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Ogopogo features prominently in historic Okanagan opera

Astrolabe Musik Theatre artistic director and soprano Heather Pawsey, left, and Westbank First Nation elder and singer Delphine Derickson.
Image Credit: Darren Hull
August 04, 2014 - 12:39 PM

WEST KELOWNA – There will only three performances of a true-life Canadian chamber opera set at an Okanagan homestead which is now a winery.

Barbara Pentland’s “The Lake” or “N-ha-a-itk” debuted on the radio 60 years ago and will be performed in August at the Quails’ Gate Winery in West Kelowna by the Vancouver-based Turning Point Ensemble and Astrolabe Musik Theatre. The libretto is by Governor General Award winning poet Dorothy Livesay.

The opera is being produced in collaboration with the Westbank First Nation and will feature a fully integrated evening of historical Canadian opera with contemporary First Nation’s culture featuring music and dance created for the performances.

The opera is based on a story that took place at Susan and John Allison Sunnyside Ranch, now the Quails’ Gate Winery. It’s about Susan’s encounter with the Okanagan’s famous lake creature na-ha-a-itk (Ogopogo) on a fall day in 1873. Pentland and Livesay interviewed people who knew the family and researched local First Nation stories as they wrote the opera.

“We are honoured to finally give this work the world premiere staging it deserves,” Astrolabe’s artistic director Heather Pawsey says in a media release. “And overjoyed to do so on the very grounds where the original events transpired: the traditional territory of the syilx/Okanagan people.”

Turning Point Ensemble, under the direction James Fagan Tait and music director Owen Underhill. The cast includes soprano Heather Pawsey as Susan Allison, Westbank First Nation elder and singer Delphine Derickson, bass baritone Angus Bell, tenor Brian Kwangmin Lee, mezzo-soprano Barbara Towell, and Westbank First Nation dancer Corrine Derickson with heritage researcher Jordan Coble and young people from the Westbank First Nation.

The performances will also include the world premiere of B.C. composer Leslie Uyeda’s “Incantation.” It’s based on Delphine Derickson’s N-ha-a-itk song. The piece has been orchestrated for western instruments and aboriginal drum.

The historic opera will be held on Aug. 15, 16 and 17. Tickets are $45 for adults and $25 for children. There are also options which include dinner or brunch.

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The Turning Point Ensemble
The Turning Point Ensemble
Image Credit: Contributed/Tim Matheson

To contact the reporter for this story, email Howard Alexander at or call 250-491-0331. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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