Stage Door News

Ottawa: OperOttawa announces its 2023/24 season

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Founding Artistic Director Norman E. Brown of OperOttawa, and its Board of Directors are thrilled to announce our 2023-2024 Season.

The season, consisting of three productions will use only female upper voices in all roles, will engage local singers and musicians, will be semi-staged with costumes, some sets and props, will have professional soloists, a chorus and will be supported in all three by the OperOttawa Orchestra.

The season opens on SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 17, 2023 at 2:30 pm at First Baptist Church with Puccini’s Suor Angelica. Sung in the original Italian, this will be an updated interpretation, set in a private girls Catholic High School, Angelica faces the guilt of her unwanted pregnancy amidst the religious beliefs and scorn of her class-mates, school staff and her wealthy aunt. Angelica is sung by local favourite, soprano Kathleen Radke, the Rich Aunt is sung by mezzo-soprano Carole Portelance, and the School Principal is sung by mezzo-soprano Pauline van der Roest. The cast also includes Ania Hejnar (a favourite singing the National Anthem at Sens’ Games!), Mary Zborowski, Stephanie Brassard, Marie Lyne Tremblay and others in roles such as school staff or other students. The production will be conducted by Norman E. Brown.

Our second full production will be Mozart’s best and most liked opera The Magic Flute on SUNDAY NOVEMBER 26, 2023 at 2:30 pm at First Baptist Church. Sung in the original German, with dialogue in English, the battle between good and evil continues in our unique production. The only difference is this war will be quite Amazonian - females against females.

Can the Queen of the Night defeat Sarastra? Will Princess Tamina be united with Pamina? All roles will be sung by upper female voices. Pamina will be sung by Erinne-Colleen Laurin, last heard with OperOttawa as Alcina, with Tamina sung by Kathleen Radke, the Queen of the Night by Ania Hejnar, and Sarastra by Carole Portelance. The quirky Pipogena (the love-lorn birdcatcher) will be sung by Helene Picard, and the role of Papagena will be sung by Katie Gratton. The cast includes the evil Monostatas sung by Silke Schwarz and 14 other upper voice singers making up the Queen’s 3 Ladies in waiting, the 3 Spirits who guide Tamina on her quest for truth and wisdom, and the priestesses and guards of Sarastra’s domain. The full OperOttawa orchestra will be conducted by Norman E. Brown.

The final production in our 11th season will be a WORLD PREMIERE – THE GATES OF HEAVEN: REQUIEM FOR A LIFE OF PEACE by our composer-in-residence Jack Hui Litster, on SUNDAY MARCH 10, 2024 at 2:30 pm at First Baptist Church. Jack Hui Litster’s Gates of Heaven: Requiem for a Life of Peace is written for female voices and chamber orchestra. His previous commissions for OperOttawa depicted childbirth (The Day You Were Born), then love (What is Love?), and now his Requiem explores the journey through the gateway of death into the next life (In Paradisum).

This production with full upper voice female ensemble, chorus, and orchestra will feature 20 singers including well-known Ottawa favourites Kathleen Radke, Erinne-Colleen Laurin, Carole Portelance, Morgan Strickland, Ania Hejnar, Stephanie Brassard, Pauline van der Roest, Katie Gratton and Sherrie Spelchuk. Conducted by Norman E. Brown.

OperOttawa is a relatively young opera company (currently in its10th season) producing opera and concerts amidst the larger well-established companies across Canada. As more of the large and medium sized companies are folding due to budgetary stresses, there is a strong trend in many cities towards the smaller self-managed self-producing companies. In Ottawa there is a large gap when it comes to live opera since the demise of Opera Lyra, and even with those small companies that come and go, Ottawa is only offered one production per year, whereas OperOttawa has specialized in filling the gap by producing operas and oratorios of the Baroque/early periods, as well as the occasional Mozart or 20th century opera such as Menotti’s The Medium and producing world premiere operas encouraging and supporting young up and coming Ottawa composers such as Jack Hui Litster. 

OperOttawa also endeavours to produce operas in their entirety with no cuts, giving singers an opportunity to fully learn major roles. We also offer younger and less experienced singers an opportunity to understudy main roles, with a chance to perform at rehearsals or fill in at the last moment. We also give singers of all ages and calibres a chance to sing in spectacular choruses in our operas and our oratorio productions. Recent productions have included: A semi-staged performance of Handel’s opera Alcina with soloists, chorus and orchestra; an Opera Gala featuring over 45 singers and musicians; the world premiere of What is Love by Hui Litster; an alternative version of Handel’s Messiah, and a semi-staged and costumed performance of Handel’s opera Acis & Galatea.

Canadian baritone Norman E. Brown is widely praised for his rich vocal colour and impressive range of repertoire. Reviews and audiences consistently speak of “his full, rich voice - a pleasure to the ear” and of a “voice .. extremely well projected”. Norman has an extensive singing career performing as soloist in opera, oratorio and in concert across Canada, in the United States, in Europe and in Japan. Norman holds degrees in voice performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto; the University of Toronto; and Trinity College of Music, London (UK) as well as B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in math and physics, a DMAP diploma in psychology, and an MBA in arts administration.

Former General Manager of Opera Lyra Ottawa, Norman is the Founder and Artistic Director of OperOttawa. Norman Brown’s conducting career started in 1972 when he was asked to form a children’s choir at the church where he was bass soloist. Later, on his arrival in Ottawa (1990) Norman conducted the children’s and adult-mixed choirs with the Ottawa School of Music. Norman was the first conductor of The Atlantic Voices Choir in Ottawa (2000-2005), and subsequently conducted The Ottawa Folk Community Choir (2004-2006), Musica Ebraica (2012-2014), Gloucester Bell Ringers (2004-2006), assistant conductor with Parkdale Orchestra (2006-2009), professional singer/soloist and guest conductor with Ottawa Choral Society (2005-2009), and for the past 5 years has conducted operas and oratorios with OperOttawa. Norman also conducted the Come-Sing-Messiahs at Easter for CAMMAC. Norman will be pursuing a conducting mentorship during the 2023-24 season with Leslie Dala (Conductor with Vancouver Opera and the Vancouver Bach Choir).