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Headshot of Joel Ivany
Joel Ivany. Photo by Nikola Novak

The Sweet Sound of Inspiration

An encounter with one of opera’s greats helped this alum succeed

When I was a student at the Faculty of Music, Paul Curran – who had just been appointed artistic director of the Norwegian National Opera – came to speak. He told us about how he trained at opera houses worldwide, and his international experiences drew me in. Early in his career, Paul went to see opera and film director Baz Luhrmann in Australia and said, “I’d like to work with you, whatever it takes,” and Baz said yes. So after the talk, I asked Paul if, after graduating, I could work with him in Norway – and he agreed. He couldn’t pay me, but he could give me as much experience as I wanted.

The following year I went to Oslo, and Paul assigned me to work under assistant directors on different productions. He also arranged free tickets for me to opera, ballet and dance performances. The experience opened me up to the broader world of opera and stage directing.

I’ve since worked at opera houses around the world. I also started Against the Grain Theatre – we present classical music in creative ways in unconventional venues. I recently collaborated with Paul again on a Banff Centre production. What Paul shared in his U of T talk was a challenge: This is all out there for me, I just need to go after it – and I did.

Article by Joel Ivany (diploma in operatic performance, 2007) as told to Sharon Aschaiek.

Watch: Joel Ivany and mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili answer rapid-fire questions

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