11 Oct September at U of T Opera
I had been thinking about what I would wear on Thursday September 8th the entire summer. It seems
trivial, and really it is, but I couldn’t stop visualizing myself walking through Queens Park with a
Barenreiter in hand looking like an operatic Carrie Bradshaw. This was complete fantasy in more ways
than one – I use an iPad for music, we’re putting on contemporary shows that wouldn’t exist with the
coveted blue cover, and I own exactly 0 designer items. Still, as a person from a village with a population
of 250, Toronto has always been some mysterious land of lights that took a 4-hour drive to reach.
Being accepted into the UofT opera school still feels like a fever dream but I want to take a
moment to pause and reflect as I end the first month with my cohort. Before we all met each other, a
schedule was sent out covering the important dates for the year ahead. Besides feelings of overwhelm
as I realized that this year was going to test me musically and personally, I was in a full panic on the
name of the first class of the year: Sing In. After a frenzied email to the Opera Division address, I
discovered that this was a casual opportunity for everyone to meet each other musically. The 8th came,
and I brought ‘Tu n’es pas beau, tu n’es pas riche’ (You’re not handsome, you’re not rich) from La
Périchole, one of my comic pieces that details all the misgivings of the male love interest. I was set to
perform with Christine Bae and we had arranged a guest appearance from my newly found tenor friend,
Lyndon Ladeur. We followed a hilarious performance of Gilbert and Sullivan by my new classmate, Ben
Done – which of course, was received with resounding applause and laughter. No pressure. Despite my
nerves, with the help of Christine’s fabulous playing and Lyndon’s surprise cameo sung from the
audience, I think it went well.
During the first week, I managed to get a job in a church and started my position as a Teaching
Assistant for the Opera division. If I’m being honest, that first Friday was mostly a blur of syllabi. In the
first full week of my masters, we got a real taste of the program as we would be experiencing it through
the year. Every day featured masterclass style lessons in acting, interpretation, repertoire, audition,
diction, technique, and style. The opportunities for experiential learning at UofT are unlike anything I’ve
ever experienced. For us – for opera – there isn’t a better nor different way to learn, especially when
guided by some of the most respected people in the industry. The most exciting thing for me, so far, has
been the assignment of Octavian from Der Rosenkavalier in The Presentation of the Rose scene.
Working on this piece with my incredible colleague, Emily Rocha, has both challenged me and shown me
new sides of my voice.
Baritone Elliot Madore working with Soprano Cassandra Amorim during the Riki Turofsky Master Class in Voice on September 23, 2022. [Pictured L – R: Elliot Madore, Spencer Kryzanowski, Cassandra Amorim]
One month in and I’m already feeling like my voice and outlook are changing. Going forward
with the knowledge of the skill level and passion of my colleagues scares me but I feel like I’m in the
exact place that I need to be to foster a career. September 8th 2022, I wore bright blue Fluevog shoes
with neon orange laces, a vintage 50s dress with green and blue tractor print, and a brand new backpack
my sister got for me as an early birthday present. I know that every time I put on this outfit, I’ll be
reminded of my walk to school on the first day of the next stage of my career.
-Ellita Gagner, mezzo-soprano