Joel Ivany: Continuing an important era for Opera at Banff Centre

Joel Ivany

Photo by: Kari Medig for Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Media Release | September 9, 2021 | Banff, AB

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is delighted to announce that Joel Ivany will continue for three more years as Artistic Director leading Banff Centre’s Opera. At the end of this new term, Ivany will have been Artistic Director for Opera for 10 years, marking 75+ years of opera programming at Banff Centre.

Banff Centre is thrilled to continue to work with Joel as together we build on the tremendous legacy of Opera on our spectacular campus in Banff National Park. Joel’s work at Banff Centre perfectly embodies the vision we have for the artists and leaders who participate– coming together to innovate and inspire, collaborate and create, amplifying each other’s voices in ways that make the world a better place.

Janice Price, President and CEO, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

I couldn’t be more energized and honoured to continue my relationship with Banff Centre. I’m excited to see how we can support opera artists as individuals and lift them up as we emerge out of a very challenging time.

Joel Ivany, Artistic Director, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

The Opera program at Banff Centre was founded in 1949. Over the decades Banff Centre has featured opera productions almost every season, including the premieres of two original Canadian productions – Filumena and Frobisher – as well as Banff Centre's 75th-anniversary tribute performance of Dido and Aeneas.

In 2014, Joel Ivany was appointed Director of Opera. He spearheaded a unique collaboration between Banff Centre, the Canadian Opera Company, and Against the Grain Theatre, the Toronto-based opera company that Ivany co-founded. This enabled Banff Centre to continue to re-imagine opera for a 21st Century audience through its innovative programs and performances. With a focus on the individual, while innovating the traditional canon and also exploring new works, artists have developed essential skills to thrive in today’s shifting landscape. Examples of these recent works include #UncleJohn at the Cave and Basin national historic site, Canadian composer Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus, the five-time Dora award-winning co-production of Orphée⁺, Nicole Lizée’s immersive opera No One’s Safe at the Leighton Artist Studios, and, most recently, the commission of composer Ian Cusson and librettist Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild.

Opera in the 21st Century

A highlight of the current Banff Centre opera programming is Opera in the 21st Century, a training program for emerging artists, seeking to challenge the conventions of operatic creation and interpretation. Joining Ivany once again in the program are acclaimed Philadelphia-based soprano Karen Slack, and Ian Cusson, a prolific Métis French Canadian composer.

With restrictions placed on in-person engagement by the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020-21 the Banff Opera team continued the tradition of challenging convention, offering a creative, online space for 19 multidisciplinary opera-interacting artists in four three-week modules over nine months. This space was designed to provide a platform for singers of various backgrounds, engaged in purposeful conversation to understand a Eurocentric art form’s place in an increasingly equity-seeking society.

In 2022, the Opera program is planned to take place on campus, while also retaining some online engagement. In the meantime, through the Fall of 2021, Banff Centre aims to be gradually bringing artists back to its campus on Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain in Treaty 7 territory.  More details are available here.

“This year of opera at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity has been unlike any year since opera began at the Centre in 1949. A group of 19 participants from Canada, the US and the UK gathered online in November 2020 during a global pandemic and began unpacking issues around equity, inclusion and diversity in Opera. We created safe spaces for tough and meaningful conversations, lending support to our incredibly gifted artists and guiding the development of their individual projects that I hope will be shared with the world.”
- Karen Slack, co-director of Opera in the 21st Century at Banff Centre:

“We used technology to heal through this time, stay connected in art and create new work. We know that we will be taking away an incredible amount of learning and work situations that we believe will continue to support the changes we believe we need to see in this industry going forward.”
- Ian Cusson, co-director of Opera in the 21st Century

We acknowledge, with deep respect and gratitude, our home on the side of Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain, in the beautiful and special territory of Treaty 7. We recognize the past, present, and future generations of Stoney Nakoda, Blackfoot, Tsuut'ina Nations, and Métis from Region 3, who help us steward this land, as well as honour and celebrate this place.

About Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
Founded in 1933, Banff Centre is a learning organization built upon an extraordinary legacy of excellence in artistic and creative development. What started as a single course in drama has grown to become the global organization leading in arts, culture, and creativity across dozens of disciplines. From our home in the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity aims to inspire everyone who attends our campus - artists, leaders, and thinkers - to unleash their creative potential and realize their unique contribution to society through cross-disciplinary learning opportunities, world-class performances, and public outreach.