Music by Brian Current. Libretto by Marie Clements
World Première Production, November 2017
Co-commissioned and co-produced by Pacific Opera Victoria and City Opera Vancouver
In English and Gitxsan
Missing. Left to Right: Heather Molloy, Marion Newman, Caitlin Wood,
Rose-Ellen Nichols, Clarence Logan, Kaden Forsberg, Melody Courage.
Photo: Dean Kalyan
Melody Courage (Native Girl), Rose-Ellen Nichols (Native Mother),
Clarence Logan (Angus Wilds). Photo: Dean Kalyan
Clarence Logan as Angus Wilds. Photo: Dean Kalyan
Caitlin Wood (Ava), Marion Newman (Dr. WIlson), Melody Courage (Native Girl).
Photo: Dean Kalyan
Kaden Forsberg, Melody Courage, Caitlin Wood. Photo: Dean Kalyan
Marion Newman (Dr. Wilson). Photo: Dean Kalyan
A story everyone knows,
from the vantage of a woman no one remembers.
A new chamber opera by Métis playwright Marie Clements and Juno-winning composer Brian Current, Missing gives voice, in English and Gitxsan, to the story of Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women. Set in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and along the Highway of Tears, Missing is a poetic expression of loss and hope, its creation led by aboriginal theatre and opera artists.
Pacific Opera Victoria and City Opera Vancouver collaborated on the co-commission and co-production of this important new opera.
World Première Performances
York Theatre, Vancouver, November 3 to 11, 2017
Baumann Centre, Victoria, November 17 to 26, 2017
Private previews for families (invited audience)
November 1, 7 pm. Russian Hall, Vancouver
November 16, 7 pm. Baumann Centre, Victoria
Power of opera gives story of missing Indigenous women emotional depth
Sarah Petrescu of the Times Colonist reviews Missing.
Missing ... is a beautiful and difficult homage to a crucial part of our present and past ... a gripping, poetic story with powerful scenes and shifting timelines...
The atmospheric set was scattered with fall leaves and fronted with a whale rib-like sculpture. The scenes were brilliantly set by designer Andy Moro with projections of moving and still artwork, shifting from nature to ... city and ... village...
Current's score, under the direction of Timothy Long, also provided dramatic depth – shifting from minimalist and traditional classical music to jazz-like sections and using heavy percussive elements.
...a powerful story that tackles all the issues it should, head-on and unflinchinglyRobert Jordan's review for Opera Canada of the world première of Missing.
... Missing ... is a relentlessly probing meditation on how the murders and unexplained disappearances of at least 18 women along the Highway of Tears and 1200 Canada-wide – most of them Indigenous – affect everyone in the victims' circles of life.
... Under Peter Hinton's clear and sensitive direction, there was a dream-like quality in the pacing. Events unfolded in a not always linear and logical way and with a fascinating blend of English and Gitxsan (the language spoken by the Gitxsan Nation in the region around the Highway of Tears)...
The story pivots about the gradual coming together of a young, white woman, Ava (soprano Caitlin Wood) and a Native Girl (eloquently sung by Métis soprano Melody Courage)...Gradually, by the opera's end, they reach reconciliation in a supremely poignant scene when the developed trust between them enables Ava allow the Native Girl to hold her newborn child – a child the Native Girl will never have – while their voices bond in gentle, accepting harmony...
The Native Mother (of the Native Girl) is not a large role, but it is significant as sung with forthright gravitas by mezzo-soprano Rose-Ellen Nichols. In her keening, she voices not only her own mourning, but also a universal anguish, acting as the emotional beacon the other searching souls turn to for their bearing.
... It needs to be seen and heard.
Dirge for the Missing
Roberta Staley of The Whole Note reviews Missing.
Missing breaks with much classical opera not only in its bold subject matter – racism against native peoples as well as the ongoing tragedy of Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women – but also its sparse, eloquent storytelling, complemented by a minimalist set design, that delves into magic realism and metaphor as a means to express pain and, possibly, redemption. It is also unique in that four of the seven opera singers are Indigenous, while the libretto is written partly in Gitxsan, an Indigenous language spoken in northwestern British Columbia.
... The power of Missing's libretto is magnified by the equally spare music of Toronto-based JUNO Award-winning composer Brian Current, whose sublime score – conducted here by Timothy Long – soars and plummets in unison with the fierce complexity of emotions that are brought to bear through the telling of this tragic tale.
