The National Arts Center’s next season features Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bruce Liu and a double dose of Margaret Atwood

Baritone Joshua Hopkins, foreground, on the Skywalker Sound scoring stage, with an image of his sister Nathalie Warmerdam and her two children, Valerie and Adrian, behind.Jake Heggie/Houston Grand Opera

The Ottawa-based National Arts Center has announced the world premiere with orchestra of an eight-song suite in memory of a horrific series of murders that took place seven years ago in Canada.

Songs for the Murdered Sisters was written expressly for Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins, who makes his solo debut at Southam Hall in a work that recounts the tragedy of needlessly lost lives. The NAC Orchestra’s co-commission with poetic text by Canadian author Margaret Atwood and music by Jake Heggie is part of the NAC’s just-unveiled 2022-2023 season.

On the morning of September 22, 2015, in Renfrew County, Ontario, a man brutally murdered three women in their separate homes. The violence has devastated the rural Ottawa Valley community where opera singer Hopkins grew up. His sister, Nathalie Warmerdam, was one of the women killed.

“I felt so numb after Nathalie’s murder,” Hopkins told The Globe and Mail last year. “You don’t deal with grief in a linear fashion – any emotion can arise whenever you encounter an emotional surge. But meaning transforms grief into a more peaceful and hopeful experience. These songs provided that meaning for me.

The orchestral presentations of Songs for the Murdered Sisters will perform at Southam Hall on February 9 and 10, 2023. A piano/voice version of the song cycle had its live premiere earlier this year at Houston’s Rothko Chapel, presented by co-curator of Houston Grand Opera. A Songs for the Murdered Sisters film premiered last year; an album was nominated for a Juno award this year but lost to Emily D’Angelo Energy.

From October 27 to 29, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet will present The Handmaid’s Tale, accompanied by the NAC Orchestra.Daniel Crump/National Arts Center

On the one hand, the new NAC season represents stabilization for the performing arts centre. Productions and concerts previously postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been rescheduled. The original NAC premiere of Songs for the Murdered Sisters, for example, was postponed twice. The 2022-23 season also marks the return of subscription formulas.

However, the NAC’s artistic direction team is in transition. French Theater Artistic Director Mani Soleymanlou presents its inaugural season, while Jillian Keiley (English Theater Artistic Director) and Cathy Levy (since 2000, NAC Dance Executive Producer) offer final programming slates that conclude their terms.

One of the upcoming dance events also involves author-poet Atwood. From October 27 to 29, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents The Handmaid’s Tale, accompanied by the NAC Orchestra. Choreographed by Lila York, the ballet is steeped in the prophetic spirit and dystopian story of Atwood’s award-winning 1985 novel, which was later adapted for an Emmy-winning American television series. The ballet was described by The Globe as “bland” but “eminently watchable” when it premiered in Toronto in 2013.

Keiley, from Newfoundland, is saying goodbye after a decade at the helm of English Theatre. Its closing season includes a two-part stage adaptation of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s fall to your knees, a sweeping novel that chronicles three generations of the Piper family of Cape Breton Island. Created in partnership with Vita Brevis Arts, Neptune Theatre, Grand Theater and Canadian Stage, Hannah Moscovitch and Alisa Palmer’s adaptation will premiere in Toronto in early 2023 before touring London, Ontario, Halifax and the NAC .

Other English Theater highlights include The breathing hole by Colleen Murphy, with translation by Siobhan Arnatsiaq-Murphy and Nattilingmiutut by Janet Tamalik McGrath. The NAC Indigenous Theater co-production explores history and the climate crisis with the story of a polar bear cub adopted by an Inuk grandmother.

As for French Theatre, new artistic director Soleymanlou has invited 40 artists with diverse identities from across French-speaking Canada to create UN. Of them. Threea choral performance that runs from September 28 to October 1, before touring theaters from Moncton to Vancouver.

Buffy Sainte-Marie will participate in a show that also includes performances by as yet unknown musicians on September 16 at Southam Hall.Mark Zaleski/The Canadian Press

Noteworthy pop concerts include Starwalker: A Celebration of the Songs, Music and Life of Buffy Sainte-Marie. The Indigenous Canadian-American singer-songwriter takes part in a show that also includes performances by as-yet-unknown musicians on September 16 at Southam Hall. The tireless 81-year-old icon won the Polaris Music Prize in 2015 for his album power in the blood.

The NAC Orchestra season opens in September with the appearance of Montreal pianist Bruce Liu, who won first prize at last year’s Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw. The young virtuoso interprets Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini in a lively concert program that also includes playful works by Richard Strauss and Canadian composer Dinuk Wijeratne.

Ticket information for the 2022-2023 NAC season is available on the performing arts center website.

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About Madeline J. Carter

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