The National Arts Centre enjoyed a highly successful and memorable year over the past twelve months. Here are our top 13 moments from 2013:
1) The National Arts Centre Orchestra’s triumphant China Tour in October featured sellout concerts, rave reviews and standing ovations with eight major concerts in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Fuling, Tianjin, Beijing and Shanghai. Maestro Pinchas Zukerman performed at the top of his game as conductor and soloist. The Tour also included 80 meaningful education events, including broadband videoconference events linking music students in Canada with Chinese students studying at China’s major music conservatories. The Tour repertoire featured Canadian music, and Canadian composers Alexina Louie and John Estacio participated in education events. The China Tour concluded with a stunning performance in Shanghai attended by the Governor General that ended with Pinchas performing a lovely rendition of Brahms’ lullaby, to which the audience sang along.
2) From April 25 to May 4, the NAC presented Northern Scene, the sixth in a series of national festivals that celebrate artists from different regions of the country. Northern Scene featured the work of 355 artists from Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunvaut, as well as Nunavik and Nunatsiavut - musicians, actors, dancers, visual and media artists, filmmakers, writers and chefs - in 78 events in 25 venues. Highlights included:SWARM, the Scene’s opening night party that started with a gallery crawl and culminated in a spectacular northern fashion show for more than 1,200 people in the NAC Foyer; Tulugak: Inuit Raven Stories, a collaborative theatre piece featuring a dynamic cast of actors and musicians from Nunavut, Nunavik and Greenland; and Yellowknife singer-songwriter Leela Gilday, who wowed audiences in five different performances. Northern Scene showcased both established and emerging artists, including Artcirq, Tanya Tagaq, Susan Aglukark, Elisapie, Godson, Pat Braden, Soir de Semaine, Sarah MacDougall, the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, Shuvinai Ashoona, Charles Stankievech and many more. The festival also offered the chance for 60 national and international presenters to discover the best of northern culture, creating new performance opportunities for northern artists across the country and beyond.
3) The NAC’s Music Alive Program in Nunavut, which brings northern and southern musicians into schools, celebrates Inuit music and promotes music-making in northern communities, presented the second annual Youth Music Leadership Summit in late January. Twelve talented young people from Igloolik, Pangnirtung, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Clyde River, Nunavut gathered at Arctic College in Iqaluit to learn about community leadership through the arts. “This summit serves as one of the very few opportunities for young people in small Nunavut communities to be exposed to music education,” said Summit organizer Andrew Morrison. “There is no doubt that the young participants in this summit will be the next generation of musicians and artists, and it is crucial to provide these young people with every opportunity to pursue this future.”
4) On October 31, the NAC announced the appointment of Alexander Shelley as Music Director Designate of the NAC Orchestra, succeeding Pinchas Zukerman when he completes his phenomenally successful 17-year term in 2015. Over the past decade, Maestro Shelley, 34, has established himself as one of the most talented young conductors in Europe. He has led the Orchestra in performance five times in the past four years, winning enthusiastic response from both musicians and audiences. Born in the United Kingdom, Maestro Shelley was unanimously awarded first prize in the 2005 Leeds Conductors Competition. He is currently in his fifth season as Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, and has a close relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie in Bremen. Maestro Shelley will assume the position of Music Director starting with the 2015-2016 season.
5) In February, Metamorphoses (Based on the Myths of Ovid) marked Jillian Keiley’s audacious directorial debut as Artistic Director of English Theatre. The show was highly anticipated for another reason: the play is staged in water. Edmonton designer Bretta Gerecke’s set included several pools and a swimming tank weighing 12 ½ tons. The technical challenges of the show were endless: the water elements affected everything from the fabric used in the costumes, to the buoyancy of the props, to the actors’ rehearsal venue (a local pool). Metamorphoses was a true testament to the collaborative nature of theatre, and to the excellence of the NAC’s designers, wardrobe department, carpenters, painters, prop-makers and stage crew to put the show on the stage.
English Theatre enjoyed a spectacular year at the box office: its current production of The Sound of Music has sold the most tickets in the NAC’s 44-year history, with ticket purchases of more than 24,800 – exceeding the previous record holder, The Nutcracker, in 2001. Directed by Regina actor and director Joey Tremblay, and featuring the English Theatre Ensemble of actors from across Canada, English Theatre has responded to demand by adding extra shows, including a benefit performance for the Ottawa Food Bank, PAL (Performing Arts Lodge) Ottawa, and the Actors’ Fund of Canada.
6) In April, French Theatre audiences were dazzled and amazed by La réunification des deux Corées by legendary playwright and director Joël Pommerat, an NAC international co-production that has been a sensation in cities around the world. The audience sat onstage in two groups on either side of a brilliant set, where fragments on the theme of love unfolded in a series of magical images. French Theatre presented another internationally acclaimed Pommerat production at the NAC in November with Cendrillon, which wowed audiences once again.
7) Celebrated choreographer-performer Akram Khan performed his masterful DESH for three nights in November in the NAC Theatre. Meaning “homeland” in Bengali, his new full-length dance solo inspired by his parents’ homeland of Bangladesh was created in collaboration with Oscar-winning visual designer Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), award-winning lighting designer Michael Hulls, writer and poet Karthika Nair, and Olivier Award winning composer Jocelyn Pook. Moving between Britain and Bangladesh, audiences were thrilled as Khan weaved threads of memory, experience, and myth into a surreal world of surprising connection, and a search for identity that was intimate and epic, magical and moving.
8) In March, legendary Quebec superstar Ginette Reno made a much-anticipated appearance for two completely sold-out performances in Southam Hall. The audiences were thrilled to see Ginette after an absence of several years, and rewarded her with standing ovations at both performances
9) In early May, the Orchestra collaborated with Montreal’s l’Orchestre Métropolitain for joint performances of an all-Strauss program. The dazzling concerts, featuring 125 musicians of the two orchestras on stage together, were led by Canadian superstar conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Following two performances in Ottawa, the joint program was performed in Montreal on May 10. This was the NAC Orchestra’s first chance to perform in the new Maison symphonique de Montréal, an outstanding concert hall designed by Toronto architect Jack Diamond.
10) In July, the NAC paid tribute to NAC Orchestra Founding Conductor Mario Bernardi with two initiatives made possible through the generous support of donors from across Canada: a new orchestra commission that will be premiered in a future season, and a bust in the Foyer outside Southam Hall, created by Stratford artist Ruth Abernethy.
11) NAC Presents, the concert series that showcases the best in Canadian contemporary music, presented an extremely entertaining evening in November celebrating Western Canada in stories and song, featuring Alberta’s Juno Award and CCMA-winning Corb Lund with the legendary singer-songwriter Ian Tyson in Southam Hall. Audiences delighted in the campfire-like performance that included hits from Lund’s recent album Cabin Fever, and classic Tyson songs, such as Someday Soon, The Gift and Four Strong Winds.
12) In June, the NAC produced The 21st Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Gala , honouring violinist and teacher Andrew Dawes, arts volunteer Jean Pierre Desrosiers, musician and producer Daniel Lanois, filmmaker Jean Pierre Lefebvre, actress Viola Léger, actor and arts advocate Eric Peterson, actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley and dancer, choreographer and teacher Menaka Thakkar.
13) The NAC Foundation had its most successful fundraising year ever, raising more than $8.6 million in 2012–2013 to support performance, creation and learning across Canada. The Foundation raised more than $1.4 million to support the NAC Orchestra’s China tour, with AIMIA as the as the Presenting Partner and Richard Li as the Honorary Patron.