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 baritone Samuel Chan:
What do the recent announcements of cancelled 2020/21 opera seasons mean for your professional future?
“When our societal social distancing began in March, my first and foremost concern was the health and safety of all my friends and family. The most prominent life lesson I’ve learned recently has been how to deal with stress and anxiety. The aspect of my life that has suffered the most has been my mental health, due to the anxiety of uncertainty and the worry brought on by the pandemic, and I am so thankful for my colleagues, friends, and family for reminding me that our interpersonal connections with each other matter so much more than anything else in life. Professionally speaking, I feel blessed that most of the companies that I was to work with have either rescheduled their productions for future seasons, and/or have found ways to maintain contracts through online/virtual creation. I have learned so much about the positives and negatives of digital artistic creation, and believe that ‘work’ in the future will be a balance between live and virtual music making.
“Yes, the cancellations/rescheduling have had a massive impact on income and job security, but I am a staunch believer that everything that happens in the universe has a reason behind it, and that artistic creation is always is a direct reaction to our world’s circumstances. I have been so inspired by the creative reaction my colleagues have had to social-distancing, and have thoroughly enjoyed watching/listening/singing as part of the online content we’re now sharing more than ever. The resilience of culture through our communities creativity has only solidified my desire to connect and create collaboratively in the future, both virtually as well as in person.”
How much time have you spent considering a new career?
“Due to the circumstances of self-isolation plus the now public awareness of racism and sexism in our business, this time has actually been more of a time of self education and self reflection. I believe the universe has a reason behind our social distancing/self isolating, and I believe this time was meant for all of us to question, evaluate, and learn from our collective past ignorance to cultural and societal issues that directly impact us in our day to day lives.
“I’ve also been finding myself asking what type of artist do I want to be from this point onwards, as this cultural awareness has also showcased how we all play a part in the systemic issues in our work culture. As an Asian artist in a genre that is still predominantly created for and performed for a white majority, I wish to utilize all the things I’ve learned over the past few months to inform how I perform, how I teach, and how I connect with others, may it be in the capacity as a performer, as an educator, and/or as a colleague.”
What plans, singing or otherwise, do you have for the coming season?
“This upcoming season has brought quite a few virtual projects to the forefront that I’m very excited for, as well as a few live performance opportunities that are coming together through intensive social distancing measures. I believe that the universe has plans for us all, and I’m feeling so blessed that positive opportunities have come my way due to the current world circumstances. I’m most excited for upcoming work that directly comments on our societal issues, as I believe this time has allowed more of this work to be celebrated and showcased.
“One group that I’m so excited to virtually connect with are my friends at Wear Yellow Proudly, an initiative through Aural Compass Projects, who strive to fight the xenophobia in our society, especially since the effects of COVID-19 have lead to physical and verbal attacks to Asian peoples across North America. In addition, I’m so excited to be planning an upcoming virtual recital with an organization based in the US, that have allowed us to create a program that will directly address and comment on our western cultural understanding of Asian cultural identity. This recital opportunity has lead to a lot of self exploration of my cultural heritage as a Canadian of Singaporean Chinese descent, which is a topic I’ve never had a chance to explore previously. I’ve been finding myself more in touch with my ethnic and cultural roots than ever before, and am so excited to shed light on a different world perspective for others to explore.
“Non-singing wise, I look forward to more time with family, more time to focus on personal growth, and more gradual in person connection with my friends whom I miss dearly.”