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?” First up is Toronto-based baritone, Andrew Adridge.
What do the recent announcements of cancelled 2020/21 opera seasons mean for your professional future?
“I think that the fact that we are here, asking these questions, is an indication that there are significant issues with our industry that we finally have the space to focus on. I am not in a position where the cancellation of upcoming seasons affects me too greatly because I do not rely on my art as my primary source of income. However, many of my friends and colleagues do, and the fact that their livelihoods are destroyed because of one year of cancellations speaks volumes to the need for greater support and advocacy for the arts by every member of our community.
“In the light of past and upcoming cancellations, it is more important than ever that we strip away the stigma surrounding concurrent careers. My professional life has never been governed solely by opera because for most singers that is impossible. I mourn the art that will be lost because of the pandemic and my heart goes out to my friends and colleagues who will inevitably suffer due to these unforeseen circumstances. There was a major project that I was a part of that I hurt for due to the hardworking team and the message behind it, though I know that it will be shared in its time.
“But I have another job; in fact, I have had many other jobs. In many ways, my professional future will be the exact same: a gig here or there, and filling my days with work in other fields. To me that is perfectly fine. The question I would ask in return is: How many people now think less of me as an artist due to my ability to say that so freely?”
How much time have you spent considering a new career?
“Many singers are constantly under scrutiny for their decision to work in sectors outside of opera. This taboo needs to be broken down. I have long had a concurrent career, and not only because of the need for one, but also because I love doing other things. If we are entertaining notions of other career avenues, it is because the vast majority of artists cannot survive on their art alone and don’t want to cheapen their artistic integrity by taking on projects they are not passionate about just to be able to survive off of that art. That isn’t exclusive to the pandemic, that is all the time.
“In Canada, artists, opera singers specifically, are beginning to not only examine how we can impact our communities with the art we create, but are realizing that there is a need to do so. This in turn will prove to the powers in control of our financial future, specifically at government levels, that what we do has value beyond the surface level of industry and that it finds purpose in searching for authenticity in our society. It will also do a job to show society that there is a place of belonging for them in opera.
“That all being said, the stigma around concurrent careers needs to be abolished. I have worked as a server, a bartender, an event manager, an event coordinator, and an opera administrator. That career experience doesn’t come second to me. By providing me with life experience and financial stability, they have all aided my ability to create and helped me grow as a person and as an artist. As far as I am concerned, my art isn’t defined by my career; it is my essence of being. There is no consideration of ‘a new career’ because that essence cannot be taken away.”
What plans, singing or otherwise, do you have for the coming season?
“I care about this art form too much to sit passively while there is still work to be done in the industry. We need to properly create a sense of a Canadian identity in order to ensure the industry’s survival beyond the current generation. Without saying too much, I have been working on a project with some other dedicated individuals to explore that change. This is going to be my focus. Aside from that, I am going to sing, write, work, and exist. That is all I can do. I don’t hold the key to what the future looks like for our industry but I believe this is the time to check-in with ourselves and reignite the purpose of our art beyond industry. Next season, I intend to live in that purpose holistically.”