... Missing is an extraordinarily moving and thought-provoking work, and a milestone for the opera world. It has taken a painful and horrifying topic and rendered it into accessible art. Ultimately, its message is a universal one: open our eyes and hearts to each other's pain. By doing so, humanity has a chance for healing and redemption. Missing begins this healing journey in a magnificent mélange of singing, acting and music that, one hopes, will be seen by audiences across Canada and the world.
'Missing': new opera highlights stories of vanished Indigenous women
Eileen Power interviews members of the cast and creative team for CBC's North by Northwest. This 18-minute segment includes interviews with Marie Clements, Brian Current, Caitlin Wood, Melody Courage, Timothy Long, and Peter Hinton, along with brief musical excerpts from rehearsals of the opera.
Marie Clements on Brian Current:
he's very generous and so easy to ... talk about how the worlds in this story need to shift and change because we're looking at two different perspectives; we're looking at how those perspectives can look at each other ... in some ways it was fitting that I'm native and that Brian is non native, and we're trying to communicate a story around two characters that come together, that are native and non native.
Brian Current on Marie Clements:
Marie is wonderful. She is an astoundingly gifted writer; her libretto is magical, and it moves forward really beautifully, has a magnificent shape; it was just a pleasure to work with every single word of that libretto.
Peter Hinton on Missing:
One of the challenges of Missing is that it is an opera and carries with it moments of grandeur, moments of scale and size but it's also very much about our world now, so there are elements of realism or naturalism in it ...
I have such incredible respect for Marie as an artist ... I really like the way she takes the idea of "Missing" to mean, yes, the women who are missing, but also "Missing" in a sense of yearning, of longing, of missing someone. And the really vital question ... is what is missing in all of us that allows this reality to exist – that there is something missing in our being as Canadians that allows this incredible injustice to continue.
Listen at the CBC website.
A new opera wants to shine a light on missing and murdered Indigenous women
Tom Power of CBC's Q interviews Marion Newman about her role in Missing – as an Indigenous lawyer named Dr. Wilson – and what it means for her to sing in Gitxsan.
It's a language that is still in use. There are speakers in the area along the Highway of Tears, and so it is a wonderful way to represent the culture; it's a wonderful way to bring it out into the open for all the general public to hear how beautiful this language is. In a city like Vancouver we facilitate other languages from around the world. We have never done that for Indigenous languages in this country, and I think it's a good way to bring awareness to the fact that those languages were here first, and we should also be facilitating hearing those languages, keeping them alive...
...Presenting this opera to an Indigenous audience at our preview, we had a talkback session afterward, and all of these strong, incredible Indigenous women were saying such amazing things about what it was like to have an opera, to have these issues sung about.
Listen at the CBC website
A 'tragically timely' opera
Preview by Marsha Lederman for The Globe and Mail
Missing ... deals with the staggering losses of women and girls – missing and murdered – in Canada's Indigenous communities.
If 1,200 white women had gone missing, imagine what the response would have been, says [Charles] Barber, artistic director of City Opera Vancouver...
Missing may be the most important work we have ever done ... It is tragically timely, but [the issue] has been going on for years and there is no end in sight.
It is directed by Peter Hinton ... this opera is a look at what decolonization might look like. So while the subject matter is very serious ... I find it very hopeful. because it's about the spirit finding home, it's about continuance, it's about the collision of culture.
New opera about MMIWG tells a story 'that we're all responsible to,' says co-creator
Preview by Chantelle Bellrichard for CBC News
Missing is a chamber opera that tells the story, in Gitxsanimaax and English, of a non-Indigenous woman and a First Nations woman who cross paths in northern B.C.
Librettist Marie Clements describes it as a chance encounter that changes both women's lives forever.
... I was very intrigued about telling this story in a genre that usually doesn't tell stories like this and to reach audiences that don't usually hear stories like this.
Clements said she hopes ... that more people will be able to connect with the stories they see and hear in the news with compassion.
Missing straddles the realms of disturbing reality and dreams
Alexander Varty of The Straight previews the opera.
Missing unfolds in Vancouver and along the Highway of Tears in northern B.C., but it also takes place in the realm of dreams, the land of myth, and the caverns of the unconscious.
