Highlands Opera Studio


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DECEMBER 15 & 16 @ 7:30pm

Studio-Théâtre Alfred-Laliberté, 1400 Rue Berri Est, UQÀM | Montréal

DECEMBER 21 & 22 @ 7:30pm

Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion, 5358 Haliburton County Rd. 21 | Haliburton

In Anishinaabe aadizookaan (traditional storytelling), particularly among the Ojibwe, Nanabozho is a spirit who figures prominently in many stories, including the story of the world's creation. Mishaabooz is another name for Nanabozho, the great trickster spirit who shape shifts into many creatures, most often into a giant Rabbit. It's in this form that the trickster is often sent to the earth by Gitche Manitou to teach the Ojibwe peoples.

Experience this important new work combining opera and First Nations singers and instrumentalists, created for HOS by Cree composer, Andrew Balfour, in its PREMIERE PERFORMANCES. Production in collaboration with L'Atelier Lyrique, L'Opéra de Montréal.


Andrew Balfour, Composer
Valerie Kuinka, Stage Director
Canada Council for the Arts New Chapter LogoDavid Sweeney, Lighting Designer
Cory Campbell, Elder Adviser


Louise-Andrée Baril, Music Director/Piano
Andrew Balfour, percussion & vocals
Lauren Margison, soprano*
Nathan Keoughan, baritone*
Cory Campbell, Aboriginal drummer and singer
Tara-Louise Montour, violin

Community Choir from Montréal and Haliburton respectively

*member of L'Atelier Lyrique de L'Opéra de Montréal


Dear friends and patrons,

We have had an unexpected and unfortunate development in the process and preparation of our Canada 150 new First Nations/Opera collaboration, 'Wiikondiwin', with the very late withdrawal of our composer, Barbara Croall. She has cited ongoing and increasingly critical family health issues as having prevented her from being able to complete this new work.

After receiving this news on July 10th, and in consultation with Chantal Lambert, Director of L'Atelier Lyrique de L'Opéra de Montréal, and Richard Margison, Artistic Director, Highlands Opera Studio, an intensive search for a new composer began, which involved research and consultation with members of the First Nation and Western musical communities across Canada. This research culminated in direct communication with a short list of highly qualified and accomplished composers of Indigenous heritage, all of whom were very enthusiastic about this project.

After final in-depth interviews and creative discussion, we all agreed that Andrew Balfour, accomplished Winnipeg composer of Cree descent, and Artistic Director of innovative vocal group, Camerata Nova (cameratanova.com) was the perfect fit. Fortunately for us, he felt the same!

In short, the new opera will no longer be called ' Wiikondiwin', or will contain anything that could be called the intellectual property of Barbara Croall. It will have another title, and another new libretto sourced and created by composer, Andrew Balfour. The essence of the collaboration between opera and First Nation music and culture, the environmental subject matter, structure, and timelines will all remain intact.

We were incredibly pleased to welcome Andrew Balfour to Haliburton this August as our Composer-in-Residence and to have the exciting creative process unfold as he, our performers, and the creative team, worked together toward the NEW CREATION and presentation of the First Public Workshop Performance of Mishaabooz'sRealm (Le Royaume de Michabous) in Haliburton at the NLPAP on August 19th, at 8 pm.

Andrew is currently immersed in the creative process as he builds and expands on the material from the August workshop. The FULL OPERA, which will run approximately 90 minutes, will combine the CORE GROUP, made up of 3 performers from the operatic world and 3 from the First Nations performing arts community, with COMMUNITY CHORUSES from Montréal (in Montréal) and Haliburton County (in Haliburton), in a powerful, innovative, and collaborative performance experience!

Warm regards,

Valerie Kuinka
General Director



'Tansi! (Hello!)

I am honoured and extremely excited to be part of the creation of a completely new and original Indigenous based Dramatic Opera; Mishaabooz's Realm, jointly commissioned and produced by the Highlands Opera Studio/Theatre and L'Atelier Lyrique de L'Opéra de Montréal.

