Toronto-based Dana Fradkin will participate in this year’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program at Vancouver Opera long distance. (photo from Vancouver Opera)
Dana Fradkin is one of six participants chosen for this season’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program at Vancouver Opera. The multi-talented stage director has multiple interests and occupations: she is an award-winning writer, actor, filmmaker, producer and opera director.
“As a young director in the opera world, I knew I needed more education before I could truly become the director I wanted to be,” Fradkin told the Independent about her desire to become a resident in the program. “Vancouver Opera is the only young company in the country that has a stage director as part of their program, so when I saw the submission breakdown last year, I applied immediately! I had an interview in Toronto a few months later and then got the news shortly after.
“Coming from a background in classical theatre,” she said, “my understanding of classical theatre repertoire is very strong, as is my understanding of the stage, but I am still lacking in my knowledge of opera repertoire. By being part of the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program, I hope to learn more about numerous different classical operas and develop a deeper understanding of the Fach system (the different vocal ranges). I want to practise my leadership and directorial skills in an educational and safe environment and be ready to think on my toes and adapt to any situation.”
Adaptation was necessary for Fradkin to even participate in the program. Based in Toronto, she originally was planning on moving to Vancouver from October 2020 to May 2021. But then came COVID.
“Initially, I was coming to Vancouver as part of the young company to do scene study work with the young singers and assistant direct all three of the main stage shows,” she explained. “I was very excited about this, as the original season consisted of Carmen, Cosi Fan Tutte and Falstaff, and I was to assist a female director on all three of these shows. Now, the program has changed: it’s only from January to May 2021 and it will consist of smaller scale concerts and scene study evenings, as opposed to large-scale productions. Although I am sad to not be part of these large-scale operas, I am very excited to be at the helm of these concert series and to have the creative freedom of working on something completely new.”
Looking at the wide range of Fradkin’s work – which includes being co-producer of ActionCan Films, which specializes in Canadian action films, and co-founder of Keystone Theatre – it seems that she is compelled to try new things.
“They all definitely feed a different part of me, yet, at the same time, they all feel like part of the same thing,” she said about her varied professions and areas of interest. “I chose this world because I love storytelling and what I find fascinating is pondering how to tell a story best. Is it through music, through word, through physical theatre and comedy or through action? As a writer, I ask, do I want to tell this story through cinema or on the stage? I love all types of stories: comedies, horror, romance, war stories, heartbreak, crime, inspiring stories, etc. And what I ask myself is how do I, as an artist, fit best to tell this specific story? I love acting in theatre, writing for film and directing opera, and usually I find the best discipline for myself to fit that story.
“I find cinema and opera quite similar actually, as they are both a very visual medium and it’s so exciting to bounce between the two. I’m inspired by artists like Atom Egoyan, Julie Taymor and others who use different genres to tell a story, using the different mediums to connect most with the audience.”
Fradkin grew up in the Ottawa Jewish community and it was there that her love of performance and storytelling was ingrained.
“I went to Camp Gesher for 10 summers and was deeply active in that community during my high school years,” she said. “The first large productions I was part of were community musicals put on by the Jewish community theatre company called JCC Theatreworks. Between Grade 10 and Grade 12, I did Peter Pan, Bye Bye Birdie, Babes in Arms and Fame with them. This was my first time performing in front of a live audience and I loved it! Connecting with all these Jewish artists at a young age really taught me about community and collective creation and embracing storytelling through community. Many artists I met at JCC Theatreworks are still working in theatre today and are still dear friends.
“I also love telling Jewish stories, and the mini-series I have been writing and working on for years is a six-part series about my father’s time working with war crimes at the department of justice. He [Arnold Fradkin] was the head prosecutor of the first successful case in Canada of having a Nazi war criminal deported and it’s a story I feel very passionately about sharing with the world. I love when I meet other Jewish artists in the industry, as I always feel an instant connection with them.”
Fradkin is joined in this season’s Yulanda M. Faris program by Toronto soprano Jonelle Sills; Cranbrook, B.C., native and mezzo-soprano Amanda Weatherall; tenor Ian Cleary, originally from Chatham, Ont.; Vancouver baritone Luka Kawabata; and Vancouver-based pianist Amy Seulky Lee. The program director is Leslie Dala, who will be part of the Chutzpah! Festival this year – as pianist in choreographer Idan Cohen’s Hourglass, danced by Racheal Prince and Brandon Lee Alley. (See the next issue of the Independent, Nov. 13.)
“I’m very excited and thrilled to be part of the 2021 Vancouver Opera season and I can’t wait to share our work with the community,” said Fradkin, adding a wish that many of us have – “May we all be able to meet and play in person soon.”
For more on the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program and Vancouver Opera, visit vancouveropera.ca.