Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Feature: Kate Applin, artistic director of Metro Youth Opera, on Triple Bill

Conrad Siebert, Kate Applin (photo by Rene Stackenborg)

Beyond Learning on the Fly
by Kate Applin

Kate Applin is the Founder and Artistic Director of Metro Youth Opera. The company was established in 2010 to give Toronto’s talented young opera singers the opportunity to perform complete roles and be compensated for it. The company exists to create viable development opportunities for emerging artists in all fields related to the world of opera: singers, stage directors, music directors, and more.

I founded Metro Youth Opera when I was 23 - fresh out of music school and excited to get my feet wet in the world of opera. I had been told many times in school that the journey of an opera singer is a long one, but here I was, faced with the prospect of no performances, no masterclasses– nothing to take me from lessons to auditions to (hopefully) gigs. I had no idea what singers did when they left school but I know that the one thing that makes performers better at their job is performing. How do we mitigate the need for performing opportunities with the dearth of available gigs? 

3 amazing operas to celebrate 3 incredible seasons
Metro Youth Opera became my answer to that question. I wanted to help close the gap from training to performing professionally when opportunities are few and far between. Beyond that, performers understand that pro bono work is a necessity and is often invaluable, but knowing firsthand the costs that singers are burdened with on a regular basis (school, auditions, lessons, coachings, competitions, training programs… the list goes on), I knew I wanted to change something. Instead of a pay-to-sing model, or asking singers to work for free, the company’s mandate is to offer these artists their first opportunities to perform lead roles in full operas and be paid for it.
In our first year, we mounted an ambitious production of Così fan tutte and I learned on the fly. In our second year, we stuck with the classics and produced The Elixir of Love. Both productions were learning experiences for the cast, the artistic team, and myself as we worked to mount and market these fully staged, costumed productions in a professional venue. 
This year, I wanted to do something different with MYOpera. I had been tossing around the idea of a multi-bill show, and in the end we landed on a Triple Bill - 3 amazing operas to celebrate 3 incredible seasons. I wanted to mount Pergolesi’s La serva padrona (The Servant Turned Mistress) as a nod to our standard-repertoire past. Next, I decided on Stravinsky’s Mavra, an early gem of a comedy about a young, infatuated couple trying to be together under her disapproving mother’s watchful eye. Finally, we wanted to dig into the wealth of Canada’s own operatic past, and from the archives we pulled the rarely-performed Jean Vallerand opera, Le magicien. 
Together, these three comedies are at once a delight and a challenge; a rare treat for opera lovers, and a perfect introduction for new audiences. Spearheaded by music director Blair Salter and stage director Alison Wong, and superbly sung by eight emerging artists, this production runs the gamut of style and substance, and more than anything, provides the crucial performance opportunities that Metro Youth Opera strives to offer.
Metro Youth Opera’s Triple Bill production runs April 5 to 7 

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