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Nelson opera commission celebrates major milestones

Nelson Daily Editor
By Nelson Daily Editor
June 15th, 2011

Directors of the Amy Ferguson Institute had good reason to break out the champagne last week.

After more than two years of fundraising the Institute learned it had been awarded a major grant from the Vancouver Foundation that brought the total amount raised for the opera commission to just over the $100,000 target set by the board for completion of all aspects of the opera project.

This announcement by the Vancouver Foundation came on the heels of two earlier grants announced in May and early June of Columbia Basin Trust funds awarded by the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, and by the Regional District of Central Kootenay for the same project.

“These most recent major injections of funds totaling just over $40,000 are the culmination of an extended campaign largely underwritten in the first two years by contributions from local private donors, said Marty Horswill, chair of AFI’s Opera Commission Committee.  “Our success with these most recent grants was made possible by the tremendous support already demonstrated by the local community.”

AFI chairperson, Ron Little, expressed the gratitude of the Board for the tremendous support everyone has shown for this ambitious project.  

“It is a huge relief to know that we now have the financial resources we need not to only complete the commissioning of the new opera but also fully implement a first class world premiere production here in Nelson next March, and then tour that production to other communities in the East and West Kootenays,” he said.

The AFI directors had an equally important artist milestone to celebrate last week: The completion of the first draft of the entire score of the new opera. 

“Our composer, Don Macdonald, put the final touches to his score on Wednesday of last week and we received the first fully bound scores from the printers on Friday,” Horswill announced. 

The 246-page score was immediately distributed to the cast of the opera who have been learning the portions of the work already completed since they were first selected for their roles in auditions held in February.  

“We will test run this first draft at a workshop performance over the weekend of June 24 – 26,” said Macdonald.  “This will be the first opportunity for Nicola Harwood, the librettist, and myself to hear the results of the past two years we have spent working on KHAOS.”

The artistic director of City Opera Vancouver, Charles Barber, singer and opera director; Alison Greene from Victoria, dramaturge and artistic director of urban ink productions; and Diane Roberts, also from Vancouver, will participate in this workshop to give the cast the benefit of their experience to critique this first draft, said librettist, Nicola Harwood.

“Having more perspectives than our own contribute to shaping the final draft of a work as large and complex as an opera is always helpful,” she said.

Following the workshop performances, the composer and librettist will have the summer to revise their score before the final version of the work is delivered to the Amy Ferguson Institute in September.

Auditions for the chorus of KHAOS will be held in late September and begin musical rehearsals in late October.  Full staging rehearsals will begin in January leading to the premiere performances at the Capitol Theatre March 8-10.  

The theme of KHAOS is a re-imagining of the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone set in the contemporary world of climate change and looming global disaster.

The opera asks the questions: What if a civilization’s greed and need for “progress” prevented Persephone from returning to Earth to console her grieving mother? Would the cycles of rejuvenation be broken? If climate change is upon us – what are the myths we will make of this time?



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