In 2019, the Canadian Opera Company announced a new, year-long residency for directing and dramaturgy, as part of its COC Academy. The company’s professional development program for opera artists, creators, and administrators provides resident artists with advanced instruction, hands-on experience, and the practical career guidance required for industry success.
Canadian stage director Julie McIsaac was named the inaugural Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence in December 2019.
“Julie’s voice as a storyteller is wonderfully textured,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “With her background in classical piano, voice, languages, and theatre, she is uniquely equipped for the challenge of staging new opera that shakes up all expectations of the genre for today’s audiences. With the COC Academy, we are providing emerging artists like Julie with comprehensive development opportunities and creating a supportive environment for learning and exploration.”
During her residency, McIsaac served as Assistant Director on Joel Ivany's production of Hansel and Gretel (COC, 2020), which included the unique challenge of restaging the production with the artists of the Ensemble Studio and a ‘mega choir’ of more than 100 local youth in two abridged English-language performances. As dramaturg and director, McIsaac also led development workshops for the COC’s Opera for Young Audiences commission Fantasma, composed by COC Composer-in-Residence Ian Cusson and with text by librettist Colleen Murphy. (The production has been rescheduled for the COC’s 2021/2022 season, due to ongoing theatre closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Since completing her residency, McIsaac has taken on a new role at the Canadian Opera Company as Lead Curator for Opera Everywhere, the COC’s digitally accessible 20/21 programming.
“The Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence program provided me with the freedom and full support to explore what can happen when we actively engage our communities and young people, throughout our artistic activities,” says McIsaac. “I’m grateful to the Canadian Opera Company for allowing me to follow my instinct in pushing at opera’s edges and putting forth new ideas, and to the whole team for embracing new perspectives and practices throughout.”
ABOUT JULIE MCISAAC
Julie McIsaac is a stage director, dramaturg, playwright/librettist, and multi-instrumentalist, whose projects are inspired by Canada’s complex history. Through her work, McIsaac is reshaping and revitalizing the stories told on stage and, in the process, aims to bring more attention to the diverse composition of the country’s local communities.
McIsaac earned her Master’s degree in Theatre from the University of York (UK) and is also a graduate of Carleton University (Music) and the Canadian College of Performing Arts (Theatre Performance and Playwriting). A four-time Jessie award nominee, she is an Associate Artist with Firepot Performance and a founding member of the Honest Fishmongers. As Artist-in-Residence at Pacific Opera Victoria from 2016 to 2018, McIsaac staged Le nozze di Figaro for Opera Studio (Victoria Conservatory of Music) and created an original series of opera presentations for young audiences, staging excerpts from The Magic Flute, Jenůfa, and La Bohème. She has collaborated with theatre giants Atom Egoyan and Peter Hinton, and was stage director for the world premiere of Beauty’s Beast (East Van Opera).