Khaos set designer Thomas Loh (right) shows composer/musical director Don Macdonald and librettist/stage director Nicola Harwood his scale model of the Khaos stage.

Nelson-written opera, Khaos, coming to Creston in May

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The inaugural tour of a newly commissioned opera is coming to Creston on May 13. The Creston Concert Society has joined forces with Nelson Community Opera to bring the new work to the Prince Charles Theatre for one show only.

“We’re delighted to have been invited to co-sponsor this exciting performance,” said concert society director Audrey Johnson. “An opera touring to small communities is a rare thing, so having Creston included in the tour of a world premiere is a real thrill.”

B.C. composer Don Macdonald together with B.C. playwright Nicola Harwood were commissioned in 2009 by Nelson’s Amy Ferguson Institute to create this new full length opera.

“It has taken us three years and over $100,000 to get this opera to the point where we can bring it to theatres around the Kootenays,” said producer Marty Horswill. “After all this effort and expense we felt we owed it to everyone involved to take the risk and tour this new work to the widest audience possible. We’re all looking forward to bringing the Kootenays’ very own opera to life on the stage of the Prince Charles Theatre.”

Entitled Khaos, the ancient Greek word for the space between heaven and earth, the new opera is a reimagining of the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, set in a contemporary world of climate change and looming global catastrophe. Librettist Harwood recounted that she and Macdonald were looking for a subject matter that was both current and universal in its appeal.

“We hit upon the myth of Demeter and Persephone and discovered it had only been attempted in opera once before and that was centuries ago,” she said. “We wondered what this myth might look like in today’s world? So our retelling of the Demeter and Persephone 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?’ ”

As an internationally recognized award-winning film score composer, Macdonald is very familiar with the role music plays in advancing the dramatic flow on the big screen.

“Opera is the same, except the action is on a stage, the dialogue is sung and the music is front and centre, not just in the background,” said Macdonald. “To be commissioned to write an opera with its huge palette of musical colours and powerful emotions was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Horswill described Macdonald’s music as poignant and lyrical at times and jagged and threatening at others.

“With influences from the grand operatic tradition and also from Broadway and jazz, Mr. Macdonald’s music is both extremely compelling and highly atmospheric.,” said Horswill. “It engages you immediately and never lets you go.”

Nelson Community Opera’s world premiere production of Khaos takes place at the Capitol Theatre in Nelson on March 8, 9 and 10 and then travels to Cranbrook the following weekend. The West Kootenay leg of the inaugural tour happens on May 11, 12 and 13 in Grand Forks, Trail and Creston. Show time for the Creston performance is 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 13th.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors, on sale March 19 at Black Bear Books or by phone at 250-428-2711.

The touring production features a cast of seven soloists, a 16-member chorus, and a behind-the-scenes crew of over 15 directors, designers and technicians. Readers interested in learning more about the new opera should log onto the Khaos website at www.khaosopera.com, where they can also hear excerpts from the new work.

— NELSON COMMUNITY OPERA