IMG_5346-1-01

This is Part 3 in an ongoing collaboration with The Bicycle Opera Project in conjunction with their production of SWEAT; a modern, a capella opera about the struggles a group of garment factory workers endure in order to build better lives for themselves. To read the rest of the interviews click here.

To see a short video of this production, click here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnBTtvbv8yo&t=2s

IMG_5346-1
Keith is wearing the Anemone Tunic Print in black and white stripe. Photo my Marc Bernhard

Keith Lam

Q: Have you had any previous experience with the Bicycle Opera Project?

A: Nope! I’m a BOP virgin. I’m thrilled we’re able to present this work in not just one but several cities in Ontario.

Q: How long have you been performing opera?

A: About 10 years professionally.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your role?

A: I play the role of the boss/owner of the sweatshop.  To simply put, he’s not a good guy.  He cares about profit and his own interests only.

Q: What resonates with you about the character you portray?

A: I know it will be challenging to play the villain in the opera; an abusive person, verbally and physically.  At the same time, I also know it will be “easier” because members of the cast are all dear friends of mine. And we can all trust each other as actors to do our very best on stage even if the scene is tough to get through.

Q: How does performing a multilingual opera affect your performance? Is it important to you to perform using contemporary language?

A: Like many other opera singers, we often perform in other languages besides English so it’s definitely not a terribly difficult challenge on that aspect.  However, singing in one’s native tongue has its advantages in terms of acting or reacting to the text instantly.  I believe it’s great to use contemporary language for the sake of the audience.  They will connect more to it because they won’t ever need to be distracted by subtitles/translations that are provided or projected.

Q: This is a very ambitious and innovative project, is there anything about the performance that is brand new to you?

A: Since this opera is a capella, I think using all the different singers to create a “sweatshop soundscape” is such a cool idea!

Q: Did this production open up your eyes to the nature of the global garment industry? Has it impacted the way you view or interact with your clothes?

A: The subject matter is definitely something I’m already aware of.  Personally I do love to find items that are ethnically made and/or Canadian artisan made.  Hence why I love going to events like The One of a Kind Show that happens twice a year in Toronto.  I’ve also made personal connections with some of these artisans to further a relationship so they can continue creating items that are ethnically made.  But I’m definitely guilty of “fast fashion” too I won’t lie.

Q: What do you hope people will take away from your performance?

A: First obvious thing is for the audience to recognize and see the unfortunate side of the global garment industry.  I’d also hope that the show can reflect on today’s society in regards to the mistreatment of women in the work place.  It is important for this story to be told.  And of course I’d love the audience to come away and think of the relevance and importance of opera and story telling.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience so far?

A: Only that I’ve been training hard on my bike to get ready for our bike tour in July.


IMG_3525-4
Alexandra is wearing the Haliscera Headband in teal and the Anemone Tunic Print in purple shibori. Photo my Marc Bernhard

Alexandra Beley

Q: Have you had any previous experience with the Bicycle Opera Project?

A: I’ve had many experiences with Bicycle Opera Project! That being said, this is my first official tour with them. Larissa and I met in university and when she started BOP I became an unofficial mezzo-soprano sub for some of their Toronto gigs. It was a great way to get to know the group and what they stand for!

Q: How long have you been performing opera?

A: The very first opera I was a part of was Hansel and Gretel with the COC in 1998 (I was one of the Gingerbread kids with the CCOC). So, you could say I’ve been at it for a while!

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your role?

A: I play one of the workers in the sweatshop. We’re at a stage where we need proper pay and safety in our job, but are terrified of what unionization might bring. We’ve all heard the rumours of what happens to sweatshops that tried and ultimately failed.

Q: What resonates with you about the character you portray?

A: After my grandparents immigrated to Canada, my grandmother worked as a seamstress for TipTop Tailors in the old building at Lakeshore and Bathurst that has been converted into lofts. So, portraying a garment worker is very personal. It reminds me of what her life could have been like.

Q: How does performing a multilingual opera affect your performance? Is it important to you to perform using contemporary language?

A: Singing in shows that employ the use of multiple languages is fairly common for me, but this is the first where I get to sing in an opera in my first language, Ukrainian. That’s a very special moment for me.

Q: This is a very ambitious and innovative project, is there anything about the performance that is brand new to you?

