Artist Statement Project

Against the Grain Theatre joins University of Toronto Opera for the National Opera Intensive, an immersive, three-week program focusing on the exciting canon of modern-contemporary works and engaging workshops to expand the mind of the modern artist.

In 2021, artists were invited to create a digital, musical artist statement based on an experience that has shaped them. They were encouraged to think about something that makes them unique and that only they can express, whether that be personal, cultural, or something else entirely. Artists were guided and mentored by the faculty throughout the creation and production process, but ultimately, they were in charge of the conception and final execution of their projects.

Below you will find these artist statements, as well as introduction videos made by the artists, explaining the inspiration and thought process behind their projects. Please join AtG and UofT Opera in celebrating these incredible artists and their creations – we truly could not be prouder.

Calabrisella Mia  |  Artist Statement by Alessia Vitali

Alessia Vitali’s Artist Statement is dedicated to her mother, Antonietta Presta, and her grandfather, Luigi Presta. Alessia performs “Calabrisella Mia,” a traditional folk song from Calabria, Italy.

“I think singers should be less afraid of trying new things and less afraid of being imperfect because nothing is perfect, and music shouldn’t be either.”

Benediction  |  Artist Statement by Madison Craig

In Benediction, Madison explores themes and intersections of queer identity, giving thanks, and ritual.

“I think that being queer can feel kind of all-encompassing – so magical and [full of] community building. Those ideas can be seen in religion, as well.”

Let it be Forgotten/Gravity  |  Artist Statement by Michaela Chiste

Michaela Chiste’s Artist Statement marries her 2021 poem “Gravity” with George Crumb’s “Let it be Forgotten” to paint a snapshot of her struggles with body dysmorphia and disordered eating.

“It felt really good not to be a character…I’m used to putting on someone else’s skin and living life in their world when I’m performing.”

First Steps  |  Artist Statement by Taryn Plater

In First Steps, Taryn Plater explores themes of re-accessing avenues of expression and reclaiming her own cultural history through Ukrainian art song and dance.

“I had this very surreal experience when I was watching my old dance tapes. It felt like I was watching a ghost, and like it was something that was no longer a part of me.”

Be Not Afraid/Nachtviolen |  Artist Statement by Ruby Nightingale

In her artist statement, Ruby Nightingale explores themes of home and finding her roots through the strength and stories of the women in her family.

“I focused in on my great-grandmother, Ruby Maria Bridget Barlow, and the strength that I find in her name.”

Why Music? |  Artist Statement by Nansee Hughes

In Why Music?, Nansee Hughes explores how storytelling has run through her Scottish family, and how it has brought her to a life of music.

“My whole family is full of storytellers…It’s ingrained in our blood. That’s how Scottish people connect and remember.”

Ach, ich fühl’s | Artist Statement by D’Arcy Blunston

D’Arcy speaks about the eye-opening experience of creating a project that was authentically by her, for her.

“I really hope this project will become a bit of a stepping stone for me. I would really encourage any artists who are curious about their own creativity to give something like this a go.”