Madama Butterfly, 2015. Nate Ingram, Arminče Kassabian, Jee Hye Han. Emily Cooper Photography

A New Opera for Young Audiences

Coming in 2019 and 2020

Pacific Opera Victoria and Vancouver Opera are co-commissioning and co-producing The Flight of the Hummingbird, a new opera for young audiences, based on the book by Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, who, with Barry Gilson, is creating the libretto and design for the opera.

The music is being composed by Maxime Goulet, and Glynis Leyshon is serving as dramaturge and director for the production, which will see community presentations and a BC school tour during 2019 and 2020.

The best-selling book Flight of the Hummingbird, subtitled A Parable for the Environment, is a touching exploration of environmental issues and moral courage.

In the story, a forest fire rages, and all the animals are overwhelmed by fear and a sense of futility. Only Dukdukdiya, the hummingbird, refuses to give up. She flies to the stream, picks up a single drop of water in her beak, and drops it on the fire. Over and over, back and forth she flies. When the bear finally asks what she is doing, she replies, I am doing what I can.

The book is an extraordinary example of art and culture at its most diverse. The fable of the hummingbird originates with the Quechuan people of South America, while Yahgulanaas' illustrations are a dynamic fusion of Haida and Asian visual styles – a hybrid art form that he calls Haida Manga.

Above: short video of Flight of the Hummingbird, based on the book and artwork by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. Film by Christopher Auchter, Trickster Animation House. Narration by Lark Clark. Music by Big City Indians.


Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an internationally recognized BC artist whose practice embraces an astonishing variety of media – large-scale public art, mixed media sculptures, watercolours, ink drawings, ceramics, graphic novels, cartoons, and animated short film. His works are on display in the Vancouver Art Gallery, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Award-winning designer Barry Gilson is co-founder, with Yahgulanaas, of Y Public Art, a large scale public art design and installation company; he is also an experienced operations executive and principal of award-winning architectural interiors company RED Design.

Montreal-born composer Maxime Goulet is an exciting artist with a rich practice that includes orchestral works such as Symphonic Chocolates, a cabaret opera called Bungalopolis, as well as the scores for more than 25 video games. He currently teaches composition at the University of Sherbrooke.

Maxime Goulet, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Glynis Leyshon, Barry Gilson. Photo by Nadia Zheng

Above, the creative team for The Flight of the Hummingbird: Maxime Goulet, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Glynis Leyshon, Barry Gilson. Photo by Nadia Zheng

After completion of the libretto and music, Pacific Opera Victoria and Vancouver Opera will partner to stage the new opera, offering community presentations in both cities, along with a professional development workshop for teachers during the Vancouver Opera Festival in spring 2019. The opera will tour British Columbia schools early in 2020.

With The Flight of the Hummingbird, Pacific Opera Victoria and Vancouver Opera hope to create a compelling new opera that will resonate with youth and reach young people across British Columbia and beyond.

The opera will introduce young people to one of BC's outstanding artists and one of Canada's most exciting contemporary composers; help them discover how art can combine ancient roots and contemporary forms to tell stories in new ways; enrich their exploration of environmental issues and civic engagement; and encourage them to rejoice in the diversity of the people, cultures, and art in our province.


A Co-commission and
Co-production by
Vancouver Opera Pacific Opera Victoria


Rebecca Hass, Director of Community Engagement
Pacific Opera Victoria


Colleen Maybin, Director of Education and Community Engagement
Vancouver Opera



The Flight of the Hummingbird. Artwork by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Artwork by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas


Vancouver Foundation


Koerner Foundation
ALACS Foundation
Hamber Foundation
Barbara and Philip Potash Foundation
Quail Rock Foundation


Canada Council for the Arts

Capital Regional District

Supported by the Province of British Columbia

British Columbia Arts Council, An Agency of the Province of British Columbia