Digital Audio Series

Key Change
is the COC’s new podcast, co-hosted by classical singer and culture critic Robyn Grant-Moran, a member of the COC’s Circle of Artists, alongside stage director, dramaturg and COC Academy graduate Julie McIsaac. Our bi-weekly episodes explore the operagoing experience from a variety of perspectives, offering a fresh take on today's opera issues with special guests from the opera field and beyond.

Episode 15: Opera & Criticism – Part II

This week on Key Change, Robyn and Julie revisit the topic of opera and criticism with Karen Fricker of the Toronto Star, with a focus on why reviews matter long after a performance run has closed. As a seasoned writer and academic, Karen makes the case for criticism as a historical record, shares her hopes for the future of performance art, and also helps draw parallels between opera and… circus!

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Karen Fricker is Associate Professor in the department of Dramatic Arts at Brock University, teaching courses in theatre history, theory, and criticism. Karen is a prolific theatre critic herself, having reviewed and broadcast over her career for The Guardian, Variety, The Irish Times, The New York Times, the BBC, and the CBC, amongst others. Currently, she is a theatre critic for the Toronto Star, where she has written on everything from Hong Kong protest art to Spongebob Squarepants, the musical. Her book Robert Lepage’s Original Stage Productions: Making Theatre Global  was published in 2020; her other research interests include contemporary circus and the futures of theatre criticism in the digital age.


Yolanda Bonnell’s

21 Black Futures:

Seeding the Future (responses to 21 Black Futures):

Robert Lepage at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music):

Improbable Theatre’s Satyagraha at the ENO (English National Opera), directed by Phelim McDermott:

More about Karen’s work with the international research project Circus and its Others (CaiO):

COC In Conversation: Gender & Opera - virtual event available to watch here:

More on choreographer Crystal Pite:

More on interdisciplinary artist Taylor Mac:

Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala:

Rock Bottom Movement:

Caryl Churchill:

More about Generator:

More about Karen’s book on Robert Lepage:


Key Change theme music: R. Strauss'
Der Rosenkavalier. Herbert von Karajan, conductor, with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

“Door 5” from Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Sir John Tomlinson, Michelle DeYoung. Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor, with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Signum Classics, 2011.

“Mild und leise” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde . Jessye Norman. Sir Colin Davis, conductor, with the London Symphony Orchestra. Decca, 1995.



Robyn Grant-Moran (Métis) is a classical singer, writer, and a jack of many trades who, in 2018 met the requirements to call herself a Bachelor of the Fine Arts at York University. That same year, Robyn participated in the Performance Criticism Training Program with Generator Toronto where she learned that theatre criticism can be used to push for more inclusive spaces and champion voices less heard and often misunderstood; so of course she fell in love. Since then, she’s been published in Alt.Theatre and Intermission Magazine, won the Nathan Cohen Award for Outstanding Emerging Critic, and joined the Canadian Opera Company’s Circle of Artists, to name a few. Robyn currently resides in Tkaronto (Toronto), weathering the pandemic with her wee rat dog in a box in the sky.


Canadian stage director Julie McIsaac was named the COC’s first Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence in 2019 and is now Lead Curator of Opera Everywhere, the company's reimagined 20/21 season. A versatile opera and theatre artist, her projects work towards reshaping and revitalizing the stories told on stage. During her residency with the COC, she served as Assistant Director on Joel Ivany's production of Hansel and Gretel (COC) and she is the Dramaturg and Director of the upcoming COC commission Fantasma, composed by COC Composer-in-Residence Ian Cusson with libretto by Colleen Murphy. Julie earned her Master’s degree in Theatre from the University of York (UK) and is also a graduate of Carleton University (Music) and the Canadian College of Performing Arts (Theatre Performance and Playwriting).


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