Canadian Opera Company Names Toronto-Based Amplified Opera as Disruptor-in-Residence

By Chris Ruel

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) has selected Toronto-based Amplified Opera as its first Disruptor-in-Residence, a newly developed program that grew out of the COC’s Company-in-Residence and is part of the COC Academy.

Amplified Opera will take part in the two-year residency aimed at providing resources and support for emerging companies.

Amplified Opera is a collective co-founded by Canadian performing artists Teiya Kasahara 笠原 貞野(they/them), Marion Newman (she/her), Asitha Tennekoon (he/him), and Canadian stage director Aria Umezawa (she/her). The company’s core values are rooted in “five Cs” that govern its mission and artistic practices: conversation, community, creativity, curiosity, and compassion.

Nina Draganić, Director of the COC Academy stated in the company’s press release that the name change from Company-in-Residence to Disruptor-in-Residence better reflected the nature of the partnership.

“In less than two years, the team at Amplified Opera has already carved a name for themselves as creators with a bold artistic vision and understanding of opera as a means for social change. Their work invites important conversations about representation and inclusivity, within the industry and beyond, and we are just as keen to learn from them as our Disruptor-in-Residence as we are to lend guidance and mentorship in their path forward.”

Launched publicly in the fall of 2019, Amplified Opera’s inaugural series, AMPLIFY, featured concert recitals and panels that explored stories of blindness and vision loss; gender expectations in opera; and differences in Black identity across the US-Canadian border. As part of the series, Kasahara created “The Queen In Me,” an opera-inspired solo piece, praised for its candid exploration of conventional opera roles and their reliance on gender and sex stereotypes. The work is going through further development with plans for a Toronto premiere to be announced soon.

“Amplified Opera places artists at the centre of public discourse,” Amplified Opera’s co-founders said in the release. “We are pushing to decolonize how we create and share opera by welcoming and including the voices of creators and opera fans in all aspects of the performance. We look forward to this unique residency with the Canadian Opera Company which will allow us to work together in a way that is slow and deliberate. By building a foundation of trust, we will navigate the difficult and challenging conversations that are integral to interrupting the status quo and forging new, generative paths forward.”

On March 5, members of Amplified Opera will lead “COC in Conversation: Gender in Opera,” a digital roundtable and live Q&A that examines the confluence of gender, music, and drama. The panel includes Amplified Opera co-founders Teiya Kasahara, Marion Newman, and Asitha Tennekoon; COC Ensemble Studio baritone Jonah Spungin; performer, creator and transgender advocate Avery Jean Brennan; and actor/singer Jonathan Christopher. The virtual event will be moderated by Aria Umezawa