Parlando: The COC Blog


Behind the Scenes with Barney: Operanation

[This is the seventh in a series of guest posts by associate technical director Barney Bayliss. This post was written Oct. 19. To read the others in the series, click here]

I ended my last blog with an invitation for requests. Cecily obliged, and suggested that I do an entry about Operanation, the big fundraising party we throw every year. This year’s Operanation will have a Cinderella theme, and falls on Oct. 29.

Since 2006, when we moved into the new Four Seasons Centre, we have used our beautiful lobby for this party. Before that it was held in different locations like the Spoke Club, or the Distillery District, and I didn’t have to support it with technical direction. But the job of transforming our bright, formal lobby into something darker, more colourful, and LOUDER, is a challenge. So Operanation is a chance for us to set up a big sound system, lights, and stages for DJs and musicians.  One year we had a fashion show on the grand staircase, with dry ice and spotlights. Last year we had a performance from Carmen by Lauren Segal and a group of percussionists. All of the Operanation parties here have been very successful, selling out, raising money for the COC, and giving people a good time.

Last June, Sarah Jarvis, who was then our Special Events Manager, told me (by the coffee machine) she was taking Alexander Neef to the Broken Social Scene concert on Toronto Island, and that there was a chance that BSS would be playing at Operanation. I spewed coffee all over. I really like Broken Social Scene, but I couldn’t imagine being able to present such a big band. They have 16 members.  All of the setup for Operanation has to happen the day of the event, because we have a performance of Death in Venice the night before, and Aida the night after. I was seriously concerned about being able to present them in a venue that is not designed for a rock concert.

In September we had a meeting with Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning from the band. They were super nice, just as you would expect from listening to their music, and understanding about our limited time and resources. They are the kind of band who would put on a great show whether it was for 30 people or 30,000. We talked a lot about what kind of collaboration they could do with members of the Ensemble Studio. I have no doubt that it will be great.

Then the Fall opera season descended on me, with rehearsals and tech for Aida and Death in Venice.  We are lucky to have a great assistant technical director here, Melynda Jurgenson, who has been dealing with the details of organizing Operanation since then.  Melynda has had more surprises, because they have added another act (violinist and thereminist Clara Venice) which has its own list of technical requirements. 

If you have been to any of the previous Operanation parties, you can expect this one to be a bit different:  bigger stage, more music, more gear, hopefully lots of fun. And here’s an obscure COC/BSS trivia factoid:  Don McKellar, who played the narrator in our 2000 production of Oedipus Rex at the Hummingbird, also wrote the screenplay for the film This Movie is Broken, which features music and concert footage from our favourite band. Who knew?

Photo: Operanation VI. © 2010 eyecontact photography

Posted by Barney Bayliss / in Behind the Scenes / comments (2) / permalink

Kath (10/21/2010 3:07:00 PM)
Another great post, Barney! Hope to see you back here soon, and good luck with the party!
Shawna (10/22/2010 8:29:00 PM)
Very interesting Barney. I will see you there!

Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001



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