... Half the cast is Indigenous, and there is something extraordinary about seeing these beautiful performers who come, many of them, with their own cultural positions and also this trained voice out of the European tradition, Clements says. They're able to bring all that to the stage, and I think that's unique. For me, it's a gift – and something that in itself would make you want to sit up and go 'What's going on here? I want to see that.'
Missing: New opera honours murdered and vanished Aboriginal women and girls
Preview by Stuart Derdeyn for the Vancouver Sun
We needed to create a work that could be personal and that both native and non-native people could identify with ... said Marie Clements.
This is a national/international problem, but choosing the Highway of Tears came along with the contradiction of this stunning, beautiful land and the realization that so many of our women are buried in our province.
Because it is a modern opera and an active tale, it made sense to have the opera in both Gitksan and English, she said. We grieve in different languages and we experience life in different languages, so it made sense to go back to the original language of our country in the story.
... Composer Brian Current ... says when he was approached by Pacific Opera about the project it became more than another musical entertainment... The sense of mission around this piece was unlike anything I've ever written before.
About a third of the opera is in Gitksan and our language consultant, Vince Gogag, would translate Marie's libretto and then recorded himself speaking the lines, said Current. So I took those and spent several wonderful weeks transcribing that language into musical notation. The rhythms, inflections and the melodies flowed from that material and I tried to make it as authentic as possible and, like with the words, stay out of the way.
Murder in two operas
Monica Prendergast of Focus Magazine interviews POV Artistic Director Timothy Vernon and the composers and librettists of POV's two new Canadian operas, Rattenbury and Missing. She asks about the genesis of each opera, the challenges behind its creation, and what the artists hope audiences might take away from seeing the work on stage.
[Marie Clements on Missing] I think we were very aware of the gravity of the story. Not just the creative challenge of bringing the story to life, but that this story does not live in the past. It is very relevant today.
[Brian Current] There is much text in the opera sung in Gitxsan (the beautiful language spoken by Indigenous groups up the BC coast and along the Highway of Tears), as well as the depiction of some drumming and a traditional wedding scene. These aspects had to be handled with absolute respect. From the beginning this has always been about "appreciating" Indigenous traditions and not "appropriating" them ...
... we worked closely with native Gitxsan speakers in both Victoria and Vancouver. The real hero of this piece is Vince Gogag of Vancouver, who did the translation of the Gitxsan text and has been helping with pronunciation throughout. All the rhythms and nuances of the language are intact, so the piece also acts as an effort in language preservation...
[Marie Clements] I hope that audiences understand that the issue of missing and murdered women in this country is not an Indigenous issue. It is a human issue...
Missing premieres at Heart of the City festival
Ben Bengtson interviews Marie Clements for the North Shore News
... with Missing, Clements has made her first foray into opera.
For the first time in my life I listened to a lot of operas ... It's not something I grew up with so it was really kind of beautiful to go in a world that I'd never been before and ... start to envision a way of creating in this new world.
While she was initially unfamiliar with the medium, Clements says she became interested in the form of opera because of its immense theatricality, an aspect that allows the production to encompass big stories and big ideas.
Vital People: Opera brings hope from loss
Pedro Arrais of the TImes Colonist previews Missing
A new opera looks to explore the intersection of classical music and Indigenous culture, and advances the role of art in national dialogue and reconciliation...
There is no doubt art can evoke emotion, said Ian Rye, executive director of Pacific Opera Victoria.
This opera reflects an important part of our collective history and it is our responsibility to tell it.
The Community Fund for Canada's 150th, a collaboration between the Victoria Foundation and the Government of Canada, is also supporting Dialogues, Pacific Opera Victoria's community engagement program. Along with the opera, the public program will engage and educate the community with a series of conversations, forums, panels and exhibits to further explore the opera's social, historical and cultural context.
Ava, a young white woman, is thrown from her car and badly injured in a crash on Highway 16. She sees another body – a young native girl – lying on the ground. Their eyes meet.
Some time after the accident, Ava returns to class at law school with her friend Jess and ex-boyfriend Devon. A guest lecturer, Dr. Wilson, addresses the class about the Missing and Murdered Women in Canada. Jess argues with Dr. Wilson and feels betrayed when Ava won't support her. The friendship is shattered.
We see a moment between the Native Mother and her adult son, at their cabin; a flashback shows him as a teenager playing with his much younger sister.
