Stage Door News

Toronto: VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert presents Charles W. Wilson’s “Kamouraska” February 16

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Kamouraska – the novel and the opera - presents a classic and tumultuous love triangle played out near a village in Quebec, brought to life by the profound artistry of novelist Anne Hebert… resounding in its musical re-imagining for the lyric stage by the Charles Wilson. 

Charles, ‘Chuck’ to his friends, passed away on June 13, 2019, in Fergus where he had lived since his return to Ontario in 2010 from British Columbia. Wilson is highly regarded as one of Canada’s foremost composers and is fondly remembered both in Toronto and in Guelph where most of his compositions - orchestral, operatic and choral - were first heard.

Kamouraska, written in 1975, was intended to follow the grand opera style of his Heloise and Abelard for the Canadian Opera Company. The plans were shelved, and the work languished until OIC came calling with the suggestion that it be transformed into a chamber opera. With such a re-working, OIC’s burgeoning interest in neglected Canadian works could be honoured and, in this case, the World Premiere of a new Canadian Opera could be presented. Charles decided to give OIC a try and produced the present powerful and dramatic version first performed on March 28 and 29, 2009 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. The cast featured Miriam Khalil, James McLennan and Alexander Dobson as the pivotal, tragic and murderous love triangle at the core of Kamouraska. Alex Pauk led the cast and Esprit Orchestra.

VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert is anticipating with much excitement, the remount of Wilson’s masterwork on Sunday, February 16, 2020, in celebration of the man and his art. This time our triumvirate in crime and passion is an equally powerful trio of artists including Jennifer Taverner as Elizabeth, Matt Chittick as Antoine Tassy, her abusive husband, and Cairan Ryan as Dr. George Nelson. Robert Cooper will lead the orchestra and full cast as a conductor while Guillermo Silva-Marin will serve as a dramatic advisor and design the presentation.

Dr. Charles Wilson was born in Toronto in 1931 and was active throughout his career as a composer, conductor, organist, and university professor. He held a number of appointments, including Artistic Director of the Bach-Elgar Choir of Hamilton, Chorusmaster of the Canadian Opera Company, and he founded the Guelph Light Opera Company and the Oratorio Choir. He held a position as Professor of Music at the University of Guelph and in 1988 he became Composer-in-Residence at the University, a post which involved the operation of the Electronic Music Studio. In 1993 he retired from the university and subsequently moved to Gabriola Island, British Columbia.

Vocal music claimed his creative attention from 1966, as witness his two-and-a-quarter hour oratorio The Angels of the Earth (June 1967) for the Guelph Light Opera Company and the Bach-Elgar Choir, and his operas, The Summoning of Everyman (1973) for CBC, Heloise and Abelard (1972) for the Canadian Opera Company, Psycho Red (1977) for the Guelph Spring Festival, and Kamouraska (1975), first performed by VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert in 2009.

Since it’s inception in 1974, VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert has given little known works a chance to be heard by opera lovers in the GTA and from 1994 has been instrumental in revisiting a number of Canadian operas including Night Blooming Cereus and The Shivareeby John Beckwith, Serinette and The Fool by Harry Somers, The Lady with the Lamp by Timothy Sullivan, Wilson’s The Summoning of Everyman and the World Premiere in 2018 of Victor Davies’ The Ecstasy of Rita Joe. 

VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert presents one performance of Kamouraska on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, at 2:30 pm.

VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert is supported by the Jackman Foundation, The Dianne and Irving Kipnes Foundation, Nancy’s Very Own Foundation, Classical 96.3 FM Radio, Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. Single tickets are available from the St. Lawrence Centre’s Jane Mallett Theatre Box Office, 27 Front St. East, by phone – 416-366-7723 or 1-800-708-6754 or online at  The theatre is wheelchair accessible and close to public transit and municipal parking.  All performances are on Sunday afternoons at the St. Lawrence Centre at 2:30 pm.

Photo: Charles M. Wilson.