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 mezzo-soprano Maria Soulis:
What do the recent announcements of a cancelled 2020/21 opera season mean for your professional future?
“I am in the fortunate position of not depending solely on my singing engagements for my livelihood. Of course I’m terribly disappointed to have much looked-forward-to contracts postponed or cancelled outright, especially Die Walküre with Pacific Opera Victoria and a concert for voice and string quartet with members of the Canadian Sinfonietta. I don’t know what our industry will look like post-COVID, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to resume performing in some way. If I were just now embarking on a career, it would be a very different story. At this point, I feel that my experience gives me the confidence to know I’ll be able to pick up where I left off, and I hope those who invite me to sing will feel that way, too.”
How much time have you spent considering a new career?
“Having no possibility of performing live has made me think about other outlets for my musical expression, certainly, but I’m reluctant to imagine giving up singing just yet. Perhaps it will mean fewer opportunities, and new ways of reaching audiences and collaborating with musicians remotely. Chamber music has always been a huge love of mine, I have loved creating themed programs with my trio, (William Beauvais, guitar, Tanya Charles Iveniuk, violin) in the last few years, with a focus on Mediterranean repertoire, along with presenting new works. One way to continue creating would be pre-recording shorter programmes with small forces (song recitals or small chamber works), employing professional audio/video technology, then streaming or posting them.
“My agency, Domoney Artists Management has some innovative plans ahead. What is lacking from the live stream and recorded presentations is the mutual communication between performer and listener. Listening is an activity, active, not passive. I miss that both as the giver of music, as well as the receiver. So although this solution wouldn’t be ideal, it would be better than life without making music in any way.”
What plans, singing or otherwise, do you have for the coming season?
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for sure, even without the financial worries that many others in the industry face. I’m leaving myself open to the possibility that some of my cancelled engagements will be rescheduled at a later time. In the meantime, I continue to teach remotely, and also take lessons, doing everything I can to be ready for when opportunity knocks again.”