Through the artist’s eyes

Taking the stage as a classical artist is exciting and glamorous but it takes years of practice and dedication. Education plays a vital role in every performer’s musical career – I, too, know from experience. Singing or playing in front of people is the easy part. How you get this is another story.

With events like Operanation, aspiring students are given the chance to learn from the best in the business as they embark on a life-changing musical path. Yes, again, I may be biased, but there is nothing I love more than seeing the arts and education flourish together hand-in-hand.

Canadian Soprano, Simone Osborne has been hailed as “a joy to hear” (Los Angeles Times) with “a sweet and clear sound, sensitive phrasing and gleaming sustained high notes” (New York Times). As one of the youngest winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, she is also an alumni of the Canadian Opera Company Studio Ensemble. As an active attendee, we take a look from the artist’s point-of-view.

As an artist, define your interpretation of Operanation.

I have always seen Operanation as the COC’s invitation to a young generation of Torontonians who may have yet to experience the Four Seasons Centre and the operatic art form in all of its glory. It’s an incredible introduction to opera thanks to collaborative performances with pop musicians, creative exhibitions, amazing food and drinks at the most glamorous venue in the city. In short, it is a night where guests are welcomed in true COC style, and everyone leaves feeling welcome, inspired, excited and eager to return for a full blown performance. Operanation shows the whole city that opera is meant for everyone, regardless of age, income bracket or experience. It breaks down the walls and shows people just how accessible and sensational opera can be.

You are a graduate of the Ensemble Studio – what does the support of the Operanation event mean for all current members?

The success of Operanation makes a huge difference in the lives of the young Ensemble Studio singer. Becoming a professional opera singer takes time, dedication and an incredible team of experts to show you the way. The COC brings in the very best singing teachers, coaches, language specialists, agents and masterclass teachers from all over the world. It gives each young singer a stipend to take additional singing lessons and pays each singer a living wage so that they can spend all of their time and energy honing their craft. This would not be possible without the financial support that comes from Operanation every year. By buying a ticket to Operanation, you are directly impacting the lives and growth of these young Canadian artists.

 What is your favourite part about attending as well as hosting the VIP dinner?

I love the feeling of giving back to a company that has been unbelievably supportive of me and of my career. The dinner is always exquisitely curated with a creative theme, wonderful food and great company. It’s a perfect way to meet other interesting, young professionals with a love of the arts. It’s a real VIP experience with fabulous conversation, lots of laughs and some stunning private performances. 

What are your thoughts on this year’s theme?

I love a slightly general theme because it opens the floodgates for tons of creativity. The fashion at Operanation is ALWAYS a highlight, so I love that “A Night of Curiosities” leaves enough room for attendees to go in whichever direction they choose. It also lays the ground work for some brilliant artistic collaborations, creations and experiences over the course of the evening.

Can you share anything about your fashion choices for the evening’s festivities?

I’ve been living out of my suitcase for the past three months, so I had to pick up a new piece for Operanation this year. As the host, I like to blend in a bit rather than completely clash with the artists or other speakers, so I’ve decided on a black, sequined Aidan Maddox number which should do the trick for both the glam dinner portion and full blown party mode for the rest of the night. Usually, I like to wear Canadian designers to Operanation, (last year, I was fortunate enough to be dressed by The Room at the Hudson’s Bay, and was gifted a gorgeous Sid Neigum gown) but given my busy travel schedule this month, a quick shopping trip was all I could manage, and there wasn’t anything quite right within the Canadian designed options. Next year!

Finally, if you can (even though you’ve performed so many), what is your favourite opera?

It would be impossible to pick a favourite opera to see or hear, but my favourite to sing is “Lucia di Lammermoor”. What soprano doesn’t dream of a 20 minute ‘mad scene’, dressed in a huge white wedding gown, covered in blood from head to toe, and brandishing a dagger. To me, it’s the soprano pinnacle.

There’s still time to purchase tickets by going online or by calling COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231. 

Behind the Elixir

We are now two weeks away from the most sought after cultural party of the year. Operanation will attract anyone who is anyone from all over the city and beyond. We can only imagine the preparation and planning behind an event like this so who better to ask than this year’s co-chair Randi Bergman. 

The talented freelance writer and editor, too, is no stranger to the Operanation scene. Since 2014, she has been co-chairing; this year, along with Kristen Burke and Ben Kizemchuk. What is there not to like about planning something so extravagant – right? “I love seeing all the ideas coming to light and watching people discover them for the first time. The Four Seasons Centre is also just such a beautiful venue – it feels very surreal to watch that many people engaging with your concepts”, says Bergman.  So, where do you even begin?

MC: What inspired this year’s theme?

RB: The theme always begins with the year’s selected opera. This year’s is Elixir of Love, which centres around a travelling salesman selling not-so-legit love potions. We took the idea of the mysterious potion and ran with it – creating this very surreal idea of a cabinet of curiosities opening for the night. You never know what you’ll find!

