The Pulse: July 5, 2024

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  • 26°C: Sunny. High 26. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • Red/Blue/Yellow: The High Level Bridge will be lit red, blue, and yellow for the Independence Day of Venezuela. (details)

A person stands on stage next to a bed with a transparent orb on top

Edmonton Opera innovates and collaborates to keep costs low

By Ben Roth

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)


Headlines: July 5, 2024

By Kevin Holowack

  • The 40th annual Edmonton International Street Performers Festival will happen downtown from July 5-14. This year's theme is "looking back, looking forward," spotlighting both new and returning performers. A special 40th anniversary show is set for July 5 from 10pm to 10:45pm in Churchill Square. The festival is free to the public, although audiences are encouraged to pay performers.
  • The City of Edmonton will do additional public engagement on a new Residential Parking Program after council voted to pause the rollout and return to the system that was in effect before May 31. Residents have been critical of administration's plan to phase out most of the 19 residential permit parking zones and increase the price of a permit to $120 in some areas. Councillors Anne Stevenson and Ashley Salvador, who supported some proposed changes, say further public engagement is needed. Council's urban planning committee will revisit the issue in early 2025.
  • Edmonton city council unanimously passed a motion from Coun. Andrew Knack calling for a "transition strategy" that transfers costs for homeless-related services and infrastructure to the Alberta government. A report shows the City spent $91 million in 2023 on homeless-related services, up 23% from 2022. Knack and other council members have repeatedly said the province should do more to address homelessness, which falls under provincial jurisdiction. A provincial spokesperson said the government would review an "itemized list" of programs and services if Edmonton sends one, and then "discuss a path forward."
  • A pair of newlyweds from Edmonton and their wedding guests were left stranded in Jamaica by the WestJet strike as Hurricane Beryl caused widespread damage in the Caribbean this week, CBC reported. WestJet began cancelling flights on June 28 after the airline's mechanics went on strike, and nearly 300 flights were still cancelled by time the strike ended that same day.
  • Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault, who is also the federal employment minister, was cleared of allegations that he broke conflict of interest rules. The allegations that set off a preliminary probe were based on text messages between Boissonnault's former business associates and someone named "Randy." Canada's ethics commissioner said there is no information to suggest wrongdoing other than the name "Randy" appearing in the texts. Boissonnault was facing near-daily questioning from Conservatives over the issue, CBC reported.
  • Annette Trimbee was reappointed for a second term as president and vice-chancellor of MacEwan University. In her first term, Trimbee helped lay the groundwork for growth, led the development of the university's strategic vision, and secured a provincial investment in the new School of Business building, the university said.
  • Alberta Innovates is receiving $10 million in federal funding to establish a facility for producing, testing, and commercializing technology that converts bitumen into carbon fibre. Expected to open in 2025, the facility will have open-access and be run by InnoTech Alberta at the Edmonton Research Park. The first users will be participants in Alberta Innovates' Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge.
  • Around 90 elective orthopedic surgeries scheduled at the Royal Alexandra Hospital were postponed or diverted after the University of Alberta School of Medicine moved its orthopedic residency program from the Royal Alex to the University of Alberta Hospital. Alberta Health Services said it is exploring orthopedic surgical capacity elsewhere. Paul Parks, president of the Alberta Medical Association, said the loss of orthopedic residents at the Royal Alex may indicate a systemic problem stemming from an outdated pay system pulling doctors away from specialized roles.
  • Edmonton playwright, historian, and drag performer Darrin Hagen was selected as the new Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta drama department. Hagen says he is working on a play about the "Pansy Craze," which refers to a period of heightened popularity of queer bars and drag performances in the United States during the 1920-33 prohibition.
  • Todd Babiak, a former Edmonton-based writer now working as CEO of Brand Tasmania, wrote an op-ed encouraging Edmontonians to reflect on the qualities that make the city unique, as demonstrated by the recent Edmonton Oilers playoffs run. "Find the meaning in how the city felt in May and June," Babiak wrote. "Harness it and make it permanent. Tell stories of the success all around you, and demonstrate how there is an Edmonton way to solve everything."
A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: July 5-7, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening this weekend in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.