When you think of opera, most people picture a majestic theatre filled with people in elegant attire and dramatic musical performance, but a group of music students want to change that and make it an experience that's much more accessible.
Can of Soup Collective is a not-for-profit organization founded by three Western University grad students trying to create professional opportunities for other young and emerging artists in the city, all while making opera more "consumable" for the general public.
"We feel London is kind of starved for professional opera opportunities," said the group's Creative Director and Western master's student Mabel Wonnacott. "We've got essentially the opera which happens at the university, but outside of that, there just aren't a lot of of opera productions happening in London."
"Our goal is to make opera accessible and create a better relationship between the London public and classical music, so we're going to be putting on operas that are not pretentious, but instead relatable."
Starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, the group will be doing just that by hosting their Music in the Park event. About 10 local musicians will be scattered across the park performing different genres from folk to opera. Those performances will be followed by a fully staged production of Aunt Helen at the bandshell.
"Rather than feeling like you have to get dressed up and it's a thing that you have to prepare for, this will be available to people who are walking their dogs, who are riding their bikes ... There's going to be fewer barriers to consuming opera," said Wonnacott.
"Aunt Helen is peppered with Canadian folk songs, things that I'm positive people will connect to and will recognize from their childhood ... It's consumable and relatable, rather than it being sort of big and intimidating."
Being relatively new to the city, Wonnacott said it took her time and poking around to find the city's creative arts scene.
"I think a lot of the arts are sort of contained to its own bubble and so I think that a big, important part of making these things more popular or more mainstream in London is just visibility. We're doing this to convince people that it's a very approachable thing."
Wonnacott said right now Can of Soup Collective is running on a volunteer basis, but the hope is to raise funds to create paid opportunities for opera performers.
"I think music, especially opera which is this amalgamation of of all the art forms — we've got the visual aspect, the theater aspect, the music, the wonderful librettos — I think it's a wonderful kind of vessel for us to explore the human condition and there's no better time than right now to be sharing in that."
Music in the Park : Aug. 28, 2021. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Springbank Park
Music at the Museum: Sept. 18 - 19. Virtual event
Here's a sample of Ellita Gagner from Can of Soup Collective singing Que fais-tu, Blanche Tourterelle?