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Canadian triple threat Spencer Britten feels at home in both the Operatic and Musical Theatre repertoire. His recent projects have allowed him to enjoy the utilization of his extensive dance and opera training. Recently, Spencer has been a Young Artist at The Glimmerglass Festival and L’Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, and is currently a member of the International Opera Studio at Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. He thanks the generous opera communities of Vancouver and Montreal for their constant support.
Here, Spencer discusses coming of age in Vancouver, and why he wanted to wear heels for Messiah/Complex.

“In Messiah/Complex, I’m performing Every Valley… I kick off the whole thing. The concept for the film developed in a super organic way— I love the way that Joel encourages artists in the creative process. He let me express myself. Who is Spencer, and how do we represent that in this piece?

We were using the music to express the artist, and we shot the film in Vancouver, first near the Stanley Park Seawall, with classic Vancouver views, and where I have memories of performing and walking along the seawall with friends.” 

The film is about my ​journey to  self-acceptance and self-confidence. At first, I’m bundled up in my coat, wearing boots, and then I evolve to a more confident Spencer. The next location is in Davie Village, downtown Vancouver, a gay neighbourhood of course, with bright colours and rainbows all over the place. And then I’m wearing heels, strolling on the sidewalk. It’s about my personal growth towards loving who I am and the gratitude to my past experiences and where I have come from.”

I told Joel about the first time I wore heels to an operatic function, a premiere party at Opera Montreal. I wanted to wear something celebratory to the opening night reception. So, I wore a black​velvet tuxedo, and black stilettos. At that time, it took a lot of courage, and thank goodness for that post-show adrenaline! There’s always this inner dialogue, telling you there could be consequences. But the only people who noticed my shoes were people who loved them. It was a big moment in my self-acceptance and confidence, feeling that I could express myself freely at a work function through what I wore.”

When I came out to my friends and family, I was hesitant, because I was worried about the consequences from the broader community, and on my career. Something inside of me bubbled up though. I knew that I only wanted to be surrounded by those who accepted me for who I was. That included the people I would face in my career. At the time, it felt risky— and I guess now that I’m reflecting, it was a big step to finding a sense of work-life balance.”

“My dad is third generation Canadian—and in fact, he’s actually related to Benjamin Britten, a fifth cousin. So that’s pretty cool. My mom immigrated to Canada from the Philippines, but her bloodline is Chinese. I was raised largely by my mom’s parents, and my great-grandmother, who was from Beijing. Even today, I still face homophobia and racism. Growing up as a half-Asian gay boy, you figure out how to deal with it. But in 2020, we shouldn’t be feeling that should we?

Thank you to Spencer Britten for contributing his artistic voice and being a part of this project. Spencer’s performance has generously been supported by Andrew Gillespie.

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