In the June 2017 issue of La Scena Musicale, we reported on a collaboration between Odawa composer Barbara Croall and the Highlands Opera Studio (read here). The project, entitled Wiikondiwin (meaning feasting or feast) was commissioned by general director Valerie Kuinka in partnership with the Atelier Lyrique de L’Opera de Montreal. It was set to be premiered on August 19 at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavillion in Haliburton, Ontario.
Unfortunately, Barbara Croall withdrew Wiikondiwin on July 10, citing “ongoing and increasingly critical family health issues,” which have restricted her ability to complete the opera on time.
“After receiving this news…and in consultation with Chantal Lambert, Director of L’Atelier Lyrique de L’Opéra de Montréal, and Richard Margison, Artistic Director, Highlands Opera Studio, an intensive search for a new composer began, which involved research and consultation with members of the First Nation and Western musical communities across Canada,” says Kuinka. “This research culminated in direct communication with a short list of highly qualified and accomplished composers of Indigenous heritage, all of whom were very enthusiastic about this project.”
The directors chose Andrew Balfour of Winnipeg, a composer of Cree descent. Balfour is the artistic director of Camerata Nova, an a cappella vocal group that performs music influenced by Indigenous and early Western art music sources.
“The essence of the collaboration between opera and First Nation music and culture, the environmental subject matter, structure, and timelines will all remain intact,” states Kuinka.
Balfour’s work, Mishaabooz’s Realm (La Domaine de Michabous), will have its first public workshop on August 19, the same date as the original commission.
Balfour had this to say: “This exciting new work promises to be a multi-media and multi-directional work, incorporating classical styles, unique choral and vocal perspectives, Indigenous musical and oral traditions, with a libretto in First Nations dialect, French and English, exploring contemporary issues concerning Canada’s relationship with our First People and the land of Turtle Island, past, present and future. In the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action, I am honoured to take part in this wonderful collaborative approach in creating this important cultural and exciting new work.”
For more information see www.highlandsoperastudio.com.