Vancouver Opera: Naomi's Road to perform in Ottawa at Canadian War Museum

VANCOUVER OPERA

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 6,
2006                                         

Media
Contact: Doug Tuck, Vancouver
Opera 604-331-4823

dtuck@vancouveropera.ca

Vancouver Opera presents

at the Canadian
War Museum
in Ottawa

its acclaimed opera for young
audiences

Naomi’s Road

A
touching drama of family, home, and cross-cultural understanding

 

 

Vancouver,
BC ~
After inspiring nearly 50,000
children in schools and community venues throughout British
Columbia , in southern Alberta ,
and in Washington
State , Vancouver
Opera’s acclaimed opera for young audiences and their families, Naomi’s Road, continues to resonate in
profound ways.  From November 1 through
12, 2006, Vancouver Opera, in partnership with
the Canadian War
Museum in
Ottawa , will present twenty performances of
this very moving opera at the museum.

 

About the Opera

Commissioned
by Vancouver Opera, Naomi’s Road was
composed by Ramona Luengen to a
libretto by Ann
Hodges
and is based on the 1986 novel for young readers
by award-winning Japanese Canadian writer Joy
Kogawa
. Set during World War II, the opera depicts the dramatic
journey of nine-year-old Naomi, her older brother Stephen, and their
“Obasan” (aunt) from their comfortable and happy home in
Vancouver to a Japanese
internment camp in the interior of B.C.  Sister and brother endure the
harshness of war, racism, bullying, and loss of family to discover the gifts
that sustain them: music, words and love.  Their resilience of spirit and
the kindness of certain strangers they meet offer hope for the future and will
lead Canadian
War Museum
audiences to discover the power of understanding and the beauty of compassion.

 

In announcing these performances, James W. Wright, VO’s General
Director, said, “This meaningful work deeply touched many people,
children and adults alike, during its tour of B.C. and in locations in
Alberta and Washington
State that hold their own
unique memories of the Japanese internment.  We are delighted by the
opportunity to share this opera with young audiences in Ottawa ,
within the resonant surroundings of the
Canadian War
Museum .” 
Added Wright, “I believe that this presentation of Naomi’s Road comes at a time in
history when it is important to reflect on the ways in which war and its
by-products can not only affect the future of nations but also forever alter
the lives of children and the security of their families.  Vancouver Opera
is privileged to stage a production that has the unique ability to act as a
catalyst for audiences of all ages to enter into important dialogue on these
issues.”

 

Performance Details / Tickets

November
1-3: School performances (not open to the public) 

November 4
and 5: public performances 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm each day

November
7-10: school performances (not open to the public)

November 11
and 12: public performance each day at 2:00 pm

 

Tickets to
the public performances are now available from the
Canadian War
Museum ’s call
centre at
1-800-555-5621 or 819-776-7014. Tickets may also be
purchased in person at the Canadian
War Museum
box office.  Prices are $10 for students, and $20 for adults, plus any
applicable service charges.  Schools can purchase group tickets by calling
1-800-555-5621 or 819-776-7014. 

 

About
Joy Kogawa

Joy
Kogawa’s novel Naomi’s Road is
based on her 1981 award-winning adult book Obasan,
the first novel to deal with the internment of Japanese Canadians during and
after World War II.  Widely admired and read, Obasan was chosen for the Vancouver Public Library’s
2005 city-wide annual book club program, One
Book One Vancouver
.  Joy Kogawa was born in
Vancouver in 1935. Like Naomi’s family
in the novel, Joy’s family was interned in Slocan and later sent to
Coaldale , Alberta
after World War II, where Joy taught school. Kogawa, who now lives in
Toronto and Vancouver ,
is a recipient of numerous honorary doctorates as well as national and
international awards for her writing.  In 1986, she was named a Member of
the Order of Canada . 
“When I first heard that Naomi's Road
was being made into an opera for children, I had a sense of unreality,”
she said.  “I couldn't quite fathom it.  And even today,
knowing that somehow, through some mysterious process, the story has been
magically transformed into a wholly different and wonderful medium, I still
find it hard to believe and am left somewhat stunned.  It's more than a
dream come true.”  Adds Kogawa, “The existence of this opera
tells me once again that the unexpected is what happens — and that there are
more blessings in the air than we can ask for or imagine.  May we each
walk on our own special roads – like Naomi and [her new kindred spirit]
Mitzi – with Friendship, discovering as we go that our world is full of a
loveliness that is greater than all the grief in our lives.”

 

The Creation Process

Vancouver
Opera awarded he commission for Naomi’s
Road
in the fall of 2003 and the process of writing and composing
began.  Ann Hodges penned the
libretto in the winter of 2003/2004.  Composer Ramona
Luengen wrote the last notes of her score in September,
2004.  That same month, the libretto was read at a special event at the
Gulf of
Georgia Cannery National Historical Site ,
in Steveston, B.C., (located at the site of the seizure, in 1942, of hundreds
of fishing boats owned by Japanese Canadians). 

 

Two week-long workshops were
conducted, one in the fall of 2004 and the other in the spring of 2005, during
which the work was developed and refined.  In May, 2005, portions of the
opera were sung for an international audience at the annual OPERA
America conference, in
Detroit .  And in early June, 2005,
selections from the opera were performed at the 2005 UBC-Laurier Institution
Multiculturalism Lecture, at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, in
Vancouver .  The
performance and the lecture, by poet and writer Roy Miki, were later broadcast
on the CBC Radio program IDEAS.

 

During
2005-2006, Vancouver Opera’s touring production of Naomi’s Road visited more than 140
schools and community venues throughout B.C.  The experience of seeing and
hearing Naomi’s Road was
enhanced with study materials that were created and provided by Vancouver Opera
to each school in advance of the performance.  The production also
traveled to Lethbridge , Alberta
and to Seattle and
Bainbridge Island , Washington . 
It was enthusiastically received wherever it was performed.

 

 

Production Details

The
production features original sets and costumes, designed by Christine Reimer, which beautifully evoke
the 1940s period of the opera’s story and have been cleverly engineered
to fold up for touring purposes.  Stage direction is by Ann Hodges.

 

The musical
score, for piano accompaniment and four singers, is richly melodic and
dramatic.  Easily enjoyed by young audiences, the music is also deft and
sophisticated enough to be appreciated by adult audiences.  It
incorporates traditional Japanese melody and its beautiful voicings and
harmonies are influenced by Ramona Luengen’s experience as a composer of
choral music.  The Musical Director is Leslie
Uyeda

 

Cast

This
production reunites the four young singers and the nimble-fingered pianist from
the Spring 2006 segment of the 2005-2006 tour.  Soprano Jessica Cheung is Naomi; soprano Gina Oh is Mother, Obasan and Mitzi (a
non-Japanese girl whom Naomi befriends); tenor Sam Chung is Stephen; and baritone Gene Wu is Father, the Trainmaster, a bully, and Rough Lock
Bill (an eccentric but kindly man who lives in the mountains above the
internment camp).  The pianist is Angus
Kellett
. The stage manager is David
Curtis
.

 

Support

Naomi’s Road was commissioned and produced by
Vancouver Opera with the support of Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts
Council, Opera.ca, Vancouver Foundation, RBC Foundation, Vancouver Arts Awards,
The Hamber Foundation, The Leon and Thea Koerner Foundation, and the Spirit of
BC Arts Fund.

 

This
presentation at the Canadian war Museum is made possible with the generous
support of Ms. Yoshiko Karasawa.

 

-30 –

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


+ seven = 13