We can only have the impact we have on the world of opera because Calgary is full of incredible artists and community members who want to support creativity and connection. Calgary Opera hires over 300 artists from our community every year. Picture that for a moment.
Three hundred. That’s a lot of artists.
We bring 8 of North America’s most undeniably talented trained young singers to Calgary, to live and perform here, every year. Only three other companies in Canada offer this kind of opportunity, and the only other western Canadian company with a young artist program hires a fraction of the emerging singers that we do. (It’s Vancouver Opera, and they take on up to 6 young artists each season.)
We work with Alberta Ballet, the Old Trouts, Calgary Youth Orchestra, Cantare Children’s Choir, Honens, Banff Centre, Calgary Film… the list goes on… and, of course, the incomparable Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. It would be a real challenge to find a theatre or musical artist in Calgary who doesn’t have some degree of connection to Calgary Opera. For some artists, stage managers and tech specialists, we’re their primary contract for the year.
We keep artists in Calgary, because we help them make the living they need to keep exploring their craft.
…and all of that doesn’t even begin to take into account the impact we have on our patrons and beyond. So let’s consider the people offstage—the community we build and connect with through opera.
Why do we care so much about what we do? Why Calgary Opera?
Our mainstage shows are big. We invite over 2,000 people into the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium for every performance, which adds up to about 15,000 people per year. That’s because we only have 9 shows per season—big shows, that is.
Because when we say big, we mean big. The sets are immense and immersive. The singing is loud. Really, heart-grippingly loud. The house is filled with thousands of Calgarians, talking and laughing together between acts and sharing the experience of the action onstage when the house lights are down.
These people are familiar friends and new friends, and Calgary Opera is a place where staff, artists and audience connect: to feel, to experience, and to grow together.
We believe in growth.
It’s part of our commitment to creating new works. It also drives us to bring our unique talents to the city around us.
Calgary Opera performs in elementary schools. Not one or two elementary schools, but 35 every year. Our McPhee Artists tour around Calgary and other communities in Alberta with a (very nifty) portable set, which changes each year, with each show. They entertain and take questions from up to 20,000 students. Imagine the impact a live performance by professional, postgraduate-trained opera singers can have on young minds.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Calgary Opera safely worked two years in a row to offer a digital opera for young audiences to all educators in Alberta for free. Over 108,000 students across Alberta watched a virtual tour of Hansel & Gretel in 2021, and 110,000 students watched the following year’s The Brothers Grimm. Calgary Opera intends to keep bringing opera directly into this many students spaces by offering virtual tours every other moving forward.
From both live in-person and the high quality virtual tours School Tours we get to see the beautiful thank-you cards from these students and their teachers every year. Calgary Opera is deeply dedicated to this program. We go out on the road in -30 degree weather because for some of these kids, it’s the only professional live performance they’ll ever see. And it changes what they believe the world can be.
Still not sure what Calgary Opera does… for Calgary?
Community Engagement, Master Classes and Family Concerts
Since 2021, Calgary Opera’s Community Ambassador Program has worked with a diversity of partners in the Calgary community on projects that range from single event to eight-month long programs. The Community Ambassador Program has a common goal in all projects: Offer Calgarians accessible opportunities to come together, to listen, to learn, to make music, and to connect with one another through opera and song. Community partners have included the Calgary Board of Education, LINKages, National AccessArts Centre, KidZinc, Skipping Stone Foundation and Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association.
Take a look at our Community Ambassadors work:
Each year, we open our home in the Mamdani Opera Centre to the community for access to a variety of events. Three times a year, we offer free Master Classes with some of Canada’s most esteemed vocal coaches. It’s an invaluable chance to learn from the best, so we don’t put a price tag on that opportunity, either. Each holiday season, Calgary Opera offers a production for families. In December 2022 this was Stone Soup, a show that centred on themes of generosity and kindness. Other events throughout the year include community engagement events like a free community showing of The Brothers Grimm which welcomed over 250 of Calgary Operas neighbours in for viewing, free popcorn and free cake in celebration of the organization’s 50th Anniversary.
In fall 2022, Calgary Opera furtherer expanded its community engagement with Opera 212, a series of free opera-focused events aimed at reaching each of the Calgary’s 212 neighbourhoods.
Let’s Create an Opera
Schools have lost arts funding. This isn’t a secret. And we know that art is crucial in cognitive development—that it teaches us how to solve problems, empathize with others and express ourselves.
Calgary Opera chooses 3 Calgary schools from a pool of applicants each year to participate in the Let’s Create an Opera program. We bring a writer, composer and director into each of these schools to create an opera… with the students. They are involved in the writing, music and production details, and then they perform their creation for their families and communities. It’s incredible what can come from a group of young people with stories to tell.
Supporting New Works
In 2021, Calgary Opera began its Opera Lab program which supports Canadian artists in new opera development from concept to curtain.
Building on the important work of its 2021 Opera Labs, Calgary Opera is continuing to support the creation of the Indigenous-led opera Namwayut. The Namwayut project is a new way of creating opera based on an Indigenous model, led by Indigenous artists. The creative team is working collaboratively to create an opera together—allowing singers, librettist, and composers to all have an equal voice in the inspiration and creation of the piece.
Calgary Opera’s Allegro Group is a community for people 35 and under. We have a vision of a Calgary that knows the value of the arts because it’s been grown into our lives. Allegro members get really good seats, they have private receptions, they make new friends, and they do it for less than $100 every season.
Every time the Allegro Group gets together at the Opera, other patrons stop by to ask us, “What’s Allegro?” We tell them exactly what it is: it’s our way of bringing young Calgarians together to experience opera for an affordable price, to get to know each other, and to fall in love with art in our community.
At the 2019 Allegro Group for La Bohème, one older patron laughed, “‘Come to the Opera,’ I said to my son. He said, ‘There won’t be anyone like me there.’ And look at this. Look at all these young people. I love it.”
Our building needs help…
The Mamdani Opera Centre is our home. In addition to our mainstage productions at the Jubilee, we produce at least 9 performances each season at the Mamdani Opera Centre, in the building of the old Wesley Church on the corner of 7th St. and 14th Ave. SW in the Beltline.
We’re a community facility: the list of other non-profit groups that use our space is long and spans everything from professional choirs to indie theatre companies to Pride celebrations.
But our building is run-down, and we’re having trouble keeping it accessible for everyone.
Right now, we need to do two simple things: paint and replace our carpet. Our paint and carpet were expected to last 5 years. It’s been 13.
If you can help us match a grant and give our space the upgrades it needs to continue hosting the community, we’d love to hear from you.
And we couldn’t do what we do without you.
Aside from our immediate surroundings, the biggest barrier facing Calgary Opera is the reality that each donation matters. If we covered our costs with ticket sales, ticket prices would begin at $300 each.
Find out more about donation, sponsorship and other ways to invest in Calgary Opera at https://calgaryopera.com/donate and https://calgaryopera.com/sponsor.
We’re looking forward to talking with you about ways you can support us, and how we can keep working for our community as your Calgary Opera.