Questions for Marilyn Gronsdal

Marilyn Gronsdal is an opera director whose work we’ve seen with the Canadian Opera Company, reviving productions premiered in earlier seasons. In 2019 the COC brought back Atom Egoyan’s 2015 Cosi fan tutte. I liked that 2019 version much better than the one seen in 2015, which led me to ask
“was assistant director Marilyn Gronsdal the real genius behind this incarnation of the opera? (and the reason I like it so much better).”

Marilyn Gronsdal

For the 2022 fall season Gronsdal is back, as the revival director of Christopher Alden’s take on The Flying Dutchman, opening Friday October 7th.

I asked her some questions.


Are you more like your father or your mother?

My parents were both influential, in that they both gave me the love of music, but I think I am more like my mother. She was a can-do person, loved to travel, loved to try new experiences, loved my friends.

What is the best or worst thing about what you do?

Other than the experience of great music and theatre?

The best thing about the work I do are my colleagues – everyone who is contributing to the show. The other best thing? The moment where you see the big picture of a production in your head and know it will work.

Worst thing about directing? Waiting for the big picture after the research and thinking. It always comes, but I find it a very difficult time. I invest a lot.

The best thing about teaching fitness online, other than seeing the people in my classes, is the opportunity to get out of my head and pay attention to how my body is working.

Who do you like to listen to or watch?

During Covid, when I started teaching online fitness, I was always looking for interesting music for my classes. I listened to everything – I had the time!

I love drumming, world music, electro-pop, blues, jazz, Brahms piano music, Martha Argerich, Hiromi, Oscar – and, I love silence. I must say, that I love most types of music – my musical training didn’t make me a snob; it made me more discerning within forms.

What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?

None. I’m fine with what I have.

When you’re just relaxing and not working, what is your favourite thing to do?

Living a day without a schedule is delicious.

What was your first opera?

It was a bel canto opera in Edmonton with Joan Sutherland and Huguette Torangeau. It was probably Norma, but I cannot remember….

Of the operas you’ve done with the Canadian Opera Company which was your favorite?

The Ring Cycle when the opera house opened was the most exciting.

I still love this production of Dutchman and Robert Lepage’s Bluebeard/Erwartung will always be with me.

(l-r) Mark Johnson as the Psychiatrist, Krisztina Szabó as the Woman and Noam Markus as the Lover in the Canadian Opera Company production of Erwartung, 2015. (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The COC credits for Dutchman say “Original Director: Christopher Alden, Revival Director: Marilyn Gronsdal”. How do you do that? What sources do you work with to recreate / revive the production?

Christopher is a great director, and this show is very special to me. So, of course I spoke with Christopher and we discussed different remounts of the opera in other places since we last did it in Toronto. He has very strong ideas and I’m good with that – but a revival is also about new people and what they bring to the story.

Parts of the opera are highly choreographed and they work. Other parts of the opera are shaped similarly, but the individual singers make it new. Reviving this show is, to me, an extremely creative, challenging and positive experience.

Do you have any career advice for someone wanting to be an opera director?

Sure. Lots.

Come openly into the world of opera with your own life experiences. Who you are matters.

Be musically literate. Understand the form. Learn the history. Study languages. If you love it, take the time to learn about it.


The Canadian Opera Company’s Flying Dutchman opens Friday October 7th at the Four Seasons Centre. For further information click here.

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