The Canadian Opera Company Academy, a pioneering development program to foster young opera artists, creators and administrators, is piloting a new artistic development opportunity in 2019: the Composer-in-Residence program, for which Canadian composer Ian Cusson has been selected as the inaugural artist. Cusson begins his residency with the COC on August 19, 2019.
Cusson is a Métis and French-Canadian composer of art song, opera, and orchestral work. His work explores the Canadian Indigenous experience, including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures.
“Opera can only evolve when creators are given the opportunity and resources to experiment and hone their skills,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “Ian’s drive to create is matched only by a passionate desire to nurture his craft and develop across artistic planes; the COC is very excited to provide an environment of interdisciplinary exploration to support that creative journey.”
The Composer-in-Residence program was created to support composers in the Canadian opera industry. The two-year, part-time program offers space, training, and hands-on mentorship, as well as time to work with individual singers and instrumentalists, participation in coachings and masterclasses, and the chance to attend artistic and administrative meetings.
As part of Cusson’s composer residency, the COC has commissioned a new work with award-winning Canadian playwright and librettist Colleen Murphy. The opera, to be performed in a future season, is being developed with families and young people in mind. While further details will be released at a later date, the pair says that audiences can expect “a spine-tingling quest” that weaves mythical elements into a contemporary urban setting.
“The COC’s commitment to the development of new and diverse voices in the opera world speaks to their ongoing leadership in the opera community,” says Cusson. “For me, as a Métis person, this opportunity tells of the hope, resilience and long tradition of excellence in art-making of Indigenous peoples of this land, our ability to transcend borders and traditions, and our commitment to partner with forward-thinking institutions in the creation of powerful and transformative art.”
COC Director of Access and Training Nina Draganić leads the COC Academy and sees the Composer-in-Residence pilot program as an exciting new addition: “One of the Academy’s goals is to create a comprehensive and immersive learning experience for everyone involved. This residency is entirely collaborative and we’re looking forward to watching all of our artists, trainers, and administrators learn and grow along the way.”
The COC Academy has become a home for Canada’s new wave of opera creators and is an incubator for the future of the art form. In 2016, indie opera collective Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) became the Academy’s first Company-in-Residence, a piloted development opportunity that concludes at the end of the 2018/2019 season. As Company-in-Residence, AtG has been provided with administrative and rehearsal space, as well as invaluable mentorship and industry shadowing. Artistic residencies are an important facet to the Canadian Opera Company’s larger commitment to opening up its facilities at 227 Front St. E. as a Culture Hub.Photo credit: John Arano