Believing that collaboration is the key ingredient at the heart of opera creation, each year we mount the Composer-Librettist Laboratory. This 10-day intensive workshop allows four writers and four composers to discover how to access the best of each other’s creative energies by creating 5-minute operatic scenes over a 48-hour period. The scenes are rehearsed by a skilled set of singing actors and répétiteurs, and performed in recital for the teams. The results are discussed, the partners switch and the cycle begins again. By the end of the Laboratory, we have accumulated 16 5-minute mini-operas, from which we pick up to 12 to share with our audience in a programme called Opera Briefs. Produced with lighting and minimal props, in our home venue, the Ernest Balmer Studio, Opera Briefs has been sold out two years in a row. We also take the “briefs” to free venues like the Word on the Street and Nuit Blanche.
The next step in our process is to invite the creative artists to write a 15-minute opera. The teams are self-selecting but the judging of these submissions is much more rigorous. We choose up to six projects that we develop into an evening called Opera to Go. This format allows the artists to experience a more detailed dramaturgy and workshop schedule, utilizing the members of the New Work Studio Company, under Resident Director Tom Diamond. Further, they are brought into production meetings to learn the complexities and financial scale of producing opera. This intensive programme has proven to be a critical step in developing the creative artists’ capacity for embarking on larger works. This year’s production at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre includes an epic creation saga with large-scale puppets and the premiere of a Bravo!FACT film. There will be 8 performances with post-performance audience discussions to further the dialogue with the creative artists. Opera to Go has been so important to the artists’ growth of their operatic “muscle”, paralleled by a significant increase in our audience base, that we have decided to make the programme an annual event. We are enjoying a large growth in our audience generally, but in particular, programmes like Opera Briefs and Opera to Go appeal to a much younger demographic.
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