MC: Can you share some of your top priorities when it comes to planning Operanation?

RB: I spearhead all things creative for the event, so that means everything from the theme to the decor to the activations. I work really closely with the COC team (they’re the ones who do the REAL work!) as well as the committee to dream up ideas that will be engaging, fresh and super fun for the crowd.

MC: We have to ask you as well what your favourite opera is.

RB: I am far from an opera expert. Probably something really obvious like La Boheme or La Traviata.

Tickets can be purchase online or by calling COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231. 
*Randi’s photo courtesy of Jenna Marie Wakani

A night of fashion curiosities

This year’s Operanation will be an evening full of curiosities – and, of course, a night where party goers will be surrounded by both opera as well as fashion aficionados. Yes, many like to compare this event to the Met Gala. There is no doubt, that when it comes to the arts and fashion, the sky is the limit when it comes to creativity.

Fashion editor for the Globe and Mail, Odessa Paloma Parker, is on the committee and has been an avid supporter and party goer herself for many years. “Operanation is a chance for people who are passionate about the arts and creativity to come together for a good cause. Fashion is an extremely creative field, and there are perfectly complementary aspects in opera – the grandiose story lines, the attention to detail, the divas! You can’t find an art form more chic”.

A former vocal student herself, Parker studied at the Royal Conservatory for several years and at one point wanted to pursue a career as an opera singer. With both music and style running through her veins, I had to pin her down and ask about what she hopes to see for this year and more.

We have so many local designers to choose from when it comes to evening wear. What would you recommend?

It would be amazing to see someone wearing something custom by Matthew Gallagher, perhaps with some vibe-y crystal details – he makes such opulent pieces that are perfect for events like Operanation. Greta Constantine is always a must for occasion dressing, and I would love to see someone wearing one of their colourful sheer looks from the spring 2017 collection. And Sid Neigum made a stunning bronze draped dress for his fall line that would be a very dynamic choice.

What about your past looks?

I really loved wearing a lace gown by Unttld last year, as well as a tie-dye vintage dress with velvet bolero jacket a few years ago. A friend described me as the “female Jimi Hendrix”.

What would be the perfect ensemble for you?

Well, there are some exceptionally witchy pieces in the spring collection from Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. I think, given the esoteric theme for this year’s event, something very mystical would be appropriate. I would top the look off with some incredible jewellery by Alan Anderson and a pair of custom silver boots by Modern Vice.
And, of course, I must ask another very important question – do you have a favourite opera?

It’s a toss up between Tosca and The Marriage of Figaro.

Tickets can be purchase online or by calling COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231. 

Anna Netrebko visits Toronto

The magnificently gorgeous and talented soprano, Anna Netrebko, made her Canadian debut earlier this week at the Four Season Centre for the Performing Arts. Along with her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, and Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.  The Trio Magnifico performed for, of course, a very enthusiastic audience singing operatic works including Verdi’s Rigoletto and Dvorak’s Rusalka.

Netrebko also took some time to tour around our lovely city and I must say, she definitely left her mark. We hope to see her again soon. Until then, we’ll reminisce over her lovely Instagram photos.


*Performance photo by Vladimir Kevorkov

A Night of Fashionable Curiosities

I like to think that there is an opera lover in all of us. Not everyone can handle the intensity of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, let’s say, but a little buffa can definitely tickle everyone’s fancy. Now imagine three floors full of luminaries and cultural trendsetters from the worlds of fashion, business, television, and music all to support Toronto’s next generation of opera artists.

As one of the top spring social events of the season, The Canadian Opera Company will, once again, bring Operanation to life on May 25th. A party not to be missed, this year’s theme will bring forth an evening of enticing elixirs, culinary experiments, and musical hybrids.

On top of the amazing performances in store, here’s another important question – what do you wear? Couturier Rosemarie Umetsu is not only a designer to some of the world’s top classical artists but she is a continuous supporter of the COC. “Operanation is a great example of a gala that has incorporated popular culture, attracting a new demographic interested in this art form as well as the opera company’s prestigious ensemble program”.

Having dressed and designed for past participating performers and attendees, Umetsu says, “this is the kind of evening where you want to be theatrical and visually spectacular. I’ve also been commissioned to create pieces for non-artist guests. In these instances, it’s been great fun designing something within the scope of the theme of the specific Operanation. These pieces have always been fun and red carpet worthy”.

Operanation 2010
[From the left, COC artists including Wallis Giunta and Lauren Segal, to the right Rosemarie and Wayne Umetsu]

What would the designer like to see for this year? “A Night of Curiosities leaves a wide scope of imaginative and very individual interpretations. I expect to be surprised”.

Tickets available at coc.ca