An Interview with VOG Career Development Grant – Production Recipient: Michael Mori
Michael Mori is a freelance director and in 2013 became the designated Artistic Director of Tapestry. (Tapestry is the 3rd largest professional opera company in Toronto, and commissions, develops, and produces contemporary opera in Canada and internationally). Michael graduated from UBC with a Masters in Opera performance and sang with the Vancouver Opera Chorus for six years. However, his history as a performer dates back to the age of 9 when he first started touring as a boy soprano in England and through the US. At the age of 11, he sang his first opera and musical theatre leads at Avery Fisher Hall and Dicapo Opera Theatre in New York City.
With Vancouver’s own musica intima, Michael recorded three albums, one of which was nominated for a Juno and won the West Coast Music awards for best classical album. Most recently, Michael has been working as a stage director with Tapestry New Opera, Canadian Stage’s Festival of Ideas and Creation, and assisted this year at the Dallas Opera. In 2013, Michael was named one of two Canadians to represent Canada at Opera America’s Leadership intensive.
When did you become interested in the opera world?
Opera grabbed me by the shoulders. When I was a boy soprano, the first audition that I did outside of my choir was for an opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors in New York City, and I got it. The pace and scale of working in a professional opera company along with the glamour of NYC was dangerously engaging for a 11 year old.
Describe your experience applying to the Career Development Grant.
Brilliant! The career development grant happened to be posted at a time when I had already decided to switch the focus from performing to directing. It was a hard decision, but ultimately driven by my passion and need to direct opera. This clear life path change, allowed me to convey why I was at a key moment in my development as a director and how incredibly powerful a significant grant would be in allowing me to do programs and pursue apprenticeships.
What advice do you have for future applicants for the Career Development Grant?
This is the opportunity to pitch the ideal projects and trajectory for yourself and your career. When you had told yourself or others, “If I had the money I’d….”, you now have an opportunity to advocate for those dreams and have some really generous people help. Be clear about your passion and have big goals. This may mean budgeting more than what the Guild supports for a year of professional development.
How has the career development Grant helped you to advance your career?
In every way possible. Through the grant I was able to do a summer festival where I assisted world renowned director Tim Albery, assistant directed in Toronto on two shows with Tapestry New Opera, and in one year build a strong portfolio of contacts who knew my mettle and would recommend me. All of these things have contributed to my becoming the second ever Artistic Director at Tapestry, freelancing as a stage director in Toronto and recently at the Dallas Opera, with projects in Vienna, Taiwan, and Chicago in discussion.
I believe in momentum in life. With great momentum you can take the biggest leaps you have ever taken and hit the ground running fast and bold. A grant like this, along with the decision to focus a year on aligning everything to increase my experience and reputation as a director, gave me the momentum to get where I am now and continue forward at a steady pace.
Do you have any thoughts on the Vancouver Opera Guild and its role in the Opera community?
Vancouver has the greatest Opera Guild that I have seen in Canada. As a singer, I knew many guild members by name, by the delicacies they prepared for dress rehearsals at the Queen Elizabeth, or by meeting them after attending the Magic Flute and many other shows at UBC. They are the coolest and most approachable opera fans and helped to make a career in opera (an imposing and intimidating thing), far more like a village raising a baby than the struggle of one individual against the other for the few spots in contention.