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Anna Theodosakis: first student to direct a major U of T Opera production

“I love performing, but I realized I really enjoy the creative side and analyzing not just a character I would play, but the whole show,” Anna Theodosakis says (above photo courtesy Anna Theodosakis

For the first time in the history of U of T Opera, a student rather than a faculty member will direct one of the major stage productions.

Anna Theodosakis directs this week’s production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium, a story of a dangerous series of séances.

“They told me in the summer and I was absolutely shocked,” says Theodosakis, who is in the opera directing diploma program at the Faculty of Music. “Normally, the opera directing students are not given main stage shows but are involved with the staging of opera scenes for concerts and assist with other directing projects at the Faculty.”

The decision to pass the director’s chair over to Theodosakis was an easy one, says Michael Albano, senior lecturer and resident stage director for the opera program. He knew she would be up to the task.

“Anna is one of the most gifted students to come through U of T Opera’s stage directing program,” he says. “Directing requires a unique combination of skills; creative ideas are not enough, one must be able to communicate those ideas with eloquence and specifity. This gift shows in her remarkable direction. She also represents, to me, a new and exciting generation of opera directors.”

photo of opera setTheodosakis’s directing approach is diplomatic as she strives for a collaborative atmosphere during rehearsal.

“I try to feed off what the actors are already bringing and see if I can enhance that, rather than impose my own idea on someone,” she says. “The whole process is far more enjoyable when the creation of art is a collective process. It helps that there are really amazing, vibrant and thoughtful singers in this piece!”

In this week’s production, The Medium follows the curtain-opener The Telephone. Menotti wrote both operas in the 1940s. The Medium centres on three characters: Madame Flora (Baba), her daughter Monica and a mute servant boy, Toby. Baba owns a séance parlour and has a weekly appointment with people who truly believe they communicate with their deceased children through her.

photo of opera set with singers seated at seance table

“I want to create an intimate experience for the audience so they can really get to know these characters,” says Theodosakis.

She set this production in New York during the Great Depression, in a tenement, because of her interest in how people dealt with hardship during that time.

“For people finding solace in spiritualism, even if they don’t have the means to commit to it,” is a highlighted theme in this production, she says.

As with all U of T productions, Theodosakis says, the lighting, set and costumes are of the highest calibre, allowing her to realize her interpretation of the opera as she would in the professional field. She says working with the lighting, set and costume designers at this stage in her career creates the opportunity to develop relationships that can help her after graduation.

photo of opera set showing woman standing and man kneeling on floor

Before coming to U of T, Theodosakis completed both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of British Columbia in Voice and Opera Performance. As a student at UBC, Theodosakis frequently created choreography for UBC Opera and musical theatre companies in Vancouver.

“I love performing, but I realized I really enjoy the creative side and analyzing not just a character I would play, but the whole show.”

The Medium and The Telephone production runs from Thursday, Nov. 5 to Sunday, Nov. 8 at MacMillan Theatre at 80 Queen’s Park. Starting time is 7:30 for the evening performances and 2:30 for the Sunday matinée. Students can purchase tickets for $10.

(More information on tickets)

Jacob Feldman is a writer for the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto