In many ways, opera still represents the clearest embodiment of difficult music in the popular imagination. The complex orchestration, highly stylized performances, and grand stories are all part of this, as is the perception that an audience member needs to be a highly educated connoisseur of the form to properly appreciate and enjoy it. In contrast, pop and rock music are considered easy to grasp and consume. They have plenty of hooks and handholds, while opera can often come across as monolithic and impervious. Operanation, the Canadian Opera Company’s annual fundraiser, seeks to alter some of these perceptions by turning opera into a multimedia experience.
Jeffrey Remedios, president of Arts & Crafts Records and Operanation co-chair, explains that the project was born partially out of his own desire to expand his knowledge and appreciation of opera. “I don’t know how naturally opera lands in your popular diaspora of musical choices,” he says. Even so, he found himself fascinated by a form that “combines so many art forms: music and dance and theatre, poetry.”
The first year involved a collaboration between members of Broken Social Scene and the COC’s Ensemble Studio. The combination was successful. “[It showed that] popular contemporary music can be fused with opera in an authentic, incredible way that doesn’t feel pushed, or dry,” Remedios says. This year, the event celebrates its 10th anniversary. “Operanat10n: A Night Of Temptation” will feature a collaborative performance between members of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio and rock group the Sam Roberts Band.
The Canadian Opera Company has been attempting to expand its audiences in recent years by courting younger theatregoers through initiatives like its Opera Under 30 program and various educational and outreach efforts. Operanation is another manifestation of this goal, and it also serves as a way of raising money for the COC’s Ensemble Studio, a crucial training program for young opera professionals. COC Ensemble Studio members also gain valuable exposure and experience by performing in Operanation. At this year’s performance, COC Ensemble Studio alum Ambur Braid will be lending her soprano vocals to the event. The aesthetic will be inspired by Così fan tutte, a comedic and seductive opera by Mozart.
One thing that defines Operanation events is that they aren’t mere covers—not an operatic interpretation of popular songs, nor an orchestra playing along with a band. Each performance is a unique, collaborative effort between the performers, often incorporating new material or revising existing music into an entirely new experience. Past collaborations have seen opera professionals working with artists and bands like Austra, Nelly Furtado, and the Arkells. Operanat10n: A Night Of Temptation is bound to be a tempting event, indeed.