The NAC Orchestra 2023 Tour is making stops in Toronto, Kingston, and Ottawa:
Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins performs Songs for Murdered Sisters, a deeply personal new song cycle that conveys the tragedy of lives needlessly lost, composed by Jake Heggie based on original poetry by Margaret Atwood.
Bookending the tour program are the Faust-Overture by Mayer and Brahms's furiously passionate Symphony No. 4.
Co-commissioned by the National Arts Centre and Houston Grand Opera, Songs For Murdered Sisters is dedicated to the memory of Hopkins's sister Nathalie Warmerdam, Anastasia Kuzyk and Carol Culleton, and victims of gender-based violence.
The Women's Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County offers support to women who have experienced or are experiencing some form of sexual violence. They also offer support to family members, as they did for Joshua's family when his sister and two other women were murdered in 2015. Please donate to the WSAC to help them support our community.
Alexander Shelley succeeded Pinchas Zukerman as Music Director of Canada’s NAC Orchestra in September 2015. The ensemble has since been praised as being “transformed... hungry, bold, and unleashed” (Ottawa Citizen) and Shelley’s programming credited for turning the orchestra into “one of the more audacious in North America” (Maclean’s).
Shelley is a champion of Canadian creation; recent hallmarks include the multimedia projects Life Reflected and UNDISRUPTED,and three major new ballets in partnership with NAC Dance for Encount3rs. He is passionate about arts education and nurturing the next generation of musicians. He is an Ambassador for Ottawa’s OrKidstra, a charitable social development program that teaches children life skills through making music together.
Alexander Shelley is also the Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and, starting with the 2024–2025 season, Artistic and Music Director of Artis-Naples and the Naples Philharmonic in Florida, USA. In the spring of 2019, he led the NAC Orchestra on its critically acclaimed 50th Anniversary European tour, and in 2017, he led the Orchestra in a tour across Canada, celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary. Most recently, he led the Orchestra in its first performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 30 years.
He has made seven recordings with the NAC Orchestra, including the JUNO-nominated New Worlds, Life Reflected, ENCOUNT3RS, The Bounds of Our Dreams, and the acclaimed Clara, Robert, Johannes four-album series, all with Canadian label Analekta.
The Music Director role is supported by Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., LL.D. (hc)
Known as one of the ﬁnest singer-actors of his generation, JUNO Award–winning and GRAMMY-nominated Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins has been hailed by Opera Today as having “a glistening, malleable baritone of exceptional beauty, and the technique to exploit its full range of expressive possibilities from comic bluster to melting beauty.” Having established himself as a prominent leading artist throughout the United States and Canada, Joshua appears regularly at The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, and Washington National Opera, amongst many others. On the concert platform, he has appeared with many orchestras in North America, including the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony.
Profoundly committed to the art of song, Joshua’s first recital disc, Let Beauty Awake, features songs of Barber, Bowles, Glick, and Vaughan Williams on the ATMA Classique label. He has won numerous awards and distinctions, most recently, a JUNO Award for his portrayal of Athanaël in the Chandos recording of Massenet’s Thaïs in concert with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
Joshua’s most personal work, Songs for Murdered Sisters, is a song cycle by composer Jake Heggie and author Margaret Atwood, conceived by Hopkins in remembrance of his sister, Nathalie Warmerdam.
Margaret Atwood, C.C., O.Ont., was born in 1939 in Ottawa, and grew up in northern Ontario and Quebec, and in Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College. A varied and prolific writer, Atwood is among the most celebrated authors in Canadian history.
Atwood, whose work has been published in more than forty-five countries, is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, critical essays, and graphic novels. Her latest novel, The Testaments, is a co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize. It is the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, now an award-winning TV series. Her other works of fiction include Cat’s Eye, finalist for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; The MaddAddam Trilogy; and Hag-Seed. MaddAddam is being adapted and will soon be released on series television, along as a ballet.
Margaret Atwood is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Franz Kafka International Literary Prize, the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award. She has received two Governor General’s Literary Awards, two Booker Prizes, a Scotiabank Giller Prize, and numerous other honours and accolades. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier of the l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France.
Composer Jake Heggie is “arguably the world’s most popular 21st-century opera and art song composer” (The Wall Street Journal). He is best known for the operas Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick, It’s A Wonderful Life, Three Decembers, Two Remain, and If I Were You. He is currently at work on his 10th full-length opera, Intelligence, with Jawole Zollar and Gene Scheer, as well as new works for violinist Joshua Bell, New Century Chamber Orchestra, the Miró Quartet, and Music of Remembrance. The operas and his nearly 300 art songs have been performed extensively on five continents, championed by some of the world’s most beloved artists.
With a libretto by the late Terrence McNally, Dead Man Walking has become “the most celebrated American opera of the 21st century” (Chicago Tribune). It has received nearly 80 international productions since its San Francisco Opera premiere in 2000. Recent premieres have included Lake Tahoe: Symphonic Reflections and Fantasy Suite 1803. In 2020, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Daniel Hope gave the premiere of Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope to texts by Gene Scheer (Pentatone Records), and in 2021, baritone Joshua Hopkins gave the (online) premiere of Songs for Murdered Sisters, to new poems by Margaret Atwood (Pentatone). Also in 2021, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and Heggie gave the premiere of What I Miss the Most…, a song cycle to new texts by Joyce DiDonato, Patti LuPone, Sister Helen Prejean, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Kathleen Kelly. Barton is also featured on Unexpected Shadows, a recording of Heggie’s songs released by Pentatone (2022 GRAMMY nominee).
Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre (NAC) Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. Under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra reflects the fabric and values of Canada, reaching and representing the diverse communities we live in with daring programming, powerful storytelling, inspiring artistry, and innovative partnerships.
Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and former Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009–2017), he has been in demand around the world, conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and Stockholm Philharmonic, among others, and maintains a regular relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the German National Youth Orchestra.
Each season, the NAC Orchestra features world-class artists such as the newly appointed Artist-in-Residence James Ehnes, Angela Hewitt, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Gabriela Montero, Stewart Goodyear, Jan Lisiecki, and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds. As one of the most accessible, inclusive, and collaborative orchestras in the world, the NAC Orchestra uses music as a universal language to communicate the deepest of human emotions and connect people through shared experiences.