Edmonton Opera won Alberta Culture Days. No, it wasn’t a contest, but even so… they won.
If you’ve read my writing on Sound + Noise, you’ll know that accessibility of the arts is one of my big interests. As I recently stated in a Sound + Noise article about how much I love Alberta Culture Days:
One of my approaches to theatre – and art in general – is that, in order for the art to have accomplished its goal, it needs to be accessible. People need to be able to engage with your art. If you write a fantastic play, but the audience needs a dictionary to understand it, did you really put on a performance, or was it more of a one-sided lecture?
And, with that, here’s a list of the reasons (because I’m lazy) why Edmonton Opera won Alberta Arts Days:
- The performance took place in the Winspear Centre lobby. This allowed audience members to come in to the performance at any time without worrying about being embarrassed about being seated late and leave at any time without feeling trapped if it turned out that opera wasn’t their thing. There were no ushers guarding the door, no lighting operators signalling to you that it was or wasn’t an appropriate time to sit down or get up, and no obligation to take in any more of the performance that you wanted to. While this may seem like a downside, I think it’s actually a huge upside – at least in terms of audience development. Many people are nervous about paying for a ticket to experience something they’re not sure they’ll enjoy. Having the performance in such a fluid atmosphere – while it must have been difficult for the performers – gave first time opera-goers a low-risk opportunity to see what the genre has to offer.
- The song selection was fantastic. From the classics to pieces Disney has adapted, Edmonton Opera not only showed the wide range that “opera” encompasses, but also ensured that the audience members would recognize the majority of songs. Hearing something familiar – especially in a new context – is one way of keeping the audience members engaged, and from looking around, it certainly seemed like this was accomplished. Using a familiar selection of songs also added to the impression that opera performances are accessible and not too “high brow” for most of us.
- The performer’s presence really showed off the talent it takes to be an opera performer. Having the opportunity to sit a few feet from an opera performer without hiding behind the shadows of stage lighting gave me a new appreciation of how talented opera performers really are. Seeing Glynis Price and Dan Rowley switching seamlessly from English to Italian to French to German was impressive in and of itself, but when you take into consideration the character changes they underwent in a matter of minutes and acting gestures and movements they threw in to help the audience understand the meaning of the songs even though there were no subtitles… I was just blown away.
Edmonton Opera’s Alberta Culture Days performance lasted about 30 minutes, but the impressions it made on me will last much longer. If you were similarily impressed by Edmonton Opera’s performance, you can buy tickets or a season subscription on their website. Edmonton Opera’s season opens October 26 with Salome (“a psychological thriller based on Oscar Wilde’s play”).