Joel Ivany
Joel Ivany with son Amil born shortly after social distancing measures were put in place

Opera Canada‘s Summer 2020 issue has been sent to press and will be available within the next 2 weeks. The issue is dedicated in large part to conversations with Canadian opera artists and company administrators, and how they are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. A special “Letters from home” section focuses on Canada’s new generation of opera artists, like these thoughts from Against the Grain Theatre’s Founder & Artistic Director, Joel Ivany. The best way to support ongoing, professional journalism dedicated to Canada’s opera scene is by subscribing to Opera Canada. Don’t forget, for readers under 30, we’re offering 50% off our regular subscription rate–$15 for 4 regular quarterly issues. As an added FREE bonus, our special 60th anniversary issue will be added to all new and regular subscriptions. We’re busily working on this collector’s edition, due out this October.

Joel Ivany, Founder & Artistic Director, Against the Grain Theatre

How is this pandemic affecting us?  Well, I’m feeling fine, at home, with my wife and two sons. At work, Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) has transitioned to online content under a new brand: AtG TV, where we have a series of interviews, Watch Parties, and our Virtual Opera Pubs.

Joel Ivany
Joel Ivany and Miriam Khalil’s new son, Amil

My son Amil was born nine weeks ago—in the middle of the infamous global pandemic! Unreal. We Googled names meaning hope and ‘Amil’ was one that jumped out to us immediately. His routine (or lack thereof) has definitely influenced home life. My wife (and AtG’s Associate Artistic Director) Miriam Khalil has been amazing. She’s remained incredibly positive and supportive while also being the primary caregiver for this new little life, which has allowed me to focus more on the house. I’m grateful for this time, which I know we will never have again. I constantly need to feel like I am ‘doing,’ but I’m learning to slow down; I love being more present and a part of my family’s lives. I hope that the work/life balance will be more balanced than it was before the pandemic. It has certainly reminded me of what is important in my life, and what keeps me mentally healthy and whole.

Joel Ivany’s home work set-up

When the impact of COVID became a reality, the immediate to-do list in regards to AtG’s new production, Bound, was to re-schedule its world premier. It was heartbreaking to not realize this opera. What I love about the work we do at Against the Grain Theatre is the focus on people. We had a great team for this show and it breaks my heart that they won’t be singing together, they won’t be making each other laugh and sharing in a world premiere together. 

However, we must remain hopeful and patient. We’re lucky at AtG that we can shift fairly quickly. AtG’s raison d’etre is getting put through the tester and that’s good! Why are we here, what are we doing and where should we go? Technology will definitely be a part of it, it has to. Will greater art come out of it? Humans need to be around each other and we will all need to heal in our own ways. My hope is that our collective fears, anxieties, and anger will fade away, and we will emerge from this pandemic with a greater appreciation and thankfulness for the freedom we have, and the art we can make.

Joel Ivany

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