Oct 10, 2019 @ 7:30 pm
The Way I See It
American mezzo-soprano and author Laurie Rubin (Do You Dream in Color: Insights from a Girl Without Sight), and pianist Liz Upchurch will speak to their unique experiences as individuals with blindness and vision loss navigating the world of opera, and how this element of their identity has informed their creative process. The concert will be directed by Aria Umezawa.
Each evening will feature a lecture-recital followed by a talk-back panel with the artists and guest speakers, to give audience members a chance to further explore the themes discussed in each concert. Talk-back panels will be curated and hosted by Margaret Cormier. Audience Activation Points around the venue will be designed by Matthew Vaile, and will create a more interactive experience.
“We believe that operatic medium can be progressive and inclusive, and can be used to frame dialogue around social change.” says Aria Umezawa, AO co-Founder, “AO is committed to producing works that exemplify truth, awe, and rebellion. With this concert series we hope to rethink the recital format, and create a space that allows the audience to engage with challenging or new topics.”
Mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin has received high praise from The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini, who wrote that she possesses “compelling artistry,” “communicative power,” and that her voice displays “earthy, rich, and poignant qualities.” She is the author of “Do You Dream in Color? Insights From a Girl Withought Sight” published by Seven Stories Press in 2012.
Ms. Rubin has performed a number of operatic roles, including the role of the voice/witch in Lisa Bielawa’s award-winning, episodic TV Opera “Vireo, the spiritual biography of a witch’s accuser,” broadcast on KCET’s Art Bound program. Laurie made her Ravinia debut in concert with Frederica Von Stade in September 2015, and will return in 2019 in a solo recital. She was also the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Mrs. Noye in Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde,” under the baton of Dr. Samuel Wong, the lead role of Karen in Gordon Beeferman’s The Rat Land at New York City Opera’s VOX Festival, Penelope in Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses at the Greenwich Music Festival and Elle in Poulenc’s The Human Voice at the Greenwich Music Festival and the Ohana Arts Festival. Ms. Rubin has also performed concerts of new music with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. She has collaborated with and premiered works by composers John Harbison, Gabriela Lena Frank, Keeril Makan, Bruce Adolphe, Noam Sivan and Gordon Beeferman.
Pianist, vocal coach and pedagogue Liz Upchurch performs with the top Canadian and international vocal artists and is currently in her 20th season as Head of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. She has performed and broadcast solo recitals, chamber music and song recitals across Europe and North America with the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and the CBC. For 20 years, Ms. Upchurch has trained an entire generation of Canadian singers and pianists as Head of the COC Ensemble Studio. In addition to training singers for their first major operatic roles on stage, she also nurtures their artistry through recital, in particular as part of the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. She has curated and performed in over 100 concerts through the series since its inception, working alongside some of today’s most significant operatic voices, including composers John Adams, Kaija Saariaho and Ana Sokolović, and singers Adrianne Pieczonka, Barbara Hannigan and Sondra Radvanovsky.
Aria Umezawa is a director/consultant whose practice is focused on innovation and social impact. She recently completed an Adler Fellowship with San Francisco Opera (SFO)– the first stage director to be awarded the fellowship in fifteen years. She was the first Canadian stage director to participate in the Merola Opera Program in 2016, where she directed the Grand Finale to critical acclaim.
In 2019, Aria will lead a Design Thinking Sprint for Opera.ca around addressing the perceived gap between artist training and professional opportunities. During her time as an Adler Fellow, Aria curated and directed off-site SF OPERA LAB POP-Ups in night clubs around the Bay Area; developed an Intro to Opera Talk for the Bravo! Club (SFO’s Young Professional Group) and participated in Design Thinking Sprints focused on audience engagement. She also led a Design Thinking Sprint around activating the War Memorial Opera House for SFO’s production of Jake Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life.
An advocate for social change in the opera industry, Aria recently developed Safe to Run: Bystander Intervention Training for the Rehearsal Room with Opera McGill and the San Francisco Opera Center and presented on the topic of Anti-Harassment Policies and Stage Intimacy Techniques at the OPERA America Conference in June 2019. She was engaged as an artistic consultant on a new production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly co-produced by Opera in the Heights and Pacific Opera Projects. In 2018 she was a speaker on the Gender Equity in Opera panel at the inaugural Opera.ca Opera Changing Worlds Education Summit. Aria’s writing on the practice of whitewash casting in opera was published in The Globe and Mail in 2015.
Aria is a co-founder of the independent opera company, Opera 5, and served as its Artistic Director until 2017. Her work in bringing new audiences to opera prompted a feature on Flare.com entitled Screw the Status Quo: Meet the Millennial Who Made Opera Cool. Selected directing credits include: (La) void humaine (Against the Grain Theatre), Christmas With SOL3 MIO (San Francisco Opera); Hamlet (West Edge Opera); and an immersive interpretation of Die Fledermaus (Opera 5).