Why the Opera Should be on Your To Do List

It seems that the opera tends to fall to the back burner when it comes to an art of choice for young professionals (YPs). It makes sense; historically, it has been viewed as somewhat highbrow, expensive and stuffy, and was subsequently seen as unattainable and reserved for our parents’ generation. Times have changed and the opera so isn’t what it used to be. Even so, many YPs have never been. “People seem to have their favourite art form, whether it’s theatre, ballet or live music,” says Alexander Neef, General Director of the Canadian Opera Company. “I would advise people, however, to get out of their box and explore other forms to discover our rich, diverse culture of Canada’s art scene, which includes opera.” Here’s why we think you should check it out… 

It is social
An increasing number of opera companies have developed social programs to attract the younger set, providing a good opportunity for cocktails and networking with like-minded YPs. At Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company a few months back, Operanation took over the stunning Four Seasons Centre in a YP-oriented gala that offered a musical mash-up performance between the COC’s Ensemble Studio and Sam Roberts that was anything but “stuffy opera.” Past Operanation performances featured the Ensemble Studio with Broken Social Scene and Nelly Furtado. At Opéra de Montreal, the Montreal’s Young Associates, founded in 2009, includes YPs of all backgrounds. One initiative is Opera Cocktails, which includes a pre-opera cocktail reception with a brief presentation of the current production, a ticket to the performance, wine at intermission in the VIP lounge (Bar Pellan), and a post-show meet-and-greet with Opéra administrators and a few artist. Another is the National Bank Night at the Opera gala, which we highlighted as a Notable Must-Attend back in March. The Vancouver Opera’s Overture gala fundraiser is a hot ticket for the West Coast’s stylish set, and this year happens on May 2nd. The Calgary Opera offers some fun fundraising initiatives as well, like their California Wine Fair 2014 fundraiser and their Sunday Opera Brunch initiative, where you can spend Sunday afternoon enjoying brunch with friends followed by a short recital featuring singers in the upcoming production (January 12, March 23).

It’s fashionable
The words fashion and opera are practically synonymous, in everything from the intricate costumes of the performers to the outfit selection the occasion inspires. Last month, The COC partnered with the fashion-forward Hudson’s Bay Queen Street to outfit the Ensemble Studio Competition finalists for their onstage role at Centre Stage. This was part of an initiative to help prepare the artists for their professional opera careers, because we all know style matters. Aside from the performers, the opera offers a great excuse for you to dress up yourself, in either a dress or suit and tie (especially on a Saturday night). But, don’t let the dressing up aspect intimidate you or affect your decision to attend in the first place. If this is the case, you should opt for a matinee or weeknight performance, where people are more casually dressed as opposed to a weekend night. Or just wear what you want.

It’s attainable
There are ways to take in opera without breaking the bank in the process (especially if you’re not even sure about the whole thing in the first place). The COC offers a program for those under 30, with $22 tickets to a COC mainstage, along with other special offers. This is almost half off the cost of a regular ticket. Neef (COC) tells us that he notices a stable amount of young people attending the opera, and that this could be the result of the program, which routinely sells out. An even more affordable option is the COC’s $12 standing room ticket, which, as Neef points out, “is cheaper than a movie ticket.” Opéra de Montreal also offers specials for the under 30 set, like ticket performances for just $30 when you subscribe to at least two of the season’s operas.

It’s a great date option
The opera, especially when paired with pre or post performance dinner or drinks, makes a great date option – whether you’re married or on a make-or-break second date. For starters, it is outside of the box of your typical dinner or movie, but it also inspires conversation after the show is over, whether you loved it or hated it. It will also mark a memorable experience far more than a dinner or movie. In our top opera date night pick, Atom Egoyan returns to the COC (January 18-February 21) in Cosi fan tutte, a comedy centered on love and temptation about couples gambling with faith and desire. It makes a great, juicy piece about relationships – either to break the ice on a first or second date or to inspire pre-show discussion with your significant other.

The upcoming shows
Perhaps the most exciting news from the COC this year is the announcement of the Hadrian commission by internationally acclaimed Canadian-American singer, songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright. By the time that Hadrian has its world premiere in fall 2018, it will have been 19 years since the COC last presented a world premiere on its mainstage. The last one was The Golden Ass in 1999. Inspired by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his love for Antinous, Hadrian is currently in development and is scheduled to open the COC’s 2018/2019 mainstage season. “Hadrian will appeal to everyone, not just the young people,” says Neef. “Rufus Wainwright’s name may open the show up to a crowd who otherwise may not choose to see it, or opera in general. It is a big step for us and I am really looking forward to seeing it all come together.” In the nearer future, Puccini‘s Madame Butterfly (April 5, 9 and 11) will hit the stage at the Calgary Opera… and it doesn’t get more famous than Puccini. In a similar vein, we also recommend Mozart’s gripping Don Giovanni production coming soon to the Vancouver Opera (March 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9).

The complete experience
The opera offers a far more cultured option than downing drinks at your neighbourhood bar and the entire outing is a unique experience in itself. The Vancouver Opera site offers a button that invites guests to “Your Opera Experience” and outlines everything from what to wear, where to park and what to eat. 

Still not convinced? For a quick snapshot of more of what the opera can offer, check out the COC website, where you will find a guide of all everything opera and a series of short films about opera, and the rehearsal process, that are around three minutes long. Either way, the opera isn’t going anywhere and the goal is to build a new generation of opera-goers. The Vancouver Opera, for example, just announced a bold new direction in the form of innovative programming beyond their Queen Elizabeth Theatre, along with greater community engagement. Similarly, the COC does routine educational work in schools to give the younger generation a taste of the opera and holds free student dress rehearsals. In other words, your kids will grow up with it. 

So, make it a resolution in the New Year to check out the opera. And when you get there, just listen… don’t overthink it.


Cover Image by: Ruth Walz

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