an inclusive and vibrant opera community.
Engaging Sessions and Thought-Provoking Discussions: The Roundtable featured a variety of engaging and informative sessions, offering a platform for participants to delve into important topics shaping the opera industry. The day kicked off with a welcome address and announcements, setting the stage for a productive and insightful event. Attendees had the opportunity to mingle during coffee breaks and engage in facilitated meet and greet sessions, fostering valuable connections and networking opportunities.
One of the prominent sessions focused on audience development issues and challenges. Moderated by Christina Loewen, the panel discussion featured esteemed speakers including Perryn Leech, General Director of the Canadian Opera Company (COC); Kendra Bator, Associate General Manager of Mirvish Productions; and Stephanie Applin, Director of Advancement at Tapestry Opera. This panel explored strategies and insights to cultivate and expand opera audiences, providing valuable perspectives for the attendees.
Breakout conversations were another highlight of the Roundtable. Led by industry experts, these sessions provided focused discussions on key areas, including education, HR, burnout, and sustainability, as well as touring and opera outside the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Each breakout conversation featured a facilitator and guests who shared their expertise and engaged participants in thoughtful discussions.
Highlights from the Breakout Conversations:
- Education: Facilitated by Dean Burry with guests Renee Salewski of NATS, Sheree Spencer of Volcano Productions, and Chris Thornborrow, composer, this session examined the intersection of opera and education. Participants explored preparing young artists for sustainable careers, generating interest in opera among children, and the connection between education and social justice. The importance of addressing gaps in training and broadening career opportunities within the arts were also discussed.
- HR, Burnout, and Sustainability: Led by Michael Hidetoshi Mori with guest Margartet Evans of Balancing Act this session focused on strategies to address HR challenges, burnout, and foster sustainability in the opera sector. Participants explored flexible working models, care solutions for employees, and the creation of a compassion fund. Practical suggestions and the need for better treatment of employees to manage workload, finances, and personal well-being were emphasized.
- Touring and Opera Outside the GTA: Led by pianist Valerie Dueck and supported by Dani Fecko of Fascinator Management, this session explored opera production and touring outside the GTA. Participants discussed frameworks for touring, targeting audiences, successful examples, and the importance of connecting with local artists. Strategies for finding new audiences, treating opera as a business, and engaging with politicians were highlighted.
Closing Remarks and Future Prospects: The Roundtable concluded with report backs from the breakout conversations, summarizing key insights and recommendations. Closing remarks underscored the importance of continued collaboration and collective efforts in shaping the future of opera in Ontario.