Quarantine Questions: Isaiah Bell

by | Jun 8, 2020 | Featured, Interviews, News

Victoria-based tenor Isaiah Bell is finding himself more inspired than ever during his social distancing time. New projects, new Instagram accounts, and hopeful predictions from the future – all in his responses to our Quarantine Questions.

Between mid-March and the present, how have you adjusted to this “new normal”?

“I am one of the hated, loathed, and despised ones who has adjusted SUPER well (so far). I love cooking and nesting and puttering and hanging out with my little family. I have always been very project-oriented, and this experience is showing me that the parasitic stress that sometimes (always?) accompanies a project is absolutely self-generated. For the last couple weeks my project brain has clicked onto an Instagram haiku project (writing and hand-illustrating haiku every day: @isaiahisaiahisaiahisaiahisaiah!) and sometimes I will have to remind myself: THIS IS JUST FOR FUN. That’s just one of the ways this break from normal has been a chance for me examine my patterns in a new light, and see what’s useful and what’s not. But re-examining has been the name of the game since March.”

Aside from your ability to work and perform, what do you miss most right now?

“I miss hugs.”

What is a prediction you have for the opera industry during and after this pandemic?

“I may be naive but I think opera is going to experience a Renaissance. Opera is full of extremely hard-working, hyper-focused (not to say obsessive?) people who are smart in the head and smart in the heart. Massive change is scary but it’s also a huge release of creative energy. We are seeing and will see great loss and personal suffering in the industry. I also believe the work and love and energy we have put into this field will not evaporate. We’ll shake off the things that aren’t serving us and find ways to adapt, and the result will be a slimmer, more exciting art form.”

How do you imagine your re-entry into full-time work will look?

“Personally, when we start coming back online, I want to participate more in this conversation about the directions opera can take. BC’s new statement about limits on gatherings until a vaccine is found is an enormous blow to us. But it’s not the end. Obviously my life singing Messiah, etc., in huge halls and churches isn’t going to go back to ‘normal’. But COVID has shown us that meaning and connection can be found in ways we were too busy to see before. I have always found the greatest beauty of our art form to be found in the most intimate and honest moments. Thinking small now could be a real gift to us. I’m developing a major music-theatre-storytelling project with a colleague right now that is loosely structured enough to respond intelligently to the changing states of the pandemic, and it’s very exciting. The rules are changing. I don’t know how it will all ‘look’ when/if this is over, but I have an idea how it will feel. I believe a crisis clarifies our values and goals, and this is a big crisis.”

Isaiah Bell

Jenna Simeonov

Jenna is the editor and co-creator of Schmopera. She also writes for The Globe and Mail and Opera Canada. She’s a pianist and vocal coach, and working with singers is how she fell in love with opera.