November 2020 update on live performances and events at the NAC.

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet


It’s such an honour to bring to Ottawa a vast world of dance, shaped by some of the most gifted and innovative artists working across a broad spectrum of styles and influences. As we continue to search out the best and brightest dance companies to present to you, our wonderfully receptive and enthusiastic audience, we invite you to explore the new and the familiar on this extraordinary journey of life in motion! 

The building of a new ballet is an enormous project, and I applaud the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for taking on this creative endeavour. James Kudelka is undoubtedly one of our country’s most important choreographers, and his ambitious and dramatic new creation, based on the music of Monteverdi’s Vespers, 1610 – and featuring the exquisite Evelyn Hart in a special role – leaves a beautiful lasting impression. 


Including Vespers, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has commissioned 18 full-length ballets in the last 20 years. 

James Kudelka’s inspiration to create animal characters came from perceiving animal sounds in Monteverdi’s score. 

James Kudelka and Evelyn Hart studied at the same time in 1973 at the National Ballet School.

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet is delighted to welcome you to Vespers, James Kudelka’s newest creation based on the music of Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespers”.

With Vespers, we witness how James Kudelka combines dramatic atmospheres with creative classical ballet technique, contemporary styles and perspectives on relationships, nature and the spiritual world.

Claudio Monteverdi’s stunning score is performed by Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, accompanied by the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Vespers is alive with vibrant character, colour and texture with all the richness of a renaissance painting. We are thrilled to have Evelyn Hart return to the stage with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in a role created specifically for her.

About the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Versatility, technical excellence and a captivating style are the trademarks of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, qualities that have garnered both critical and audience acclaim. 

Founded in 1939 by Gweneth Lloyd and Betty Farrally, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet holds the double distinction of being Canada’s premier ballet company and the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America. In 1953, the Company received its royal title, the first granted under the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1958, Arnold Spohr was appointed Artistic Director. Under his direction the Royal Winnipeg Ballet grew and flourished to take its place among the world’s internationally renowned companies. To further the Company’s development, a professional school was created in 1970 under the direction of David Moroni. Today two-thirds of the Company’s dancers are graduates of the school. On March 7, 1996, André Lewis was named Artistic Director and has been with the RWB ever since.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet began to tour Canada in 1945 and completed its first American tour in 1954. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is compact in size, with 25 dancers, a small but effective production crew and a semi-trailer that carries approximately 55,000 pounds of equipment. For full-length ballets, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet travels with two semi-trailers and an expanded company. 

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has performed in the United States, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Japan, Asia, Mexico and in every province of Canada. 

Throughout its history, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has been a dance leader, recording innumerable firsts. It developed the concept of the regional ballet festival in the 1940s and was the first western company to perform in Cuba after the revolution. It received gold medals at the International Ballet Festival in Paris in 1968 and that same year became the first Canadian company to tour Russia and Czechoslovakia.

This year, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet celebrates its 79th season with The Handmaid’s Tale, Romeo & Juliet, and the Canadian premiere of The Wizard of Oz.


“The first Book to be given Man – at the Creation – was the Book of Nature. In it, all created things are like letters of the alphabet; they can be combined into words and sentences, teaching Man truths about God and himself. But with the Fall, Man was blinded to the sense of the Book of Nature. He could no longer read it aright. Nevertheless, that book remains common to all.”

— From the forward to the translation of Michel de Montaigne’s An Apology for Raymond Sebond.*

Part I

Vespers puts forward the premise of a mythological world where People and Nature live in a community of mutual respect and tolerance. There is ritual, love, sex and death, but at its core there is harmony and joy in existence and association. 

Part II

Vespers is more narrative and takes place in a contemporary urban world “after the Fall” where Nature and People exist in their own silos. The community of part one is now two worlds. But for one Everywoman, wise beyond her knowledge, the appearance of Nature to her that seems like madness at first, becomes a vital part of her life force and becomes a thrilling journey of personal discovery and connection to the world. 

* de Montaigne, Michael. An Apology for Raymond Sebond. Toronto, Penguin Books Canada, 1987.

Claudio Monteverdi, music

Claudio Monteverdi was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer. His work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the music of the Renaissance to that of the Baroque. He developed two individual styles of composition: the new basso continuo technique of the Baroque and the heritage of Renaissance polyphony. Enjoying fame in his lifetime, he wrote one of the earliest operas, L’Orfeo, which is still regularly performed. Possibly as an advertisement of his varied abilities as a composer, Monteverdi wrote in 1610 a setting of the service of Vespers for the Blessed Virgin Mary in the modern style that would appeal to the officials of St. Mark’s in Venice. The Vespers offer a dramatic and colourful exploitation of the possibilities of the modern style in a work of great variety and interest suited to the special effects available to performers in the great basilica of St. Mark.