Project Updates


Four Canadian women. Four different life experiences. But what they had in common was a struggle and determination to find their voices, despite extremely difficult circumstances.

These women are the inspiration behind Life Reflected, a new work commissioned by Alexander Shelley, Music Director of the NAC Orchestra. Led by Donna Feore, Creative Producer & Director, the multi-disciplinary creation blends music with literature, dance, photography and film. And each of these remarkable women is captured by a different composer — Zosha Di Castri, John Estacio, Nicole Lizée and Jocelyn Morlock.

Bondarsphere was inspired by Roberta Bondar whose perseverance, in a profession dominated by men, led her to become Canada’s first woman – and the world’s first neurologist — in space.

In Alice Munro’s Dear Life — her most autobiographical work to date — she recounts a childhood marked by stark events that she only partly understood at the time. Against the odds, she believed herself a lucky person, she says. Munro would go on to enjoy a stellar international career that included winning the Nobel Prize.

In I Lost My Talk, the acclaimed Mi’kmaw poet Rita Joe describes losing her language in residential school, yet the poem ends with a hand offered in the hope of reconciliation: “Let me find my talk/ So I can teach you about me.”

Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd was also coming of age in a hostile environment. After being bullied cruelly and relentlessly, she told her story in an online video that helped create more awareness worldwide about the dangers of bullying. This evening’s performance marks the world premiere of Life Reflected.

Life Reflected tells powerful stories through the eyes, ears and words of some of Canada’s finest creative artists. It is an immersive, multidisciplinary work without an interval, an unbroken, focused, intense, dramatic and soothing experience from beginning to end.

During the creation of this unique symphonic experience, it has been an honour to bring together four visionary Canadian composers in collaboration with an ensemble of extraordinary Canadian performers and multi-media artists, all under the inspiring leadership of Creative Producer & Director Donna Feore.

Canadian arts and culture continue to captivate audiences worldwide thanks to compelling stories such as those of these four remarkable women, each of whom found voice through sacrifice and challenge. They have been an inspiration to me. And while some of the subject matter is born from painful memories, it is my belief that Life Reflected will prove a redeeming and hopeful experience for us all.

Life Reflected explores the lives of four exceptional Canadian women. Alice Munro, Roberta Bondar, Amanda Todd and Rita Joe, each in their own unique way, encourage us to see, and to see with fresh eyes. My challenge was to find a way of telling their stories in an orchestral setting that embraced their vision. Believing that many heads are better than one, I assembled an exceptional group of collaborators who drew their inspiration from these extraordinary women. And though each element is capable of standing alone, we built on the impact of the foundational orchestral work of four magical composers led by the incomparable Alexander Shelley, in the hope that we might arrive somewhere new.

The brilliant visual design team at Normal became the heartbeat of our effort. They made it possible to integrate the work of our wonderful collaborators; musicians, photographers, filmmakers, actors, dancers and singers into a seamless whole.

Dr. Bondar has seen us from afar. Alice Munro has seen us from within. Amanda Todd shared her heart and Rita Joe shared her soul. I hope the experience of Life Reflected will thrill and move you as much as it has enlightened and inspired me.

With Our Gratitude 

Dasha Shenkman

The National Arts Centre Foundation wishes to pay special tribute to Dasha Shenkman, OBE. A lifetime supporter of the arts, Ms. Shenkman, a native of Ottawa currently living in London, U.K., has been involved with a number of arts organizations throughout the years, either at board level or as a consultant. She and her brother Bill established a series of concerts at the National Gallery (London) performed by students from the Royal College of Music, in memory of their mother Belle Shenkman. Ms. Shenkman is a trustee of the Concordia Foundation, an organization that builds bridges through music and the arts, as well as on Tate International Council and The Better Planet Project Council at the University of Guelph, where she initiated a series of lectures in Contemporary Art at the School of Fine Art and Music.

In 2013, she received the Royal College of Music’s (RCM) Honorary Membership for her philanthropy, which was awarded by RCM President, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. In 2015, she was awarded Order of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Ms. Shenkman has been an enthusiastic champion of Life Reflected since its inception. We would like to thank her for her outstanding support of Life Reflected and for contributing to Canadian creation.