Nelson to mount its second operatic world premiere

Puppet master, Simone Varey, (right) describes her concept for the puppetry in Jorinda with the opera’s creative team, (left to right) producer Marty Horswill, stage director, Geoff Burns and composer and musical director, Doug Jamieson (standing). -  Elizabeth Cunningham photo
Puppet master, Simone Varey, (right) describes her concept for the puppetry in Jorinda with the opera’s creative team, (left to right) producer Marty Horswill, stage director, Geoff Burns and composer and musical director, Doug Jamieson (standing).
— image credit: Elizabeth Cunningham photo

Just three years after the premiere of its hugely successful commissioned opera, Khaos, the Amy Ferguson Institute (AFI) has announced it will now mount a second operatic world premiere by yet another Nelson-based composer.

“This opportunity to mount another new opera came as a complete surprise,” said AFI president Dianna Ducs. “We weren’t even aware that another composer of opera lived in Nelson when Doug Jamieson approached us with the offer of his new work, Jorinda... the AFI Board of Directors enthusiastically approved the committee’s recommendation that our production company, Nelson Community Opera, mount Jorinda  in November 2015.”

A native of Ontario, Jamieson has been an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre since 1984. He was awarded eight Ontario Arts Council commissions and two Canada Council commissions. He has scored music for nine films and videos and three theatrical productions.

Jorinda has been a long‐term project for Jamieson. The genesis of the work goes back to the 1980s when he wrote a story outline adapted from one of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales that he read to his children. He kept the story in mind, hoping to use it someday as the basis of a musical theatre work. He sketched out several sections in 1995 ­— writing both the music and libretto — and returned to it 10 years later to complete the first draft in 2007. In 2012, he made a demo recording of the complete work.

Jamieson and his wife, Elizabeth, recently moved to Nelson to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren. He quickly became involved in the local musical scene including serving as a director of Selkirk Pro Musica.

“When Elizabeth and I moved here we weren’t even aware Nelson had an opera company so I had no idea that Jorinda could be produced here,” Jamieson said.  “It is extremely gratifying that this opera I’ve been working on for so many years will now come to life here in our new home.”

In the opera, the heroine Jorinda, along with 7,000 other young girls, has been turned into a bird in a cage by an evil witch. One night in a storm she briefly escapes, turns back into her human form and meets the hero Jaren, just long enough for them to fall in love. But the witch soon recaptures her and she is turned back into a bird in a cage. The rest of the tale follows the adventures of Jorinda and Jaren as they struggle to outwit the witch and overcome her magical powers.

“Like many Brothers Grimm tales, Jorinda functions on two levels, on the one hand it is a simple fairy tale suitable for children but it is also a very adult allegory of good and evil,” said the show’s producer Marty Horswill, who also produced Khaos in 2012. “We were especially captivated by Jamieson’s novel approach to presenting his opera. From the outset his vision for this work was to tell the story through the use of puppetry rather than the traditional operatic form.  This approach works for Nelson Community Opera because, along with Nelson’s many other talented performers and designers, the community also has its own highly skilled puppeteer, Simone Varey, who has agreed to join our production team as the puppet master.  In addition to building the puppets required for the show, Simone will also train the corps of puppeteers, each of whom will animate their own large puppet character.”

Jamieson himself will be the musical director for the show. In addition to Varey as puppet master, the show’s creative team includes Geoff Burns, the stage director and Dave Ingraham, the lighting designer.

Jorinda will open at Nelson’s Capitol Theatre in November 2015.

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