Robin Hahn is a woman of many talents
August 15th, 2022
Meet Robin Hahn - disabled opera singer, stage director, vocal coach and educational YouTuber!
Tell people about yourself
Hi! My name is Robin Hahn, and I am a disabled opera singer, stage director, vocal coach and educational YouTuber.
I’m lucky enough to perform all around the world, from Germany to New York to Disneyland, but I call Vancouver my home. I am also a co-founder of Opera Mariposa, Canada’s only 100% openly disability-led and -run opera company, which works to make opera accessible here and across the globe.
The intersections between disability and opera have been a focus of my work and my art for a decade now, and I’ve been thrilled to receive support from the Metropolitan Opera competition, the CTC Awards, CreativeBC and the City of Vancouver for that work.
How did you get involved in filmmaking?
When my performance/directorial contracts for the 2020-2021 operatic season were all put on hold due to COVID-19, I knew I still wanted to connect with people and continue working to make the operatic community a safer, more equitable space for disabled artists and audience members alike.
I had experience in graphic design and scriptwriting from my work with Opera Mariposa - a small company where many artists wear many hats, experiment with new things, and explore their creativity regularly - and given that as well as my directorial experience and comfort performing in front of a camera, I figured (perhaps naively) that starting a YouTube channel wouldn’t be super difficult!
Well, friends, it turns out it’s a lot of work. Very, very hard work. But it also turns out that I love it! The type of creativity required for making videos changes at each part of the process - from scriptwriting to performing to directing to editing to graphic design - and it’s constantly challenging.
It’s super rewarding, too; the number of people who have come to me in private to tell me that my videos have helped them realize that they themselves are disabled, or that they feel more seen as a chronically ill person in the isolating landscape that is opera, or just to share their own experiences seeking diagnosis, has been overwhelming. Knowing my videos have helped people feel less alone is a gift far beyond what I can express.
What topics most interest you?
While my channel’s tagline pretty much says it all - opera, disability, queerness, cats, and tea - what really interests me are the intersections between those things. I love talking about improving accessibility at Pride events; LGBTQ+ representation on operatic stages; and of course, about disabled artists navigating the operatic world.
But while my videos are often educational, they’re also designed to be fun! I do like to just sit and chat with the camera, showing my personal disabled joy as well as the realities of the challenges I face day-to-day in an ableist industry.
Mostly, it’s important to me to simply take up space in the operatic sphere as an unapologetically disabled and LGBTQ person, and challenge the long-held ideas that I, and people like me, shouldn’t be here. We are here, and we make good art and beautiful music, and we deserve to be seen.
How does your disability impact your work?
Not only does my chronic illness impact every aspect of the way in which I create content, but I look at each video script through a disability lens, because while not every video explicitly has to do with disability, I am still always disabled all the time.
I also ask myself, how accessible is this video? Can I make it better? Am I forgetting about some access need that isn’t my own when discussing this topic? And am I being open to suggestions from other disabled folks who don’t share the same access needs as I do?
'The Disabled Opera Singer' is a series of three videos that Robin rates among her favourites
Because when it comes down to it, the point I always want to make with my content is that operatic and LGBTQ spaces should always be for everybody, and access is a basic human right.
And yes, I do always put proper closed captioning on all my videos, too!
What are the favourite videos you’ve done + who are your favourite content creators?
I am particularly proud of my “Every Operatic Soprano Voice Type, Explained” video, as well as my series of three videos all filmed at once entitled “The Disabled Opera Singer”, which explains Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, its various comorbidities, its effect on my hands and heart, and my own personal journey to diagnosis.
I feel like those videos I can all look back on as really connecting with people, and when I think of my channel’s best moments, I think of those.
As for favourite content creators, I’m happy to share! I am a big fan of Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, another disabled and LGBTQ YouTuber who shares a lot of her life, as well as plenty of educational content about disability.
I’m also a big fan of Chronically Jenni’s Instagram, where she shares a lot of useful hacks for life with chronic illnesses. Both of those creators also showcase the many and varied facets of their lives, highlighting disabled joy and just how varied the disabled experience can be.
Anything to add that people should know?
New videos are coming soon! :)
Find more from Robin on her YouTube page