Edmonton Opera innovates and collaborates to keep costs low

Edmonton Opera innovates and collaborates to keep costs low

· The Pulse

The growing financial challenge of producing and marketing a large show will now see Edmonton Opera and Edmonton Symphony Orchestra share marketing costs and profits on Die Fledermaus, the opener for the opera's 2024-2025 season.

Joel Ivany, artistic director at the Edmonton Opera, told Taproot the collaboration on Die Fledermaus was born out of post-pandemic challenges in the arts and a desire to cut unneeded costs wherever possible.

This won't be the first time the opera and orchestra have collaborated, though the relationship has been more transactional in the past, with the opera hiring the orchestra to play music, Ivany said.

"This is the first (show) where we've kind of looked at our model of how we've done business together differently," Ivany said. "And so we're both a little bit more invested in the success of how well it goes, meaning we've got some different levels of commitment as it relates to how many tickets we sell, for example. So, it's kind of this shared model of we're both in this together and we're both wanting this to succeed."

Ivany said that a larger show can cost almost $500,000 once a venue and singers are paid for. Venue and singers are two factors the Edmonton Opera has been experimenting with since the COVID-19 pandemic, trying new spaces and creating shows with fewer singers, Ivany said. Collaborating with the orchestra is yet another measure that Ivany hopes reduces costs so that the show can continue at the size and spectacle that people expect.

The new collaboration builds on an already existing relationship, too. "So you can't do opera without an orchestra, typically," Ivany said. "In sort of the base way, we've been collaborating for many years."

Venues are the other place to trim costs. An example of an unusual venue is Aquarius, part of the opera's upcoming season, which will take place at the Telus World of Science Edmonton's Ziedler Dome instead of at a typical theatre. Ivany had the idea to use the dome for the galaxy-themed opera after visiting it with his kids. Other new locations the opera has tried include Opera al Fresco at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden and Opera Pub, which has been taking place at the Blue Chair for two years.

Last year, the opera also made use of the Citadel Theatre's Hub and Heart program, which allowed them to use the Maclab Theatre for their production of Das Rheingold. The plan is to continue that collaboration (as well as the story told in the opera) in the upcoming season with Die Walküre.

What ideas are there for the future? Ivany said he'd love to work with someone in the video game or augmented reality industries. "That's one that I'd love to experiment with a little bit more," he said. "I think we're just scratching the surface in terms of what that could be. And then I just love immersive experiences." Ivany also mentioned escape rooms as another idea for the future.

The next opera showing will be Opera Al Fresco on Aug. 16, followed by Die Fledermaus on Nov. 7.

Photo: Dion Mazorelle stars as Alberich in the Edmonton Opera's performance of Das Rheingold last season. (Nanc Price)