Ever wondered how a new opera comes together, or the many shapes an opera career can take? This Spring Break, young people ages 12 - 18 will find out during Spring Break at the COC: Exploring New Opera. The virtual sessions are hosted COC Teaching Artist Makenzie Morgan –– a singer and educator –– who will be joined by artists and creative professionals from the COC. Learn more about Makenzie’s journey to opera and why participants should get excited about Spring Break!
How did opera become part of your artistic practice?
My first experience with opera was in 1994, when I was 10 years old. My voice teacher, Diana Woolrich, asked if I would be interested in participating in the children's chorus for Opera Saskatchewan's La Bohème
. This production was so important for our community because Irving Guttman had recently become the artistic director and it was the first time that many of us were given hands-on and accessible opportunities to participate in the art form. Diana was the children's chorus master and I had never heard of "opera" before. We spent the first few weeks of my lessons preparing the music. I remember having so much trouble singing the word “Parpignol” –– the toy vendor’s name in the opera –– for the first time, never having spoken Italian before. But I was determined to get it right and I practiced my music until I got into the car to drive to the first rehearsal with the Regina Symphony Orchestra and cast. Liping Zhang sang the role of Mimì. Between her stunning voice and the roar of the orchestra below me, I was hooked.What do you enjoy most about opera?
Wow, that is a hard question to try and narrow down! I am a performer at heart, so I think apart from the singing, the most enjoyable thing for me is being on stage, in full costume and connecting with my fellow castmates. Feeling the energy from the orchestra and integrating that energy into the sound of my voice is also pretty thrilling. Opera is about building relationships and capturing human emotion. When we get it right? There is no feeling like that.
Makenzie Morgan conducts at the Ontario Vocal Festival in 2018
What might surprise people about opera?
People might be surprised to know that many “mainstream” stories share elements with well-known operas. The most popular example I can think of is the Disney movie, The Little Mermaid
, which pretty much copied and pasted Dvořák’s Rusalka
, but both draw from Hans Christian Anderson’s famous story. Opera is such a strong form of storytelling and it takes inspiration from many different types of literary sources. That is why it is so exciting to witness the creation of new operas, like Fantasma
–– the COC’s new opera that we’ll be exploring over the course of Spring Break –– because it demonstrates how opera can tell many kinds of stories that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. What can participants expect from Spring Break at the COC? What are you most excited for?
It’s going to be a week-long event that middle- and high school-aged students interested in the arts need to schedule in their calendars! Every day during Spring Break, we will hold virtual hour-long conversations where I will introduce participants to some of the wonderful staff and artists at the COC. We’ll dig deep into their personal stories and find out how they forged their artistic careers and found the courage to follow their dreams. It’s going to be very real and authentic, and you just might learn about career possibilities in opera you didn’t know existed.Spring Break at the COC places a strong focus on creating new works, particularly the COC’s next Opera for Young Audiences, Fantasma. Why is this important? Fantasma
is so important in this new era of opera, which I think we are just beginning to embark on as an industry. The past few years have really shown us that, as a society, we are yearning for transparency, meaningful connections that address real-life issues, and a creative space to navigate them. At its core, Fantasma
achieves all of these objectives and much more. You will definitely “unlearn” what you think you know about opera through this work. Through focusing on this particular work during Spring Break, we thought it would be a great way to introduce our younger audiences to this very powerful and thought-provoking story. Viewers will also have the opportunity to connect directly with the creative team of Fantasma
and participate in a live Q&A session, which will be a definite highlight for those who will be joining us.
Spring Break at the COC: Exploring New Opera runs online from April 12 – 16, 2021. Click here to learn more and see the full schedule.