Magazine article Opera Canada

Valerie Kuinka

Magazine article Opera Canada

Valerie Kuinka

Article excerpt

Changing professions at 48 is a frightening prospect, but that is exactly what Valerie Kuinka is in the process of doing. She is an orchestral violist who is now building up a resume as an opera director. Instrumental music may have been her first love, but theatre was never far behind. "I've always maintained a healthy interest in the theatricality of performance," she says. "Theatre was my sleeper career."

Kuinka's graduation from the University of Toronto was followed by a Masters degree at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a stint as principal violist of the Saskatoon Symphony in between. She also took summer master classes at the Banff Centre and Santa Barbara's Music Academy of the West, where she discovered her love of opera. Returning to Toronto in 1984, Kuinka joined both the National Ballet and Canadian Opera Company orchestras. She also played with the Amadeus Ensemble, and when that group appeared at Sault Ste. Marie's Algoma Festival in 1986, she met future husband and emerging superstar tenor Richard Margison. The couple married in 1989, and daughter Lauren was born in 1992. Watching rehearsals became part of Kuinka's routine when visiting Margison on the road. "I started to develop opinions," she says, "and Richard planted the seed about directing by telling me I had good instincts."

In 1994, Kuinka faced a major life crisis. "Being a pit musician was becoming a static experience, and I knew there was an artistic/creative person struggling to get out." She founded her acclaimed Collaborations series, a theatrical collage that links music, dance, text and visual arts to form themed evenings. Later, Collaborations even had performers play characters in music-theatre-like pieces with original story lines.

Based on that experience, director Tom Diamond asked Kuinka to be his assistant director for the 1996 COC Studio Ensemble production of Cavalli's La Calisto. …

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