If you are an opera lover or up to date with the news, you've likely heard the sad news that our beloved Opera Lyra Ottawa has announced that it will be closing its doors in the middle of their 31st season.
I am angry, confused, disappointed, sad...it's just surreal. The heart of our opera community in Canada's Capital has left the stage because of a lack of financial support. This means aspiring singers, actors, stage managers, conductors, production managers, makeup artists etc. are now down one less incredible opportunity to formulate professional relationships, to grow as an artist, to gain exposure, and most of all - to create unforgettable memories that would have been spent on the National Arts Centre stage and other venues in Ottawa.
My anger stems from the fact that this company worked so damn hard to regain its financial stability while remaining positive and continuing to produce beautiful operas. And yet, there was still not enough support from the community, philanthropists, and grants.
I am angry because my love of opera and support of the arts was also not enough to save this company.
Rewind back to circa 2008. My first opera in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. I was so young and ready to take on the world of opera. My teacher, Laurence Ewashko introduced me to the OLO chorus and I felt like I found my place in the world.
Fast forward to October 2011, I was on staff at OLO. It was my first full time job fresh out of university as the Education and Outreach Coordinator and I was elated. My life was set until one day, the staff was laid off because of financial difficulties. It was a hard pill to swallow but they still worked endlessly to maintain relationships with patrons and the NAC. Many professionals were brought in to assess the situation in addition to focus groups being formed to discuss attracting a larger audience, especially youth.
Fast forward to April 2015. We just finished a successful production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and for the first time in a while, roots of a new era of a community were beginning to grow. If you want to see how this affected many of us, see my previous post on "OLO forms a new era of community".
I owe so much to this company. Having been a staff member, friend, supporter, and chorister, they have given me opportunity to perform on the NAC stage, stage flashmobs and most of all - form the friendships that have shaped me as a person today.
The OLO shows were the highlight of my year. Choirs are great, jazz quartets are great but opera shows? That's a whole other experience. Clad in elaborate costumes, makeup, and a whole lot of excitement, performing for thousands of people on that stage is an experience I hold close to my heart.
I haven't even come to terms on having to delete my Beethoven's Fidelio rehearsals out of my phone. All because of a lack of financial support.
I feel robbed of my identity and pride as an opera chorister. This is what made me who I am as a musician today and without OLO, it will be mighty hard to top any other experience with an opera company in Ottawa.
Now is the time for me to hold on to the memories of my time with OLO that I will never forget:
OLO, thank you for the wonderful memories and opportunities you have given to so many of us in your 31 years of passion for opera. I am sorry that it ended the way it did.
I have a dream that the NAC will take this as an opportunity to re-introduce an opera sector in their operational budget or even perhaps inspire more local chamber operas to be founded in order to continue the education and outreach of opera in our city.
Friends, the arts are in dire need of support. Join a donation circle, volunteer, spread the word, encourage others to come out and see a production. You have no idea what it can do to keep opportunities alive and arts thriving in your city.
Thanks for hearing me out.
- Blonde in the Choir