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REMOTE | Adrianne Pieczonka ‘I Would Like To See Toronto's Huge Racially Diverse Population Represented Better In The Arts’

By Michael Zarathus-Cook on June 23, 2020

Adrianne Pieczonka (Photo: Bo Huang)
Adrianne Pieczonka (Photo: Bo Huang)

For this episode of REMOTE, we’re kicking off the week with the internationally celebrated soprano, Adrianne Pieczonka. She joins us to discuss her DIY approach to concerts from home, as well as one of the projects she’s been involved in since the lockdown started. She also has a couple words to add to the ongoing conversation about inclusivity in the performing arts, reiterating the importance of not only seeing diversity on stage but in audience members as well.

How have you been coping with this lockdown?

I’ve been coping well — some days/weeks are better than others. Naively I never imagined the lockdown would last this long.

What sort of digital initiatives have you been involved in or planning, in lieu of live performance?

Boris Brott at Brott Opera asked me to perform a ‘concert from home’ which I did in late May. You can view it on Youtube or Facebook. I grew up in Burlington ON and have known Boris Brott for many years. I decided to accompany myself on piano and guitar. The piano playing aspect was rather stressful in the end! We decided to pre-record it instead of streaming it live and it was quite technically challenging. Me and my wife Laura (who was my lighting designer, makeup and hair artist and camerawoman) spent many hours finding the right location/angles to shoot the video. I am really pleased with the final product. A definite highlight is that my daughters Grace and Laura joined me for a few pieces at the end of the concert. I am also giving a public masterclass via Zoom for Brott Opera on Sat June 27th from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. I believe members of the public can “attend”.

Adrianne Pieczonka
Adrianne Pieczonka at home (Image courtesy of the artist)

What are some words of wisdom that have helped you get through this pandemic?

I think it helps to appreciate the small and simple things in life — this is why people are baking, gardening and sewing. These activities nourish and comfort us. Nature is a huge comfort to me and when I feel stressed, going for a walk in a park or the woods really helps to soothe my spirit. Even though times are challenging, I do take stock daily for the things I am grateful for: my health, my family, my friends, our two cats etc.

Any specific books, films, or TV on the go?

I recently finished Ozark on Netflix which was very good but often quite disturbing. I’m currently watching the latest season of Broadchurch, also on Netflix. I lived in London for 12 years and I miss England, especially the English countryside. I am a huge Oliva Coleman fan (loved her in The Crown!) so this show ticks many boxes. I think British crime dramas are the best!

I recently read Bernadine Evaristo’s novel Girl Woman Other which was awarded the 2019 Man Booker Prize along with Margaret Atwood for The Testaments. I’d never heard of Evaristo but picked her book up in a small bookshop in Madrid in February 2020 when I was performing at the opera there. It is a fascinating, multi-stranded story touching on gender, race, sexuality, love and family struggles.

With everything that’s going on in North America in regard to race and #BlackLivesMatter, what are some of the changes you’d like to see in the performing arts community in Toronto when it comes racial biases and problems with inclusivity?

I would like to see Toronto’s huge racially diverse population represented better in the arts and in every other sector of life. Not only are there too few racially diverse artists (conductors, composers, singers etc), there are too few racially diverse audience members attending opera, concerts, theatre in Toronto. We need to reach out to diverse communities and make them feel welcome and included. We need to offer a more diverse range of music, featuring works by racially diverse artists, and we need to reach out to young people in diverse communities so that they can experience classical music, opera, ballet, etc.

For more chats with artists in social isolation, read on HERE.


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Michael Zarathus-Cook
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