Guests were invited to take a journey from land to sea, plunging beyond the surface of all things ordinary and dive into fantasy at the Canadian Opera Company’s 2019 Centre Stage Gala: Subaqueous.
The annual Centre Stage Gala hosted by the Canadian Opera Company is the organization’s principal fundraising event. Produced by Burstyn Inc, it was held at the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts and brought together Canada’s culture enthusiasts for the COC Ensemble Studio Competition, followed by an exclusive black-tie dining experience on stage.
Inspired by the fantasy and fairytales found in the COC’s 2019/2020 season, the Burstyn team drew particular inspiration from the watery realm of Antonin Dvořák’s Rusalka (an opera that took inspiration from Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid )
For the cocktail “land” portion of the evening, the soaring Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room at the Four Seasons Centre was transformed with a lush walkway of greenery and trees that echoed Rusalka’s enchanted forest.
The Gala immediately followed the Ensemble Studio Competition, where gala guests were extended premium seating. The one-hour vocal competition is the grand finale of a months-long search for the country’s best young opera talent.
The curtain was then lifted for the dinner portion of the evening to unveil the Four Seasons Centre stage, complete with an unparalleled view of R. Fraser Elliott Hall, transformed for the “sea” portion of the night into a giant fishbowl.
In addition to being a spectacular event, it had some logistical twists. Three weeks before the date, due to high demand, attendance increased by 50 guests, requiring a complete revision of the floor plan and almost every decor element. Using the same budget, the Burstyn team went into creative overdrive and came up with a brilliant solution. Working with Radha Chaddah, a visual artist and scientist, Bespoke AV and the COC’s in-house lighting designer elevated the design aesthetic by projection mapping Radha’s moving water images on plexi tables.
This replaced floral and linens, while another elaborate decor was replaced with a sea of moody candlelight. All creative materials (menus, name cards, plates, glasses and chairs) were replaced with clear or white to provide the perfect surface for projection mapping. Tables were switched from rounds to long in order to make more room for the additional guests and create fewer surfaces requiring projection. The projection of moving water flowed throughout dinner on the tables, and a massive screen served as the backdrop on the one side, with the impressive audience hall on the other.
At a special moment in the evening, the projection mapping content transformed into beautiful rolling waves as the COC’s Lauren Margison sang “Song of the Moon” from the Rusalka production, with a specially choreographed projection-mapped art piece that danced on each of the guests’ tables.
Throughout the rest of the evening, renowned DJ Eon Sinclair spun tunes to liven up the atmosphere on stage from previous years as guests could mix and mingle on the stage.
The event had the highest attendance in Centre Stage history and was a resounding success both from an experience and fundraising initiative.
Kudos to Burstyn Inc. for this spectacular production, and congratulations on their nomination.