A: Well, there are lots of things that are brand new to me! Cycling, singing in an all a cappella opera, carrying all of my clothing and supplies that I need for 2.5 weeks with me… wish me luck!!!

Q: Did this production open up your eyes to the nature of the global garment industry? Has it impacted the way you view or interact with your clothes?

A: Being a part of Sweat has opened up my eyes in a truly incredible way. I’m ashamed to say but I honestly didn’t really think about the fast-fashion industry at all, prior to this. I’m so much more aware now. I’m always keen to support Canadian/ethically made clothing/footwear and I always donate my clothing or pass it on to friends when it no longer works for me.

Q: What do you hope people will take away from your performance?

A: I hope that people are given the same awareness that I was given. I hope that they leave feeling touched and inspired to help others.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience so far?

A: I’d just like to add that I’m unbelievably grateful. Larissa and BOP had faith in me before I had it in myself. I’ve had such a phenomenal time prepping myself for tour and I’ve learned that I’m much stronger than I thought. I honestly cannot wait to get out there with the most extraordinary group of people.


IMG_5374-4
Caitlin is wearing the Umbellula Scarf in purple shibori and the Regalis Cardigan in teal . Photo my Marc Bernhard

Caitlin Wood

Q: Have you had any previous experience with the Bicycle Opera Project?

A: This is my first summer being a part of the Bicycle Opera Project, and I am thrilled to be involved with this wonderfully creative group of people. I have been a long-time fan of their work so to be in one of their shows is really exciting.

Q: How long have you been performing opera?

A: I’ve been an admirer of opera for the majority of my life (a proud shower singer since I was a little girl!); however I’ve been performing opera professionally for the past few years.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your role?

A: My role is of Worker 1, one of the five workers working in the sweat shop. As a whole the chorus of workers function almost like one of the machines they are working on. Each worker is a distinct voice and character but when they all join together, they rhythmically and melodically propel the piece forward as a group.

Q: What resonates with you about the character you portray?

A: The anonymity of Worker 1 really resonated with me because it made me realize that the women working in sweat shops could literally be any woman. Geography, financial stability, and luck are the only things that separate them from myself. It seems strange but it is the vagueness of her character that makes me feel so connected to her.

Q: How does performing a multilingual opera affect your performance? Is it important to you to perform using contemporary language?

A: In traditional opera I am used to singing in French, Italian, and German however this is the first time I will be singing in an opera that uses other languages such as Tamil, Hungarian, and Cantonese. I think the use of these languages is very effective especially when it is such a contrast to the English language that is used through the majority of the piece. When we break into these other languages it highlights just how far reaching the issue of sweatshops is in our world. There are garment workers in unfair and unsafe working conditions across the globe, and the use of different languages will hopefully remind the audience of that.

Q: This is a very ambitious and innovative project, is there anything about the performance that is brand new to you?

A: This is the first time I have ever performed a completely a capella opera. Although I have sung many pieces a capella in a choral setting, it is something completely different in an opera to deal with staging, acting, props, as well as having to find your notes without any help from an accompaniment. I’m excited for the challenge and know that with the incredibly talented group of singers Bicycle Opera Project has gathered it will be a great experience.

Q: Did this production open up your eyes to the nature of the global garment industry? Has it impacted the way you view or interact with your clothes?

A: Most definitely! Like many people I knew the basic information about sweat shops, however after working on this piece I am more informed about the issue. I find myself most mornings really looking at my clothes before putting them on and wondering who made them. I’ve decided that moving forward I will only buy from manufacturers that give their garment workers adequate pay and a safe work environment.

Q: What do you hope people will take away from your performance?

A: I hope that it raises awareness of sweat shops and their workers. As North Americans it is so easy to just buy clothes off the rack without giving a second thought about where it came from. As consumers we can make a difference in these worker’s lives by telling companies that we care about the working conditions of the garment workers that make our clothes. Hopefully, after seeing Sweat people will be compelled to become an active participant in making sweat shops a thing of the past.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience so far?

A: I’d like to add that I feel really lucky to be involved in this project. Being able to perform contemporary music about a real social issue is a real gift as an artist. Really looking forward to working with these great people about this important issue!


PART 1 / PART 2

Follow The Bicycle Opera Project on Facebook

The Bicycle Opera Project website

Follow Jennifer Fukushima on Facebook

jenniferfukushima.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s