On Thursday, May 16, Toronto’s familiar social scene regulars and arts lovers donned their most glamorous fairytale-inspired (and extremely photo-worthy) frocks and hit the stunning Four Seasons Centre for the 15th annual Operanation fundraiser event.
As the name suggests, the opera – more specifically, the Canadian Opera Company (COC) – is the star of the show at this multi-faceted event. Part party, part performance, and part the best excuse to take Friday morning off of work, Operanation: Tall Tales did not disappoint as the iconic Four Seasons Centre – home of the COC – transformed into a fantasy fairytale-themed land.
Hosted by Danika Lorèn, soprano and COC Ensemble Studio graduate, this year’s whimsical and hot-ticket event featured a moody purple, secret garden-esque floral installation from Pink Twig that offered a popular photo backdrop, bite-size culinary innovations from The Chase Hospitality Group, signature cocktails courtesy of Spirit of York Distillery Co. and an exclusive non-alcoholic placebo cocktail from Rosalinda Restaurant in partnership with Seedlip.
“Operanation is really one of a kind; it’s like no other event that the COC puts on,” said Alexander Neef, the General Director of the COC. “It’s for a very specific demographic, as opposed to our regular audience, so there’s a more defined goal, which makes it special. It’s our way of opening the opera house to the younger end of our audience and beyond.”
A decided – and well documented – highlight of the evening was the live entertainment; a captivating mash-up performance that fused opera with the sounds of musical guest Joseph of Mercury, a Toronto singer, songwriter and producer is best known for his hit “Find You Inside,” which was featured on Elton John’s Beats1 program Rocket Hour, and co-writing Majid Jordan’s “Something About You.”
“When Operanation started, it wasn’t so connected to the opera; it was more of a generic party for young people,” said Neef. “About 10 to 12 years ago, we realized that if we are going to keep doing this, it needed to be connected to the purpose of the company; there needed to be some operatic content; a sense of purpose offered. So, we started strengthening the opera component, which has made it more special.”
The mash-up performances – which have featured Sam Roberts, Broken Social Scene, Arkells, and Nelly Furtado in past years – also make opera more approachable to a younger audience of opera-curious, as it removes any pre-conceived notions that the opera is stuffy, pretentious or, frankly, boring.
“The case we are trying to make it to really humanize the art form and remove barriers to accessibility,” says Need. “We have this group of ten people who have trained to be opera professionals – the COC Ensemble – but they’re really not all that different from other young people. They may have a passion for opera, but it’s not that they live in a silo; they are still regular young people. Just because they’re trained in the opera doesn’t mean they haven’t heard of Beyoncé. The interconnectedness of the music worlds tries to make that point. Just because you love pop doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy opera, and vice versa.”
In addition to the mash-up performance, the sounds of DJ Chippy Nonstop and Karim Olen Ash kept the well-heeled guests out in fine form past the stroke of midnight.
Photos by Nick Lee