A Night at the Opera at Home

Edmonton Opera creates Edmonton Opera At Home series with $5,000 grant from ECF

Cara MacLeod, a performer with Edmonton Opera, never imagined that she would be singing to a video camera in an empty backyard, but 2020 has proven to be a year of unimaginable affairs.

Edmonton Opera shut its doors in March 2020, just two days before the opening night of their spring show Candide, and have yet to reopen nine months later. All remaining shows are on hold, and the next Opera season won’t begin until October 2021.

“COVID-19 has completely changed the way that we do things, but it’s also really presented us with a lot of unique opportunities,” says Cameron MacRae, Director of Marketing & Communications for Edmonton Opera.

MacLeod has been involved with Edmonton Opera since 2012, and this was the first year that she spent her summer singing on balconies, in courtyards, and parking lots.

“I sing to connect and share love with people, so that’s been challenging trying to figure out how I can still maintain that,” says MacLeod.

COVID-19 brought a lot of uncertainty to her life, but she says it has also changed how she thinks artists and organizations like Edmonton Opera will perform in the future.

“When we were in isolation, we realized that people were still looking for connection and to experience the arts,” says MacRae about Edmonton Opera’s motivation for creating virtual content. “We knew that we wanted to be there for our community and our audiences.”

A $5,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation allowed Edmonton Opera to create a series of videos for its patrons during the pandemic. Edmonton Opera At Home features kitchen concerts, DIY opera, and the Opera al Fresco Backyard Patio Series, featuring MacLeod.

“The arts are an integral part of Edmonton’s culture,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy, says. “It’s important for organizations like Edmonton Opera to continue performing, even if it means doing so digitally.”

The videos have reached more than 35,000 views across Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Edmonton Opera plans to create more content in the coming months, including an Opera 101 series.

“We’re just so grateful for ECF, and without their support, we would not be able to produce this digital content that is making such a difference in the lives of people,” says MacRae. “They make it very easy for us to do the work that we do.”

Watching opera videos on the internet doesn’t compare to a live show, but it goes to show that the arts aren’t going anywhere, even in a global pandemic.

“I’m not a big fan of the words ‘new normal,’ but it feels really good to still connect with audiences even though we are distanced,” says MacLeod. “There are still people behind the masks, still stories to tell, and still people to connect with.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.