JOHN OLIVER


composer

Alternate Visions

Opera in 7 scenes 1:20

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an augmented opera
Music by JohnOliver
Libretto by Genni Gunn

  • “Vaillancourt is known for tackling works that are contemporary, not just in their musical language. She delights in commentary on current pop culture. The Usine C space for instance, is configured as a techno dance club, complete with bar, suspended TV monitors and some nifty robotic devices. She has also assembled an ideal team to make this vehicle sing […] the company assembled a solid roster of singers. What does follow, though, are some very beautifully sung duets and a really powerful ensemble leading to the show’s climax.”
    Alan Conter, The Globe and Mail (Canada), May 3, 2007
  • “Étrange Alternate Visions […] mais plus dense que bien d’autres spectacles multi-médias.”
    Odile Québec, Le Devoir (Canada), May 5, 2007
  • “… bluesy arias are delivered with warmth […] a mock-romantic duet for the supporting characters had an agreeable air of Broadway.”
    Arthur Kaptainis, The Gazette (Canada), May 3, 2007

A brief history of Alternate Visions

The first idea and development was the initiative of the Vancouver Opera, in the fall of 1991, following on the success of Guacamayo at the Canadian Opera Company.

I was Composer-in-Residence from the fall of 1991 until at least the summer of 1995. The opera was actively pursued for several years, culminating in a workshop presentation of excerpts at the Con'temp'aria Festival hosted by Pacific Opera in Victoria, June 2,1995.

Guacamayo's Old Song and Dance

(a.k.a. “Guacamayo”) 1991 Opera in One Act 1:45 Below is a slide show about the Canadian Opera Company production (1991)

commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company (Toronto)

Words by Melissa Cameron (aka Thelma Oliver)
Music by John Oliver

Instrumentation
5 voices, brass, winds, synthesizers, samplers and percussion.
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Noreen Burgess and Gary Rideout

The Story

The story of GUACAMAYO'S OLD SONG AND DANCE, a one-act opera for five singers and twelve instrumentalists performing on acoustic and electronic instruments, is drawn from the Popul Vuh, an ancient book of the Maya peoples, who still live in Guatemala and sounthern Mexico. In the opera, five contemporary Mayas (two grandparents, two grandchildren and a storyteller) give us a glimpse of their oral tradition by telling and enacting the story of Seven Macaw, and his two sons Zipacna and Cabracan--false gods pretending to be the creators of Light, the Mountains, and the Flatlands, respectively.

The story takes place in a time when people were made of wood. The (true) Creator-Gods, collectively referred to as "Hurikan" (from which we derive the word "hurricane"), had failed for the third time in their attempt to create the human race. They were just conceiving the sun and moon, and contriving a big flood to flush out the wooden people to make way for another try at the creation of mankind when they noticed these False Gods on the earth. Our story begins as the two boy-warrior-gods, Hunahpu and Ixbalanque (Eesh-ba-lan-kay) are on their way, sent by Hurikan, to trick the three False Gods into their own deaths.

The subsequent missions of trickery, recounted by these five people of today, take on increasingly contemporary significance as the storytellers reinforce the ancient Maya belief in eternal recurrence: events will come again, though differing in detail.

The Commission and First Production

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Listen

To see sheet music, scroll down…
Long Ago in the Early Dawn
Seven Macaw's Song
I am Zipacna, fisherman
Cabracan's Song

The Canadian Opera Company commissioned GUACAMAYO'S OLD SONG AND DANCE in 1989. The work was completed and produced in collaboration with The Banff Centre for the Arts in 1991, the first full-length opera to be produced by the Canadian Opera Company's Composer-in-Residence program, and the first commission by the Canadian Opera Company of a full-length opera since Louis Riel in 1967.
The opera played on five nights only: on February 26, 28 & March 2, 1991 at the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre, The Joey and Toby Tannenbaum Opera Centre, Toronto, Canada, and on March 8 & 10, 1991 at the Margaret Greenham Theatre, The Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Canada. Here is the original cast:

Guacamayo: GARY RIDEOUT
Ixbalanque: NORINE BURGESS
Hunahpu: VALERIE GONZALEZ
Ixmucane: WENDY NIELSEN
Ixpyacoc: ROBERT MILNE

Conductor: RICHARD BRADSHAW
Director: FRANCOIS RACINE
Designer: LAARA CASSELLS
Lighting Designer: HARRY FREHNER
Stage Manager: FIONA MACGREGOR

Oliver at development workshop, summer 1990

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Oliver was Composer-in-Residence at the Canadian Opera Company from 1989 to 1991.

Hunahpu, Guacamayo, Ixbalanque

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played by Valerie Gonzalez, Gary Rideout, Noreen Burgess, "Guacamayo’s Old Song and Dance”, Canadian Opera Company production 1991

Ixmucane played by Wendy Nielsen

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"Guacamayo’s Old Song and Dance”, Canadian Opera Company production 1991

Ixpyacoc played by Robert Milne

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"Guacamayo’s Old Song and Dance”, Canadian Opera Company production 1991
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Canadian Opera Company 1990/91 season magazine

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Opera Canada Winter 1990 issue

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SOCAN Composer magazine, feature article, winter 1991

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Canadian Opera Company Magazine, January 1991

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Canadian Opera Company Magazine, January 1991, page 2

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Canadian Opera Company Magazine, January 1991, page 3

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Canadian Opera Company Magazine, January 1991, page 4

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The Globe and Mail, November 9, 1990

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