Liza Balkan is an actor, opera and theatre director, librettist, writer and educator. She has written text for works produced by Tapestry Opera, Bicycle Opera Project, Opera McGill, the Brooklyn Art Song Society (New York), Scrag Mountain Music (Vermont) and Five Borough Songbook, Volume II (New York).
Liza recently wrote the interview – inspired lyrics and text for the song cycle, So How’s it Been? which premiered this past summer at the outdoor Here for Now Theatre festival in Stratford, Ontario. Conceived and created in collaboration with composer Paul Shilton, Balkan directed the show, which shared a musical reflection of multiple experiences through lockdown during 2020/21. Through a multi-year residency at the Theatre Centre, she developed her documentary/verbatim project – about policing, use of force, mental health, accountability and the law – called Out the Window. The show premiered at the Theatre Centre in 2012 and received a new production at Toronto’s international Luminato Festival in 2018, directed by Sarah Garton Stanley. In May 2022, After the Fires, a song cycle written in collaboration with composer Lembit Beecher, had its world premiere in New York, produced by Brooklyn Art Song Society. It will receive its Canadian premiere at the RCM/Koerner 21C Festival in January 2023.
Liza directed the Canadian premiere of composer Louis Andriessen’s Anaïs Nin (RCM/Koerner Hall’s 21C Festival) starring Wallis Giunta, Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas and Berio’s Folk Songs (RCM/ Glenn Gould School), Opera Briefs for Tapestry Opera, Bicycle Opera Project’s summer tours and Opera Laurier’s production of Stephanie Martin and Paul Ciufo’s Llandovery Castle. She also directed one of Toronto’s first site-specific operas, Opera on the Rocks, at Pauper’s Pub on Bloor Street in 2008. Other recent directing credits include William Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing for Canadian Stage’s Dream in High Park and Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing, starring Rebecca Northan at the Grand Theatre London.
Liza has acted in multiple productions across Canada and the United States, receiving a Dora Award for her performance in Theresa Tova’s Still The Night (Theatre Passe Muraille/Tapestry Opera). Her work as an educator remains an intrinsic part of her artistic practice.