When Brian Deedrick, Edmonton Opera‘s artistic director of nine years, resigned due to health reasons, the board had big shoes to fill, and just three months to fill them. Rather than rush to hire a replacement, CEO Sandra Gajic is taking the reins for the upcoming season. We asked her about her interim role and the future in Edmonton Opera. (The season opens Oct. 22 with with two one-acts, Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci.)
Are you planning on doing things differently in the upcoming season?
From the first moment I got here, it was interesting. I guess [being] the new kid on the block, people feel free to tell you what they want. Patrons are saying they want to hear more of the class-A singers or conductors. So, we want to bring in new faces. Of course, not everything is possible. So, we are aiming at increasing that artistic level that our patrons deserve and want. We want to build that over the following three seasons.
As a child, you lived in the former Yugoslavia. Does your upbringing influence how you view the opera?
Absolutely. I grew up in a society where performing arts were part of our everyday life. So, opera was not treated or thought of as elitist. Nor was classical music or concerts. As a 14-year-old kid, I used to go once or twice a week and as friends we thought that was cool.
What do you envision for the future of Edmonton Opera?
I was just in Verona where 14,000 people come to the opera and you get a candle as you walk in. As the orchestra tunes, everybody lights a candle. In the silence of thousands of people, it’s almost like a ritual. That’s what I want here. Opera is more than the music.