Banff Centre is breaking the rules.

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Image of Joel Ivany standing on top of a rock with a foggy mountain background.

When you think of opera, a tenor performing on top of a table at the local pub probably doesn't cross your mind. But that's exactly what Joel Ivany thinks Opera can be. 

Growing up, Joel was always surrounded by music, playing various instruments in bands and singing in choir groups. In university he took a theatre course and became enamoured with it. Not long after, a friend suggested Joel check out Opera. With his background in music and newfound interest in performing, it was the perfect marriage of Joel’s passions. He instantly fell in love with it. 

Banff Centre gives you license to explore and find

the limits of your artform. 

A collage of artist Joel Ivany within nature.

Joel in the Shaw Amphitheatre at Banff Centre. Photo Credit: Kari Medig

Now, years later, Joel is the Artistic Director of Opera at Banff Centre, helping shape the future of the artform in Canada and beyond. His most recent work, Orphée+, which is described as an “electronic, baroque burlesque descent into hell” won five Dora Mavor Moore Awards. He’s also been experimenting with a series called Opera Pub, which is exactly what it sounds like – opera singers performing at pubs and bars amongst the crowd. In addition, Joel is the mastermind behind a choose-your-own-adventure style murder mystery opera where the audience walks between rooms to watch different performances happening simultaneously. For Joel, pushing Opera’s boundaries isn’t just about exploring and creating something that’s new, it’s about breaking the stigma around Opera and getting more people interested in it. 

Opera singers performing on stage during the production Orphée.

A performance of Orphée+ at Banff Centre. Directed by Joel Ivany. Photo credit: Donald Lee

What's so beautiful about Banff Centre is how diverse it is. You're always meeting and working with artists from

different backgrounds. 

Joel Ivany working in the studio at Banff Centre.

Joel works with audio technicans and costume designers at Banff Centre. Photo Credit: Kari Medig

In an artform that’s steeped in tradition, creating groundbreaking work isn’t always easy though. Joel credits the complete freedom and incredible technical support he has at Banff Centre as a crucial element – that and interacting with so many different types of artists and disciplines. According to Joel, it’s almost impossible not to draw inspiration from other artists at Banff Centre, cross-pollinating and working with unlikely people to create ideas and artwork that you never could have otherwise. 

Right now is a really exciting time for Opera. I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what it 
can be.

Joel Ivany stands atop a mountain overlooking a mountain range.

Joel standing atop Sleeping Buffalo Mountain. Photo Credit: Kari Medig

As for the future of opera, Joel thinks it's an incredibly exciting time to be involved in the artform. He believes we're only scratching the surface as to what opera can be. And while the possibilities are endless, one thing is for sure - Joel will be leading the charge. 

Banff Centre is breaking the rules.


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