“Toronto needs a second opera stage” is , in some ways, a very weird thing to write. There’s no lack of opera companies or opera performing spaces in Toronto. Besides the 800 pound gorilla of the COC we have a specialist “baroque” company, innovative indies like Opera 5 and Against the Grain and a surprisingly flourishing Canadian contemporary opera scene with Tapestry and Soundstreams. We also have two very decent student programs and any number of companies competing for the “concert peformance of mainstream rep with piano accompaniment and journeyman singers in a hall of questionable acoustics” market. So what am I talking about? I’m talking about the lack of opportunity to see staged performances with orchestra of less known works, even fairly mainstream 20th/21st century works plus contemporary opera from outside Canada. The COC seems to have settled into a pattern of doing one “modern” work per season for some definition of “modern” that covers anything post Puccini basically. Given the need to sell 15,000 tickets per run that tends to translate into fairly safe fare like Britten and Richard Strauss most of the time. I’m not grumbling (much). It’s an economic imperative but it means that works as mainstream as Wozzeck or Lulu come around about once every twenty years at best.
I’m not sure what the business model for such a venture would be. Clearly, it’s one that has to work on a lot less than 15,000 tickets per run. Probably 3-4,000 would be more realistic. Maybe it would need to stick mainly to works scored for smaller ensembles. There are plenty to choose from. One option might be a second company along the lines of Chicago Opera Theatre, though where the deep pockets for that would come from I have no idea. Another could be some sort of second brand for the COC; perhaps combining the COC’s marketing clout with the economics of a smaller venue, such as the Daniels Spectrum along with some of the entrepreneurial spirit of the indie companies. A third might be for one of the indie companies to grow into that space. Maybe it’s a pipedream but I’d like to think that one day it might be possible to see works by the likes of Weir or Reimann without crossing the Atlantic.