Stage Door News

Toronto: Tapestry Opera presents “Shanawdithit” about the last Beothuk May 16-25

Sunday, April 14, 2019

At a time when truth and reconciliation is top of mind in Canada, Tapestry Opera and Opera on the Avalon present the landmark world premiere of Shanawdithit, an opera that retraces a lost people and sheds light on a story misrepresented by history. The real life story of the title character Shanawdithit (1801-1829) who is thought to be the last known member of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Beothuk Nation, is vividly brought to life through spectacular large scale works of art interpreting her drawings and stories.

The story and libretto are written and curated by celebrated Algonquin playwright Yvette Nolan, who says, “The opera is an opportunity to remember and give voice to Shanawdithit and her people, providing a platform for Indigenous artists to tell this vital Beothuk story to a contemporary audience from an Indigenous perspective. The collaborators are deeply connected to the work and the story. We are Shanawdithit’s cultural descendants – the Indigenous artists who know her story, who are looking at her work and interpreting it. It’s always the right time to tell these stories. The question is – when are people ready to listen?”

The score is composed by Newfoundlander Dean Burry that features six soloists, a 40-voice chorus, an 11-piece orchestra, and newly commissioned large-scale works of art in the form of photography, sculpture, video and painting. Performances run from May 16 – 25, 2019 at the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre in Toronto, after which the show will travel to Newfoundland and Labrador for a performance on June 21, 2019 at St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.

“The recorded history of the Beothuk is deeply problematic, in addition to the troubling fact that most Canadians are unaware of the Beothuk’s tragic past,” says Michael Hidetoshi Mori, Tapestry Opera’s Artistic Director. “Nearly all of the Beothuk’s published history was documented by European settlers and non-Indigenous historians, spreading untruth and biases, even going as far as to claim the Beothuk were wiped out of existence at the hands of warring Indigenous tribes.”

Shanawdithit brings renowned Indigenous artists from Nations across the country together under the leadership of creator and co-director Yvette Nolan. Visual artists Jordan Bennett (Mi’kmaq), Lori Blondeau (Cree, Saulteaux and Metis), Jerry Evans (Mi’kmaq), Meagan Musseau (Mi’kmaq), and choreographer Michelle Olsen (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation) join Metis soprano Rebecca Cuddy, Garden River First Nation baritone Evan Korbut, Inuk mezzo-soprano Deantha Edmunds, Mi’kmaq dancer Aria Evans

and Kwagiulth and Sto:lo mezzo-soprano Marion Newman as Shanawdithit. Canadian baritone Clarence Frazer steps into the role of Cormack and tenor Asitha Tennekoon will play the role of Peyton.

Alongside Nolan, the collaborators, performers and Indigenous community members have been instrumental in the multi-voice shaping of the work through a collaborative and workshop-driven process influenced by oral and visual histories. The five core artistic collaborators each worked with one of Shanawdithit’s drawings to interpret her art and use dance, photography, projections, visual art and set design to dynamically reimagine her life and story for the stage.

Tickets range from $75 – $150 and are available now online at