Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Vancouver stage veteran Norman Armour to direct world premiere of Pauline

Executive director of PuSh theatre Norman Armour

rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

Versatile Vancouver stage director and co-founder of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival Norman Armour has been chosen to helm next year's world premiere of Pauline, a chamber opera based on the life of legendary Canadian poet Pauline Johnson (1861-1913), by City Opera Vancouver.

Pauline, featuring an original score by Canadian composer Tobin Stokes and famed Canadian writer Margaret Atwood's debut as librettist, will run for six to 10 performances in May at the refurbished 400-seat York Theatre, the COV announced Wednesday. Casting for the estimated eight performers in the $300,000 production is expected to begin this spring.

Armour, 54, admitted in a brief phone interview he's rather daunted by the prospect of taking on what will be his first opera – an opera, too, about a beloved literary figure. "When you tackle any person, trying to honour some aspect of a real person's life, I think it can be intimidating . . . In some way, you want to do justice to certain aspects of the life. But on the other side, it's not a biography; it's an act of creative licence. You must take a creative angle on it, one that inevitably will leave certain things and take certain things out."

Story continues below advertisement

Pauline has been a much-delayed project. It began as a commission in the late 1990s for Atwood from the then-director of the Toronto-based Canadian Opera Company, Richard Bradshaw. However, when her musical collaborator, Winnipeg native Randolph Peters, bowed out, the project went into hiatus for more than eight years. It resurfaced as a COV effort in early 2008, Atwood still on board but with a new composer: Toronto's Christos Hatzis. Their collaboration was to be unveiled in 2010, but a final deal couldn't be reached with Hatzis and another search started in fall 2011. Stokes, whose original opera credits include the 2011-12 COV production of Fallujah, was hired last year.

Armour noted that the COV "isn't an organization with the scale of the [Vancouver] symphony or Ballet B.C. . . . but they've been doing some pretty bold things over the last few years, Fallujah [described as the world's first opera about the Iraq war] being one of them, and picking up interest. Talking with Nora [Kelly, COV president] and Charles [Barber, artistic director], I'm really impressed by the care and commitment and depth of their feeling to the work . . . And Margaret Atwood is nothing to sneeze at."

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

James More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Please note that our commenting partner Civil Comments is closing down. As such we will be implementing a new commenting partner in the coming weeks. As of December 20th, 2017 we will be shutting down commenting on all article pages across our site while we do the maintenance and updates. We understand that commenting is important to our audience and hope to have a technical solution in place January 2018.

Discussion loading… ✨