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Professional, Live Premiere of a Unique and Compelling Canadian Chamber Opera

1873:  On a strangely stormy day, Susan Allison peers out over Lake Okanagan, anxiously searching the waters for the boat which her husband, John, and their Métis guide, Johnny MacDougall, have taken to deliver flour for grinding at the grist mill in Okanagan Mission. As the winds whip the trees and waves, and her aboriginal child-nurse, Marie, urges her to come indoors, Susan spies a long, undulating figure in the water, “like a huge tree trunk …. moving fast.”  Is it n’ha-a-itk, the fearful creature of the Lake?  And what has become of John and MacDougall?

Astrolabe Musik Theatre is proud to partner with Turning Point Ensemble in celebrating outstanding Canadian composer Barbara Pentland’s centenary with a live, professional premiere (60 years after its composition) of her 1952 one-act opera The Lake, with libretto by trailblazing Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay, performed in a semi-staged, concert version.

Rounding out the program is music by one of Pentland’s teachers, Aaron Copland.  Two of his early chamber works – Sextet for clarinet, piano and string quartet (1937) and Vitebsk (Study on a Jewish Theme – 1929) are paired with the premiere of a new sextet (Ascendant) dedicated to the memory of Aaron Copland by New York composer and Grammy-nominated jazz musician Dave Douglas.

Presented in partnership with Turning Point Ensemble

November 14-15, 2012

Telus Studio Theatre, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts (Vancouver, BC)

John Arsenault, tenor, as Johnny MacDougall
Angus Bell, bass-baritone, as John Allison
Heather Pawsey, soprano, as Susan Allison
Barbara Towell, mezzo-soprano, as Marie
Owen Underhill, conductor
James Fagan Tait, director
Mark Eugster, lighting designer
Turning Point Ensemble 
Sextet – Aaron Copland
Vitebsk (Study on a Jewish Theme) – Aaron Copland
Ascendant – Dave Douglas
The Lake – Barbara Pentland


Sixty Year Old Opera Debuts
Trek Magazine – May 2013
An opera by one of Canada’s most famous mid-century composers has premiered as a staged performance 60 years after it was written. Thanks to the persistence of soprano/impresario Heather Pawsey, BMus’86, Barbara Pentland’s The Lake was performed last November by the Turning Point Ensemble in partnership with Heather’s company, Astrolabe Musik Theatre, in the TELUS Studio Theatre at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. [Read full article]


Opera News
Vancouver Sun – December 6, 2012
A spate of recent production have brought the myriad issues of opera in Canada and opera by Canadians to the fore in some surprising ways. Ramona Luengen’s Naomi’s Road has been revived by Vancouver Opera and taken out of the opera house and into an impressive number of communities, courtesy of the VO opera in schools initiative. Kudos to a company that wants to tell our stories to our audiences. [Read full article]


Turning Point Ensemble revives The Lake, 60 years on
Georgia Straight – November 8, 2012
A sense of history runs powerfully through a new production of Barbara Pentland’s opera The Lake— beginning with the very surprising fact that this striking work is only now receiving its premiere, 60 years after its creation. [Read full article]