During my 16 years as Artistic Leader for Opera Lyra Ottawa, I strove to achieve two main goals. They were simple goals and yet not easily attainable. The first goal was to raise the artistic standard of the productions on the stage. We understood the importance of having a strong product on the stage and the company realised they needed to raise the standard. I am very proud that this goal was achieved several times over enabling the company to proudly hold its head high regarding the product on stage despite budget restraints and challenges over the years. The audience clearly agreed as we averaged just shy of 80% paid attendance over this 16 year period!
Secondly, I wanted to create meaningful training and performance opportunities for upcoming talent. While the budget was extremely limited for this project, we nevertheless succeeded in creating a small but meaningful training program. The program offered professional training as well as performance opportunities for young singers. An additional “Family” production was added to the season which was highly successful in both creating performance opportunities as well as bringing the art form to young people. In addition to the theatre performances, this “Family” production had a touring component reaching thousands of students each year. The training program was also tied into our main stage programming in that several of the young singers had the opportunity to sing small roles in the company’s main stage productions.
Perhaps the most exciting achievement was the introduction of our “Silver Cast” performances. The main roles were double-cast with rising stars who had the opportunity to perform these leading roles in a complete production with costumes, sets, lighting, and full orchestra. The “Silver Cast” production occurred during the day and was attended by students. The hall was always completely sold-out, over 2000 students who absolutely loved the experience. The audience response was so warm that the performers felt like rock stars! It was a great experience for everyone involved. I personally conducted many of these performances and loved it. The kids would often stick their heads over the pit to look at the orchestra and I would enter the pit early and talk to them, sometimes exchanging “High 5s”.
While this was a very successful period of my career, the time has come to discover new challenges. Albert Einstein summed it up beautifully: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”