• At Home With... Alexander Neef

    By COC Staff

    Over the next little while, we’ll be checking in with members of our Canadian Opera Company family to find out how they’re keeping busy at home during this time of physical distancing. From their latest Netflix binge to testing new recipes to establishing a work-from-home routine, they’ll share what keeps them grounded and entertained.

    COC General Director Alexander Neef

    As I sit in my improvised home office right now, I’m reflecting on the nature of our business here at the Canadian Opera Company. The COC is about gathering people together – our artists, our musicians, our audience – to create and celebrate art. Person-to-person contact is incredibly important for this, and now, as we navigate the most unusual time our company has ever faced, we’re trying to figure out how to exist in a world without that.

    One thing we’ve discovered is that cancelling a season is much more difficult and time consuming than putting one on! Some might think that just because there’s no spring season that everyone is just sitting at home – and while they’re right that we’re at home, we’re definitely keeping busy. We don’t have a point of reference for this kind of situation, and so there’s an element of figuring this out as we go along, in the face of constantly evolving information. Our team has had to establish a new way of working and planning but we’re lucky to have an incredible IT team, which has set up all our staff up with remote workplaces and online conferencing solutions. We’re also exploring new and creative ways to stay connected with our audiences online, through such virtual initiatives as #OperaAtHome.

    I’ve always found it important to keep up a daily routine, but now it’s critical. I never really had a home office before, so I’ve set one up in a nook overlooking our garden. I start my day early by checking in with Europe and reading the daily papers. Since I can’t pass coworkers in the hallways anymore, daily check-ins have become even more important so we can stay connected, catch up and talk through necessary decisions, especially as we deal with changing information. I’m also lucky to have my dog Harry for an office mascot; he’s usually planted by my feet and is happy to hang out all day. Home conferencing certainly has its own unique set of challenges – sometimes people’s barking dogs or tantrum-throwing kids decide to make cameo appearances – but I have to say, this adds a welcome touch of humanity to our daily routines.

    Balance between work and home life is important to me, so I try to break up the day by taking Harry for a walk and leaving evenings free to spend time with my family. I’m also taking this time as an opportunity to get back to reading. I’m currently aiming to finish the complete works of Joan Didion, one of my favourite writers. I’d made some progress earlier but am now determined to finish!

    With our team working harder than ever, despite and because of these cancellations, the support of our donors has been critical as we grapple with the financial reality of our spring cancellations. I am grateful to those who have supported us, either through the donation of their ticket value, their regular membership, or above-and-beyond contributions, so that we can support our staff and artists at this difficult time.

    Rest assured that myself and the whole team are actively planning for our return to the stage when that time comes at last and we are very much looking forward to seeing everyone then.

    The Canadian Opera Company and other arts organizations in Toronto are facing unprecedented financial challenges due to the effects of COVID-19. If it is possible for you at this time, we respectfully ask you to consider making a donation.

    Photo credit: Alexander Neef (2018), photo: Gaetz Photography.

    Posted in At Home With...


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