OTTAWA (Canada) – On March 29th and 30th join in the excitement as the National Arts Centre unveils a trio of “firsts” as part of the Sibelius’s Majestic Second program:

  • The world premiere of “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf” by Gary Kulesha
  • The NAC debut of internationally celebrated Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, and,
  • The NAC debut of Estonian guest conductor Olari Elts.

In keeping with the spirit of inaugural performances, the NAC Orchestra opens this Mark Motors Audi Signature Series evening with a first NAC performance of the bright and lively Lustspiel-Ouvertüre (or “Comic Overture”) by Ferruccio Busoni. Busoni’s buoyant work, composed in a single night, is in marked contrast to the stirring symphonic strains of Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2. Friends since youth, both composers showcase a divergence of musical style and methodology providing an evening of fantastic range for classical aficionados.

Following the Busoni performance, the Orchestra debuts “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf” (2016), a unique commission from one of Canada’s foremost composers, Gary Kulesha.  This 20-minute work for mezzo-soprano and orchestra delves into the journals of the acclaimed yet troubled author Virginia Woolf. Kulesha’s musical interpretation of Woolf’s diary explores the later years of her life, specifically passages from the fifth and final volume, weaving together witty, lighthearted moments and dark themes. The song cycle closes with the final entry penned before Woolf took her own life in 1941.

“I had been thinking for some time about an opera based on the life of Woolf, and read her diaries extensively. Her remarkable writing, uncanny observational powers, and almost painful self-awareness moved me deeply… she remains one of the greatest writers in the English language, by turns vulnerable, extremely funny, pointedly sarcastic, poetic, and deeply philosophical. “– Gary Kulesha

Modern themes of heartache, mental illness and tumultuous refrains are infused in this work which was composed with eminent mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó in mind. Kulesha had discussions with Szabó during composition ensuring this work is aligned to her range and stunning vocal prowess. Marking the long overdue debut of Szabó on the NAC’s stage, this performance is hotly anticipated, as Szabó herself puts it Kulesha “…gave me everything on my vocal wish list… a singer’s dream come true.”

The “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf” commission reflects a long standing and productive relationship between Gary Kulesha and the National Arts Centre. One of the first recipients of the NAC Award for Canadian Composers, Kulesha has written many works for the NAC Orchestra and was also the director of the NAC Young Composers Program. In addition to his work as a composer, Kulesha has built a formidable career as a professor, broadcaster, musical journalist, and pianist.

Celebrated Estonian conductor Olari Elts also marks his own debut with the NAC Orchestra this week.  

The headlining work of the evening is, of course, Jean Sibelius’ magnificent Second Symphony completing an evening of important and influential works.

Heralded as Finland’s foremost composer, Sibelius is frequently credited with defining that country’s identity through his music. Sibelius produced his Second symphony in 1902 during Finland’s struggle for independence from Russia. Historians continue to debate whether this work was composed with the struggle for independence in mind or if this interpretation is one overlaid by the Finnish people.

Join us for this Mark Motors Audi Signature Series performance of Sibelius’s Majestic Second, March 29th and 30th. Tickets start at $25 and are available at the NAC Box Office or online at NAC-CNA.ca.

For additional information, visit the NAC website at www.nac-cna.ca.




Jennifer Cavanagh
Communications Officer

National Arts Centre Orchestra

613 915-0402