Pauline: Artists’ Notes
Pauline Johnson has interested me for a long time. It was I who restored her to the ‘canon’ after a period of eclipse – I included her in my edition of The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English, back in the early 80s. I felt she really deserved to be there, as she is such an iconic figure – and so far ahead of her times – in so many ways.
The opera weaves Pauline’s conflict with her sister in and out of her interactions with the phantom of her lover, as cancer and morphine contribute to the mix. The main arias use Pauline’s own words, from her poems. I am proud to be a part of this production.
I’m thrilled to be back composing for City Opera Vancouver, collaborating with Margaret Atwood in the operatic telling of such an inspiring Canadian story. Encompassing two cultures, Pauline Johnson blurred poetry, prose, and performance amongst a mixture of supporters and naysayers. It is such a unique story that deserves be explored and celebrated — I know it will fit beautifully in a chamber opera setting.
For me, it’s especially inspiring to be setting both Pauline Johnson’s and Margaret Atwood’s words in a story with the essential operatic ingredients: lyricism, excitement, and passion.