Nelson’s homegrown opera wins international recognition

KHAOS has been selected for OPERA America’s showcase of new works at its Opera Conference 2013

KHAOS, a new Canadian opera composed by Nelson resident Don Macdonald, to a libretto written by playwright Nicola Harwood and premiered by Nelson Community Opera in March 2012, has received two international opera awards.

The Amy Ferguson Institute, the commissioners of KHAOS, recently learned their nomination of KHAOS for inclusion in OPERA America’s showcase of new works at its Opera Conference 2013 — an international gathering of hundreds of opera directors and professionals — had been accepted. Opera Conference 2013 will take place this year in Vancouver from May 7 to 11.

Selections from KHAOS will be performed as part of the conference’s New Works Sampler at Vancouver’s Playhouse Theatre on the evening of May 10. KHAOS is one of only four New Works Sampler operas to be showcased at Opera Conference 2013.

Composer Don Macdonald also learned the Boston Metro Opera’s 2013 international composer’s competition had selected KHAOS for a special Director’s Choice Award.

According to the Boston Metro Opera website, works such as KHAOS that win a Director’s Choice Award will be performed as part of Boston Metro Opera’s regular 2013/14 or 2014/15 opera season.

“I am especially grateful and humbled by these awards,” said KHAOS composer, Don Macdonald. “Nicola and I are thrilled as it now seems our hope for wider exposure and an extended life for KHAOS is no longer just a dream.”

Nicola Harwood, the KHAOS librettist, found the recognition very moving, “I am very humbled to feel that our hard work is gaining recognition,” Harwood said.

“I know that Nelson and West Kootenay audiences responded very strongly to KHAOS and it gave us great hope that the work had legs, but still, it’s tough to gauge the work based on the hometown crowd alone. These two nods are significant. I am very, very proud of Don and our team, including the original cast and the Amy Ferguson Institute who had the vision and guts to commission KHAOS.”

The Opera America selection panel included: Michael Barrett, pianist, coach and associate artistic director of the New York Festival of Song; Dorothy Byrne, mezzo-soprano; Mark Campbell, librettist; and Laura Kaminsky, composer and artistic director of Symphony Space.

Marty Horswill, chair of the Amy Ferguson Institute’s opera commission committee, noted that because Opera Conference 2013 is taking place in Canada, the May 10th new works showcase includes a whole group of new Canadian works supported by the Canadian Opera Creation Fund and selected for this performance by Opera Canada. “KHAOS is not included in this group of Canadian operas but is instead included in the New Works Sampler of new international operas selected in New York by OPERA America’s own adjudication panel,” said Horswill. “For this panel to have included another Canadian opera when so many were already featured in this year’s event speaks volumes, I believe, for the artistic merit the New York panel must have found in Don and Nicola’s new creation.”

KHAOS is a re-imagining of the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone set in a contemporary world of climate change and looming global catastrophe. This re-telling of the Greek legend asks the question ‘What if civilization’s greed and unrelenting drive for progress prevented Persephone from returning to Earth to console her grieving mother? Would Demeter’s grief and rage end life on earth as we know it?’”

KHAOS was commissioned by the Amy Ferguson Institute and its world premiere was mounted by the Institute’s production company, Nelson Community Opera, in March 2012 to rave reviews and sold out houses.