As Canada’s artists ready themselves for far-reaching cancellations in the 2020-21 opera season, Opera Canada is checking in. What is the ripple effect of an opera-free season? How many Canadians will call themselves professional artists in a year’s time? How bad has it gotten for freelancing individuals? And are there silver linings? We look for answers in our new series of Q&As, “What’s next?” Next up is soprano Andrea Lett:
What do the recent announcements of cancelled 2020/21 opera seasons mean for your professional future?
“I have been viewing this point in my life as a ‘hustle’ era. My goals have been centered around making connections, auditioning, and singing for different companies/organizations to broaden my circle as much as possible. Having a year’s worth of a gap in the middle of my hustling wasn’t something I necessarily anticipated, however, I want this to be a year of growth, even if that means I won’t be networking in the ways that I expected.
“I don’t know the extent of the impact that the cancellation of this next season will have on my long-term future. I don’t know what opera will look like in 2021-22. But any artist I have met has been creative, versatile, personable, and incredibly hard working. We work well under pressure, and are able to adapt. I think it will ultimately be a good thing for me to have to apply my skills and habits to something new.”
How much time have you spent considering a new career?
“I am always considering new careers. On a small scale, I am always looking for side hustles that I enjoy, because that is something most people have to do in this industry regardless.
“When it comes to the larger ‘career’ picture, I re-evaluate ALL the time – and I think that’s healthy. The reason I’m still doing this is because I WANT to do it. I take an ‘inventory’ of my skills, and I look at jobs that require those same skills. I also re-evaluate my goals, and what I want, because those things can change as well.
“I’ve given myself permission to walk away when I want, knowing that I am capable of doing other things, and that I can be happy in a number of different work environments.
At the end of the day, I choose to be in this industry, and I don’t want to feel obligated or guilted into it. I’m learning to set boundaries, and I’m learning to prioritize, which I believe is extremely important.”
What plans, singing or otherwise, do you have for the coming season?
“Right now I’m doing a landscaping job and I love it. It’s just seasonal, but after months of quarantine, I knew I wanted something that was outside, and something that would get me physically active. Luckily I have done it before so getting hired was pretty easy. When fall/winter arrives, I have know idea what I’ll do. But in the meantime, my mental health has been much better, and as a bonus I have a pretty radical sock/shoe tan-line.
“As far as the singing goes: I’m working on a virtual project with Manitoba Underground Opera called Green Envelopes which I am really enjoying, and I’ll be part of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra‘s ReComposed Season, and Manitoba Opera‘s Opening Season Concert (a distanced/virtual replacement for the cancellation of their production of Sweeney Todd). Other than that I’m in the same boat as a lot of other artists where the season is pretty sparse.
“The cancellations are scary. The uncertainty is unsettling. However, I think these circumstances have given me a chance to explore possibilities, and I don’t find that part of it threatening or scary. I mourn the loss of work for artists, and the hurt and confusion in the world in so many ways. But honestly, I was forced to slow down and re-think what I want in my life, and it became very healing for me.
“I’ve enjoyed my time at home with my family. I was homeschooling my five-year-old stepson Jackson, I learned how to make homemade slime, and we played with kinetic sand and play-dough pretty much every day. I also can now sing the Spongebob Squarepants theme song from memory, so I am continuing to broaden my musical pallet. Jackson learned to ride a two-wheeler and the whole neighbourhood watched and cheered because everyone was home and (let’s face it) also very bored. I made a considerable effort to call many friends and family members regularly to check in and talk and catch up.
“At the end of the day, this time allowed me to make connections with people I love, not just people I want to work for.”