Canada Opera Piccola
Canada Opera Piccola. Training program and performing organization, founded in Victoria, BC in 1982 to enable young Canadian singers to receive non-academic, post-graduate level operatic training and to gain performing experience in Canada. Unlike other similar programs, it operated independently of any professional opera company. Léopold Simoneau was the voice teacher, Pierrette Alarie directed the majority of the productions, and J.J. Johannesen was the chief administrator. The program was an outgrowth of the Shawnigan School of Arts (Johannesen International School of the Arts), where Simoneau and Alarie had taught 1978-81 at an Advanced Training Opera Centre, preparing young singers for the performance of two one-act operas at the Victoria International Festival. In 1982 they, together with Johannesen, established Canada Opera Piccola as a separate organization, while still maintaining an affiliation with the Johannesen umbrella organization. (The name Opera Piccola had previously been used for the tour of the summer opera production, which Johannesen had sponsored each fall.) Funding was provided by several sources, including the Canada Council.
Each year twelve singers (who were paid a living stipend) were selected by audition to participate in a three-month summer program including the preparation of at least one opera accompanied by professional orchestra, and often a double-bill as well. The productions were also performed as part of the Victoria International Festival. For several years the double-bill toured - in Quebec (1982), western Canada (1983), British Columbia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island (1984), and Yellowknife, NWT, Grand Prairie, Alta, and Edmonton (1985, the last tour). Repertoire included Il Matrimonio Segreto, Così fan tutte, Albert Herring, Bizet's Don Procopio, and Le nozze di Figaro, among many other works. Conductors included Gilles Auger, Derek Bate, Bryan Balkwill, Guy Belanger, John Greer, William Shookoff, David Speers, and Timothy Vernon. Stage directors other than Alarie included Glynis Leyshon, and Thomas Schweitzer. Wayne Vogan served as music co-ordinator. Many of the singers who participated in the program went on to careers in opera. Canada Opera Piccola did not take place in 1987, and after a shortened season in 1988 it ceased to operate.