In downtown Vancouver, Ava sees images of the Native Girl in the store windows. She unexpectedly meets Devon, and their love for each other is renewed. Ava starts to learn the Gitxsan language from Dr. Wilson.
In Ava and Devon's home, Ava contemplates her new pregnancy and suddenly sees the Native Girl in the mirror. Ava is spooked, but when the Native Girl disappears, Ava calls her: 'Don't go, I'm sorry.' They speak.
Ava and Devon celebrate marriage with a traditional Gitxsan ceremony.
At the cabin, the Native Mother mourns her lost daughter.
Ava is distressed by her baby's constant crying. Dr. Wilson and Ava talk about the baby's passage from one world to another.
The Native Girl is attacked in the woods beside Highway 16 and Ava experiences this as a nightmare. She awakens, terrified, and Devon comforts her. Devon goes back to sleep. Ava walks the baby up and down.
The Native Girl appears, and Ava allows her to hold her baby daughter. Ava and the Native Girl sing to the baby, echoing the Native Mother's song to her lost girl. Their worlds connect.
The Native Mother calls her daughter home.
Ava and the Native Girl have found each other: each sees the other in herself and herself in the other. The Native Girl's spirit can fly away. At the cabin, the Native Mother and her son mourn the death of their daughter and sister.
Missing is a new opera created by BC's foremost indigenous playwright and filmmaker, Marie Clements, with music by Juno award winning composer Brian Current.
The creation and première of Missing was led by aboriginal theatre and opera artists. The creative process integrated extensive consultation with First Nations and residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside community via workshops that invited friends and family of missing women, advocates, artists, and academic consultants to share their responses to the work in progress.
The performances were accompanied by community engagement initiatives intended to honour the power of art and the spirit of conciliation. Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman, a member of Pacific Opera Victoria's Board, and Community Engagement Coordinator Ron Rice, Executive Director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, worked with a team of First Nations cultural advisors to provide guidance and counsel to further explore the opera's social, historic, and cultural context and the intersection of classical and aboriginal music traditions.
Librettist Marie Clements, one of BC's most distinguished playwrights and filmmakers, has explained why it is so important to tell this story: The spirit of the murdered and missing women will not disappear. They will stay around until we see them and hear them. Ms. Clements' libretto takes this overwhelming tragedy and pares it down to one woman and the ripples her life and death have left for a mother, a brother, a stranger.
Composer Brian Current set to music words that are in both English and Gitxsan: As cultural boundaries have surely played a role in our national silence about these missing women, one of our goals is to use both native and non-native language alongside music to build a bridge between the cultures.
Missing premièred in Vancouver on November 1, 2017, at a free, invitation-only, private event for the families. Its public run was at Vancouver's York Theatre November 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11.
The production then moved to Victoria for performances at the Baumann Centre, including a performance November 16 for an invited audience including families who have experienced loss and the individuals and agencies who support them. Public performances were presented November 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, and 26.
Pacific Opera Victoria and City Opera Vancouver are deeply grateful for the support of the following:
This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts' New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.
Ce projet est l'un des 200 projets exceptionnels soutenus par le programme Nouveau chapitre du Conseil des arts du Canada. Avec cet investissement 35 M$, le Conseil des arts appuie la création et le partage des arts au coeur de nos vies et dans l'ensemble du Canada.
Creative BC is an independent society created and supported by the Province of BC to sustain and help grow BC's creative sector (motion picture; digital and interactive media; music and sound recording; and magazine and book publishing industries). The society delivers a wide range of programs and services to expand BC's creative economy. The society acts as an industry catalyst and ambassador to help BC's creative sector reach its economic and creative potential both at home and globally.
The Community Fund for Canada's 150th, a collaboration between the Victoria Foundation, the Government of Canada, and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast to coast, supported Dialogues, POV's community engagement program for Missing.
Support for The Co|Opera|tive, which uses opera to create a platform for community dialogue, was made possible by an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
The Koerner Foundation and an anonymous foundation provided generous grants to support the production of Missing.
Reconciliation and the Arts Forums. April 21 and September 15. Baumann Centre.
Screening of The Witness Blanket Documentary
November 14, Government House.
Screening of The Road Forward with Marie Clements. November 18, Vic Theatre.
Canadian Opera Anthology
with performances by members of the cast of Missing. November 21, Baumann Centre.
Classical Music and Indigenous Culture
with Lou-ann Neel and Swil Kanim. November 25. Baumann Centre.