Awaiting the Dawn

Chelsea Kutyn

Bringing Music to Life

This video was produced in partnership with Music at Christ Church Cathedral.

​Watch as Chelsea Kutyn takes you into the depths of her COVID-19 recovery journey, baring the fears and the struggles that began during her 29 days in isolation and have continued to impact her life over the past year.

“A pandemic. While the Oxford Dictionary defines this as “an outbreak of a disease… prevalent over a whole country or the world,” I can think of a few other ways to describe it. Isolating. Irritating. Frightening. Challenging. Unknown. Although these words are true for me, the word ‘pandemic’ now has a very specific meaning to everyone it has impacted. Despite the differing views, we are united in this shared experience. Inspired by our sense of connection despite the isolation, Awaiting the Dawn, tells a story based on my own experiences and challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At this time last year, I was beginning my recovery from suspected COVID-19 after 29 days in isolation with severe difficulty breathing. Awaiting the Dawn symbolizes my fear of the night while I was sick; the fear that I would stop breathing, the fear that I may give it to a member of my family, and the fear I would be unable to help them. This idea eventually developed into the themes of fear and anxiety of the unknown. Yet, despite this fear faced by many, people continue to push towards a brighter future. Thus, I chose to have a cyclical nature to my project, and it begins and ends not with the night of fear, but a morning of hope for a better day.

I chose the song Die Nacht, Op.10, No.3 by Richard Strauss because it had strong personal ties for me during my time in isolation. As I lay in bed listening to the slow and strained sound of my breathing, parts of this piece would drift through my mind. It was the only song that came to me for 29 days. Looking back, this piece had a visceral truth to it for me. The text speaks of the night stealing all the colours, all the light, all that is lovely, and ends with the narrator hoping the night will not steal their loved one away. It expressed what I could not. I was afraid acknowledging those fears with my own words would make them real and I was so sick my only option was to focus on getting better.

After being released from isolation in late April 2020 I was completely decimated, as the song states, “plundered stood the shrub.” I was still feeling the physical effects of my illness well into December 2020. However, the most challenging hurdle I still grapple with has been the mental anxiety that developed due to my experience. For example, while I was sick, breathing was so exhausting and so painful, I could not speak for two weeks. Anything beyond a shallow breath felt like a stabbing pain, so I developed anxiety towards deep breathing- not ideal for an opera singer! The result was I did not trust my breath to work anymore. I did not trust my instrument to work.

A year later, after what feels like an uphill marathon, my experience has come full circle culminating in this project. I am proud to have worked through my own fears and hope to acknowledge humanity’s collective ability to persevere. Awaiting the Dawn traces a day in the life of a person during the pandemic and the anxiety of having someone ill in their home. Themes of isolation and helplessness are contrasted by taking comfort in the elements of our daily routine we can control. I hope that even though this story is about my experience, others might be able to see themselves in this as well and take comfort in the fact that even though we are all isolated, we are united by this shared experience.

I am so grateful to Pacific Opera Victoria for giving me an opportunity to share this story and I feel empowered as an artist through their encouragement and support. I would like to personally thank Rebecca Hass, Micah Schroeder, Kimberley-Ann Bartczak, Christ Church Cathedral, Ai Tsuda Horton, and Nicholas Borg for their tireless help, patience, and thoughtful insights throughout the creation process.” – Chelsea Kutyn, May 2021

Canadian soprano Chelsea Kutyn’s quest for knowledge, understanding, and joy, has inspired a thirst for trying new things. This allows her to craft a charismatic stage presence whether she is playing the role of food obsessed “Suor Dolcina” in Suor Angelica with Pacific Opera Victoria, or crawling on all fours like a dog as “Lapak” in Opera NUOVA’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen, among other performances.

Music Bridging with Community

This video was produced in partnership with Music at Christ Church Cathedral.

Chelsea Kutyn’s Music Alive recital, Awaiting the Dawn, is centered around her struggle with mental health while recovering from COVID-19, something that many can relate to, including Registered Nurse Stefan Bigsby. Listen as he recounts how COVID-19 impacted his mental health and what he did to take care of himself. If you are struggling, please reach out to a friend, family or a professional for help.