Magazine article Opera Canada

Starting an Opera Company

Magazine article Opera Canada

Starting an Opera Company

Article excerpt

I'd like to start an opera company. Not a world-class opera company, but a nice little opera company that would be part of my town's culture, provide a place for students and young artists to develop and be able to pay the leads to perform roles, which would not only delight them but could also further their careers.

How to start? Well, a look at someone who has done it might help. Enter Burnaby Lyric Opera (BLO), the perfect source of information: a small, local company situated in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, supported through the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, a public arts organization funded in part by B.C.'s gaming funds.

BLO presents small operas using young singers opt yet ready for large solo roles in either of the two professional opera companies in the province, but its roots lie in the 1970s, when voice teacher Margarita Noye decided she wanted to provide an opera company for her singing students: There was nothing for chorus members who wanted to play major roles, and it was also good for students to work as professionals." She called it the Shoestring Opera Company, and, for several seasons, she did everything. "I coached the chorus, played the piano, made the scenery, created the costumes. It was the genius of our directors that made it possible, plus my zeal or madness!"

In the '80s, Noye changed her company's name to the North West Opera to better express its larger scope. In 1997, it teamed up with the new Shadbolt Centre and became BLO.

BLO continues to build on its success. David Astor, a singer, teacher and board past-president, feels the fact that the operas are always in English makes them accessible to everyone. And the staff--performers, designer, stage and music directors, lighting designer and stage manager--all work in the field, which gives the young artists professional experience in a theatre whose size does not overwhelm. Andrew Greenwood, a Vancouver fireman who discovered he had a voice and loved singing, has worked for BLO in "four great roles, which gave me the chance and the confidence to do leading roles in a safe environment. And I was paid equity, which meant I felt a little of the pride of being a professional. …

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