Serouj Kradjian

Canadian Children’s Opera Presents Production Based on Armenian Folk Tale

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TORONTO — The Canadian Children’s Opera Company announces the return of its annual main stage production with its latest commission, “The Nightingale of a Thousand Songs,” based on a beloved Armenian folk tale, by Juno award-winning composer Serouj Kradjian and Dora award-winning playwright and librettist Marjorie Chan.

The opera is based on a fairy tale, known in Armenian as “Hazaran Blbul.” The story follows the journey of two siblings, Leah, and Ari, as they emerge from a tragedy in their homeland. They embark on an adventure to find the Nightingale of a Thousand Songs to bring back life and joy to their world. Along the way, the children remember their lost friends and family and face many challenges and obstacles.

The story is one of healing and hope and exploring what it means to be able to move on from a terrible event; to honor those who are no longer with us and celebrate what is still to come.

The opera will be performed by 70 young people between the ages of 7 to 18 in English, Armenian and Arabic.

The CCOC is happy to welcome back a CCOC alumna, Armenian-Canadian soprano Lynn Isnar, to the role of The Nightingale. CCOC Music Director Teri Dunn, will lead a professional chamber orchestra, including the duduk, an ancient Armenian double-reed wind instrument that has been compared to the human voice in its expressiveness and ability to convey deep emotion. The duduk will add an extra layer of depth and meaning to the performance with its hauntingly warm tone, evoking the rich cultural heritage of Armenia and immersing audiences in an unforgettable musical experience that will reflect both Armenian and Western sonorities and musical traditions.

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Canadian pianist and composer Serouj Kradjian was inspired to create a work to represent the rich culture and music that unites the Caucasus and the Middle East. As the lead characters travel from the plains of Mount Ararat, through the region to Lebanon, the music changes to reflect a more distinct Arabic style, incorporating traditional instruments and texts, and throughout, the relationship between the two siblings – navigating different needs and wants, but nonetheless rich in connection, love and support – lends universal resonance. While he has composed for children’s voices in the past, “The Nightingale” is Kradjian’s first full opera.

Librettist Marjorie Chan, who co-created the CCOC’s “The Monkiest King” commission (2018), was excited to work on the new project. She was inspired by the hope and resilience of the children in the story, and how they cope with tragedy. “Serouj presented me with this tremendous fairy tale filled with survival, hope and healing. It was so incredibly rich, filled with prophecy, magic and humanity. I was struck by the resiliency of the child characters. I could not stop thinking of the children who survive war and genocide. What happens to them? How do they find their way out of darkness and towards light?”

Marjorie Chan

Together, with a production team featuring director Julie McIsaac, designer Jung-Hye Kim, and lighting designer Mikael Kangas, and Armenian-Canadian visual artist Amy Kazandjian as Creative and Cultural Page 2 of 3 Director to create a unique expression and celebration of Armenian and Arabic culture, accessible and intended for young people and families to enjoy. “Opera offers a dynamic medium in which young people can explore their emotions, shared experiences, and how they connect with the world,” says Executive Director Katherine Semcesen. “In addition to growing the Canadian operatic canon, commissioning new operatic works allows young people to welcome new stories, experience new musical aesthetics and traditions, and connect with and learn from new artists and communities. The Nightingale of a Thousand Songs is rooted in Armenian culture and history, but its themes of loss, courage, hope, and healing are themes to which we can all relate. Opera reminds us all that we’re all part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Creative and Cultural Director, Amy Kazandjian, believes that “The Nightingale of a Thousand Songs” speaks to the Armenian experience but one can easily draw parallels to other recent and past atrocities and significant events: “Our aim is to engage in meaningful conversations with the CCOC choristers and audiences about genocide, while making an important connection to our Canadian roots. Canada was “built” on the (stolen) ancestral lands of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and as non-indigenous Canadians, we hold an important role in the ongoing recognition of Indigenous history and its active reparation. Through this production, we hope to facilitate a deeper understanding of cultural exchange and the complexities of our shared (human) history, and create a compelling experience for audiences of all ages.” Board Chair Maria Ringo agrees; “the world is changing constantly, and these new commissions give us fresh perspectives to appreciate through these new stories. We love the dramatic reflections of our world presented to us by these modern commissions, especially when performed by our children.”

Performed by more than 80 choristers in the CCOC’s Principal, Youth, Intermediate, and Apprentices choruses and a professional chamber orchestra. It is appropriate for ages 7 and up.

School Previews will take place June 9, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Public Performances will take place June 9, 7:30 p.m. Opening Night will be June 10, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and June 11, 2023 – 3 p.m.

Leah and Ari will be played by: Alice Malakhov and Sophie Mestetchkin – June 9 at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., June 10 at 3 p.m.; Katie Lair and Joel Glickman Rosen on June 9 at 1 p.m., June 10 at 7:30 p.m. and June 11 at 3 p.m.

For more information regarding student group tickets for the school previews, contact the TO Live Box Office.

School & Community Groups which serve young people (music schools, children’s choirs, etc.) are eligible to purchase group tickets (min. of 10) to public performances with each student ticket costing $26 plus applicable fees. The CCOC is pleased to provide one teacher/chaperone ticket for every 5 youth tickets purchased. Additional chaperone tickets can be purchased for $26/chaperone. All youth tickets must be used by young people 18 and younger.

The performances will take place at the Lyric Theatre, Meridian Arts Centre | 5040 Yonge St, North York, Ont.

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