Essential Opera takes a light-hearted look at holiday travel in new one-act opera

Originally intended to be performed live in airports across the Atlantic region this holiday season, pandemic restrictions moved the one-act opera to the digital realm.

Filmed on location at the Halifax International Airport and in Brooklyn, New York, December is the story of a couple preparing to meet Julia’s parents for the first time over the holidays. Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash.
Filmed on location at the Halifax International Airport and in Brooklyn, New York, December is the story of a couple preparing to meet Julia’s parents for the first time over the holidays. Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash.

Essential Opera has announced it will premiere its new one-act opera, December, digitally on this year’s winter solstice.

A piece for three sopranos and a string quartet written by Canadian composer Monica Pearce, December was originally intended to be performed live in airports across the Atlantic region this holiday season. Because of pandemic restrictions, the opera company pivoted to produce the opera for presentation online.

“We were in the process of securing venues and dates to perform, making touring plans, when the world shut down. But Monica’s opera is so relatable and heart-warming, we knew we had to find a new way to present it,” says Essential Opera co-founder Maureen Batt.

“We hope that this work will be a light-hearted escape for anyone missing out on holiday travel plans.”

This is not the first time the Halifax-based opera company has moved to the digital realm. Most recently, the company filmed and released Anna Pidgorna’s mini-opera Mirror Mirror in October, funded by a digital grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

This time, Essential Opera has received assistance from SOCAN, private donors, and production grants from Arts Nova Scotia and the Canada Council for the Arts to turn the live performance into a filmed dramatic short.

Filmed on location at the Halifax International Airport and in Brooklyn, New York, December is the story of a couple preparing to meet Julia’s parents for the first time over the holidays. The opera follows them on their journey from home through to the airport to board their flight.

Featuring a largely female cast and crew, Batt is particularly pleased they could hire women in roles where they are often overlooked.

“Telling this love story, written and composed by a woman, with a cast and crew made up of predominantly women, was important to us,” says Batt.

“Monica Pearce has written a beautiful short opera about the stress, joy, nerves and love
involved in travelling for family,” adds Essential Opera co-founder Erin Bardua. “Bringing together a stellar team of artists to tell the story in a new format has been creatively challenging and a wonderful experience.”

December will premiere in a live YouTube event on December 21 at 8:00 pm Atlantic Time. Visit essentialopera.com for tickets and information.