“I wanted to pour all my power into a picture.”By Danika Lorèn (Ensemble Studio Soprano)Posted in Notes
DISPATCHES FROM THE OPERA WORLD
Danika Lorèn, photo: Gaetz Photograpy
SOPRANO DANIKA LORÈN
Second-year Ensemble Studio member Danika Lorèn is understudying the role of Gilda in Rigoletto this winter, but she also appears in the annual Love Your Body issue of NOW Magazine (content warning: contains nude photography as a celebration of body positivity). As Danika reflects on the experience of the photo shoot, it turns out that baring it all for the camera is not that different than performing under the bright lights of the opera stage.
Why did I apply to pose nude?
I was having one of those low-confidence days that I’m sure everyone experiences on occasion.
Hidden away in a room, I was slowly trying to learn some difficult music, but was feeling unmotivated, and, frankly, being unkind to myself and my body. When things aren’t going perfectly right with singing, there aren’t many places to put the blame other than the instrument itself, which just happens to also be my body.
Not just part of my body, the entire thing.
I took a break from my work in an attempt to stave off these feelings of self-doubt and went on Instagram to look for some inspiration. One of the first things that popped up on my feed was NOW Magazine’s call for submissions for their annual Love Your Body issue. I started re-reading the 2017 edition and, by the second paragraph, author Michelle da Silva had given me a good question to ponder, “What if we showed ourselves some kindness and appreciated who we are right now?”
Before I knew it, my curiosity took hold. What would it mean to show myself some kindness? Was I appreciating myself in the present? What would it be like to pose nude? Could I even do it? Why not?
There was only one way to know; I would apply and let fate decide if my story was interesting enough to make it to print.
"I am an opera singer in Toronto,” Danika wrote as part of her application, “and this pursuit has helped me find a profound balance in relation to my body."
Well, apparently the world is itching to know what opera singers are really made of! I was chosen to pose.
But what did "so-and-so" say? The COC let you do this?
Luckily, I live a life where my peers, employers, and parents respect my choices, and I have experienced nothing but support. Most of all from my COC family! It takes a bit more than tasteful nudity for a good cause to ruffle feathers these days.
My own creative brief.
When I received the news that I was chosen, I began to think about what I wanted from the shoot.
I wanted to show the strength of my naturally feminine physique.
I wanted to show pride in myself and in all of the things I have achieved in my life with this body. I wanted to push my own limits of vulnerability and truth. I wanted to free my own mind of the implied connection between nudity and shame. I wanted to fully embrace my inner super model! I wanted to keep it classy and statuesque. I wanted to seriously question my tattoos. I wanted to seriously question my body hair. I wanted to relive my scars.
I wanted to pour all my power into a picture. I wanted to stare down the lens of that camera and scream a high D with my eyes!
A selfie with photographer Samuel Engelking at the Love Your Body photoshoot.
At the shoot
The feeling of nervous anticipation before entering the set reminded me of the feeling I had waiting in the wings for my COC debut. I knew I could do it, wanted to do it, and that it was really just a matter of taking that first step out the door/onto the stage and trusting my instincts. And when I opened the door to my respectful and warm audience of two (photographer Samuel Engelking and makeup artist Sarah Campbell), I was just as comforted as when I felt the trusting camaraderie and spirits of Johannes Debus and the COC Orchestra welcome me to the stage last January at our Season Launch Celebration. Each click of the camera began to feel like the encouragement of applause from the audience, and at the end of both experiences, I felt liberated and empowered.
Waiting for the issue
To bare one’s skin on camera or to bare one’s soul on stage, what really is the difference? And which is more shocking, or more vulnerable? A performance lives in the moment and goes by in a flash, requires an intense and focused connection between many people at once, and you’ll know how people feel about it by the end of the night. A photo spread in the digital age has a longer lifespan than I do, and there is a gentle ease in the improvised relationship that arises between subject and lens, but the waiting time between shooting and production puts my impatient nature to the test. Singing opera and posing for the camera are both modes of performance, they both implicate a creative combination of confidence, vulnerability, and focused intention.
Danika performs Gilda's aria "Caro nome" at the 2017/2018 Season Launch Celebration, photo: Gaetz Photography
Both are meant to show something of beauty and truth. And everyone is entitled to their opinion on what that means.
I already know mine.
Brava! Danika flipping through this week's NOW Magazine.
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