British-Canadian composer Cecilia Livingston has been named the new Composer-in-Residence at the Canadian Opera Company. The program was created to support artistic growth and career development, with each residency custom-tailored to each artist. Livingston’s residency will last for two years, during which she will work closely with, and be mentored by, the company’s executive, artistic, and community programming leaders.

In an important feature of the composer residency, the Canadian Opera Company will work with Livingston on an artistic project to showcase the composer’s abilities, offering everything from dramaturgical input to musical feedback and critique through every step from conception through production.

As the COC’s new Composer-in-Residence, Livingston will regularly collaborate with the company’s Ensemble Studio for emerging artists, working alongside singers, instrumentalists, and program trainers to gain a deeper understanding of performers’ needs and perspective, while also coming together on creative endeavours.

The Composer-in-Residence program is custom tailored to the specific needs of the successful candidate. In broad strokes, however, the residency is structured to support the advancement of a composer’s career through: 
  • access to the trainers, artists, and administrative staff of the COC Ensemble Studio, with the opportunity to work with individual singers and instrumentalists and participate in vocal, dramatic, diction, and movement coachings; roundtables; masterclasses; rehearsals and artistic and administrative meetings where possible
  • access to COC administrative staff, including regular meetings with the General Director, Deputy General Director, Music Director, Director of Community Partnerships and Director of Artistic Planning
  • access to rehearsals, workshops, performances, and company events
  • a custom tailored training program with the goal of creating a deeper understanding of the voice as well as the intricacies, practicalities, and realities of mounting operatic work
  • dramaturgical input, workshopping, musical feedback, and critique of the commissioned work (contracted separately) throughout the process from conception to production
  • access to COC meeting and rehearsal spaces, photocopiers, scanners, music library, and bike room

The participating composer will be expected to provide:
  • composition of a full piece to be performed by the COC. Determination of the piece to be mutually agreed upon by Composer and Director of Artistic Planning.
  • recognition of the residency in online and printed materials, subject to logo and copy approval by COC PR department and Director of Artistic Planning
  • participation in COC initiatives promoting the residency, including attendance at key fundraising and publicity events
  • submission of written plan outlining the composer’s vision and measurable goals for the residency
  • regular reporting of progress against goals and feedback from experiences during the term, including a monthly email report and a final report at the end of the residency
Ian Cusson was the inaugural artist of the COC’s newly developed Composer-in-Residence program, with a residency that officially began in August, 2019. A Métis and French-Canadian composer of art song, opera, and orchestral work, Cusson explores the Canadian Indigenous experience, including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures.

As part of Cusson’s composer residency, the COC commissioned a new work with award-winning Canadian playwright and librettist Colleen Murphy and staged by COC Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence Julie McIsaac. Fantasma was developed with families and young people in mind. The opera tells the story of two teenagers visiting an old-fashioned carnival and confronts an age-old dilemma: when you become aware of suffering, do you turn away? Or do you take action?

The COC’s commitment to the development of new and diverse voices in the opera world speaks to their ongoing leadership in the opera community,” says Cusson. “For me, as a Métis person, this opportunity tells of the hope, resilience and long tradition of excellence in art-making of Indigenous peoples of this land, our ability to transcend borders and traditions, and our commitment to partner with forward-thinking institutions in the creation of powerful and transformative art.”


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