This exciting new work promises to be a multi-media and multi-directional work, incorporating classical styles, unique choral and vocal perspectives, Indigenous musical and oral traditionals, with a libretto in First Nations dialect, French and English, exploring contemporary issues concerning Canada's relationship with our First People and the land of Turtle Island,   past, present and future.

In the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action, I am honoured to take part in this wonderful collaborative approach in creating this important cultural and exciting new work.

Miigwech! (Thank you!)

Andrew Balfour
Composer/Artistic Director, Camerata Nova



Andrew BalfourOf Cree descent, Andrew Balfour has written a body of more than 30 choral, instrumental and orchestral works, including Take the Indian, Empire Étrange: The Death of Louis Riel, Migiis: A Whiteshell Soundscape, Bawajigaywin, Gregorio’s Nightmare, Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Fantasia on a Poem by Rumi, Missa Brevis and Medieval Inuit. He has been commissioned by the Winnipeg, Regina and Toronto symphony orchestras, Ensemble Caprice, the Winnipeg Singers, the Kingston Chamber Choir and Camerata Nova, among many others. His works have been performed and/or broadcast locally, nationally and internationally.

Andrew is also founder and Artistic Director of the innovative vocal group Camerata Nova. Founded in 1996, the Winnipeg-based singers present an annual concert series, perform at new and early music festivals, have five recordings and a variety of broadcasts. With Camerata Nova, Andrew specializes in creating “concept concerts” (Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Medieval Inuit, Chant!, Tricksters and Troubadours) exploring a theme through an eclectic array of music, including new works, arrangements and innovative inter-genre and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Andrew is passionate about music education and outreach, particularly in schools located in low-income areas of Winnipeg and northern communities. Since 2008 he has worked on behalf of organizations such as the National Arts Centre, Camerata Nova, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and various Manitoba school divisions, offering young students empowering sessions in the joy and freedom of self-expression through music.

Andrew was Curator and Composer-in-Residence of the WSO’s Indigenous Festival in 2009 and 2010, and in 2007 received the Mayor of Winnipeg’s Making a Mark Award, sponsored by the Winnipeg Arts Council to recognize the most promising midcareer artist in the city.


The Joy of Collaboration and Creation

One of the joys of being associated with creative people is that you experience all the emotions that the collaborative process evokes, and which we experienced in full Saturday evening witnessing the first workshop of an exciting new work - an Indigenous chamber opera by Andrew Balfour produced by Highlands Opera Studio. With direction by Valerie Kuinka in association with the composer and the performers, it was jointly commissioned with L'Atelier Lyrique de L'Opera de Montreal. This work, that due to circumstances was initiated only three week ago, displayed such passion, love, grace and excitement by the collaborators; it amazed and delighted the Haliburton audience.

Hovering above all was the presence from the spirit world of the sound of the viola of Valerie Kuinka.  This, the evocative sounds from the composer (with struck stones, laptop, vocal sounds and percussion) and the voices of the two exceptional singer/dancer/musicians, were all beautifully supported by pianist Louise-Andrée Baril, and was mesmerizing.  (All performed in bare feet emphasizing their relationship and closeness to the Earth)

An added bonus was a discussion with the audience which followed with insightful comments from the participants - Cree composer Andrew Balfor’s passion in discovering his lost roots, soprano Adanya Dunn communicating so vividly her erudite and profound conviction for 'less Me and more We", baritone Samuel Chan expressing his profound sorrow and sadness about never realizing the closeness of his Chinese community to his Indigenous neighbors in Calgary, and writer and artist Sara Roque's insights into the Indigenous world.

The audience standing ovation, the depth of their questions and comments were clear indications of their desire and enthusiasm to hear and see the continuing progress of this work.

This multi dimensional multimedia work was off to a great start and it was a privilege and pleasure for us to be a small part of its beginnings.