Civic Engagement Artist Residency

2023 | 24

Oct 01, 2023 12:00am

Venue Online

Cost Free

Scroll down to see our amazing gallery, testimonials, and even archival videos about the Artist Residency project!


“Today’s singer is entering a very different professional world than singers at any other time.  Singers are now encouraged and valued not only for the craft they bring to performance on traditional stages, but also for the breadth of their personal practice that lives off the stage.  At Pacific Opera, we are excited and inspired by this development and are keen to invest in developing an artist residency that supports and celebrates a diverse artistic practice in the operatic field so that our stages of the future look like, sound like, and carry the stories of the communities we are from.”

Rebecca Hass, Director of Engagement Programs and Partnerships

“As we transition to becoming singing professionals, we need to explore what makes us special as artists and what we have to say as people. We need to find ways to reach our communities and make a positive impact on our art and our surroundings. One of the most impactful ways to do this is to embrace and share who we are and where we come from. To explore how that directly colours the way we make music and relates to text and experience. I would like to explore these different possibilities in our work together and encourage these wonderful singers to step outside what is accepted as traditional classical repertoire and expectations and to explore what might be already in their back pocket but not yet viewed as valid or enough.”

Miriam Khalil, Music Alive Mentor

Testimonials from past residency participants

“I constantly felt like no suggestion of mine was too outlandish, instead, I was offered creative solutions for my artistic decisions. This support enabled me to develop a complex multimedia project, and the openness to explore various ideas gave me the confidence to take artistic risks. In an industry known for its rejection, CEAR offered an entirely different and nurturing experience. […] Overall, CEAR has sparked a significant transformation in me, encouraging a more proactive and confident approach to my artistry. Currently, I’m working on a project that explores the connection between Cree and Ukrainian communities in Canada, an idea that emerged organically from my interactions at CEAR.”

Natalya Gennadi, Soprano – read her whole letter here.

“My experience at Pacific Opera was instrumental in defining my career’s orientations as an opera singer and creator. This residency is the safest place I could have landed on to make my vision come true. I felt both safe as a person and as a creator enabling me to undertake one of the biggest and most ambitious project of my career yet, the composition and creation of a short opera. I found unconditional support and kindness through the mentorship that was offered to me If you are a portfolio or multi-disciplinary artist with social justice and inclusion at heart, if you are seeking to expand your skill set, engage with different communities and explore the possibilities of your growing path, but most of all, if you want find meaning both in your daily practice and long term ventures, this program is for you!”

Pierre Heault, Tenor

“There are very few creative spaces that are set up to unconditionally support the breadth of an artist’s creativity.  My residency with Pacific Opera Victoria was a new experience as the company demonstrated their trust in my vision and individuality.  I was very fortunate to have a cohort of supportive and creative colleagues to collaborate with, in addition to the program’s incredible mentors and faculty. My time in Victoria was filled with energy.  We were given access to the Pacific Opera Victoria’s space, time and people to support in our creation of new and unexpected operatic experiences.  Whether during performances around the city, knowledge sharing, traditional musical development or curated concerts, there was always a shared feeling of play and discovery. We were continually encouraged to explore new aspects of our artistic practice.

The Civic Engagement Artist Residency is where I developed my first live recital. I have performed in many concerts throughout my career, but this was the first opportunity that I had been given as a professional to curate a performance from its conceptual inception. Throughout the development process, I felt completely supported as I bared my vulnerability and featured Japanese song, which is rarely heard in classical music spaces.

During this residency, we were responsible for programming concerts of different sizes in a variety of venues, including outdoors and digitally. The reception of the audience to each performance astounded me because they were responding to my performance and artistic choices directly. This experience has substantially informed me as I continue to create and transition into new chapters of my career.”

“Having the permission to lean into your individual artistry and create anything you want, is something we just don’t get to do as young artists.
It was scary, invigorating, cathartic, and I hope this becomes something we start seeing more of in the classical world. We have so many untold stories waiting for a spotlight!”

Charlotte Siegel, Soprano

“To me, being a citizen artist means that I use my artistic practice to engage with my community. I think it is the job of a citizen artist to bridge the gap between the art and the audience, to show people that art is relevant and enriching.

It is so rare for opera singers to be asked to create something from scratch, let alone for that something to be as personal a project as this. I relished in the opportunity to tell my own story, and to celebrate my heritage in the operatic space.

This program is helping me grow into my artistic voice. I think at school, we are taught how to use our instruments and build a technique. I want to learn who I am as an artist, what I have to say, and why I sing in the first place. This program has given me the space and mentorship I need to hone my inner artist, which is invaluable.”

Simran Claire, Mezzo-soprano

“[…] One moment that will stick with me forever will be the Open House. I had pitched the idea to Rebecca that I should have the audience direct my staging. The goal was to introduce people to the basic concept of staging an opera while doing it in a hands-on activity and not through a lecture. The fear was that people would not engage, they’d be scared to commit and offer ideas. How wrong was I ! People got invested quickly and as soon as someone was giving an idea, someone else would add another level. It became an exchange between audience members, and I was not leading the activity anymore, audience members were. It was a huge learning for me to realize that opera doesn’t need to ba complex art form that have barriers for some people. With very simple and playful activities, we can make everyone engaged in the art form.”

Simon Chalifoux, Bass – read his whole letter here.

“[…] I felt nurtured by the company and its mentors over the course of the program from November to June.  It’s hard to encapsulate what this meant for me personally and artistically.  I felt in a rut personally and artistically due to the horrors of the pandemic, and also the transitional time of my career.  I felt like I had ideas and passion to bring to audiences, but a bit paralyzed on realizing them.  The barriers were external and real, but also interior as I am plagued by crippling self doubt.  Opera is of course my passion, but I had been feeling like utterly giving up on mainstream opportunities and classical repertoire.  I feel a bit out of place in experimental music world, because I love Mozart and bel canto singing, and I always feel out of place in opera world because of my fascination of new music and compositional ambitions.  Victoria was the validation, support, and rigour I needed.  With the acceptance letter I was overwhelmed with the feeling that my life would change for the better.  It’s a feeling I later drew from when performing The Presentation of the Rose in Victoria – in a moment everything shifts and the world seems different because you can suddenly imagine a better life for yourself.”

Rebecca Gray, Soprano – read her whole letter here.

Mentors to be announced – please visit the pages for previous years to see previous mentors.
2021|22 Cohort
2020|21 Cohort
2022|23 Cohort

What is a “citizen artist”?

Yo-Yo Ma defines citizen artists as those who “transcend technique in order to seek out the truth in our world in a way that gives meaning and sustenance to individuals and communities.”

It is a bridging of “high art” and “community art” that both serves artistic excellence and discourse, and uses artistic innovation to create social or civic impact.

While participating in this residency, the artists will work in collaboration with Pacific Opera’s civic partners, including the Inter Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, the Victoria Public Library, the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, and local educators to bring music to life for our community in new, meaningful ways.


See all events

Past Years

2021|22 Cohort
2020|21 Cohort
2022|23 Cohort

Music Alive Youtube Playlist

Click Here