Opera News

Darlene Ronald (204)255-0508

May 30, 2008


FRIDAY & SATURDAY, JUNE 20 & 21, 2008

Manitoba Opera will present the North American premiere of Jason and Hanna, an opera about war-affected children, performed by children on Friday, June 20 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, June 21, at 11 am and 3 pm, at the Canwest Global Performing Arts Centre.

This hour-long opera, suitable for ages 8 and up (younger children at the discretion of their parents), was inspired by a true story of two youths caught in the crossfire of war. It examines the effects of conflict and hate on youth.

All tickets are $12 plus GST and are available in advance at the MTYP Box Office, by phoning 942-8898, or at the door (open one hour before show time). Rush seating.

"We're thrilled to present Manitoba's first opera written to be performed by children," commented Larry Desrochers, Manitoba Opera General Director & CEO. “This is a great opportunity for young people to discover opera, to experience the fun of performing in an opera, and to learn about an important issue facing children in the world today. Jason and Hanna reminds us that it is our responsibility to set the example of tolerance and acceptance of those who are different from us.”

Jason and Hanna was created in 2002 by KidsOp founders, Canadian librettist Mark Morris and and Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch, with the aim of heightening awareness of the plight of children worldwide who are living in war and conflict zones. The inspiration for the opera came from a Romeo-and-Juliet-type story in the Balkans that Burtch and Morris learned of.

“When working on an earlier opera, the children involved asked us to do another piece about the effect of war on children. It became a sort of updated ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with family against family and all the tensions and tragedies that this entails. There is also the fact that children can often see the stupidity of adults with their entrenched views and this gives hope that the new generation will be wiser and more clear thinking than the one before,” explained Mervyn Burtch, the composer. “It is wonderful that Manitoba Opera is staging this piece, as KidsOp came into being in Canada and the storyline was conceived by Canadian children.”

Jason and Hanna was first performed in Blackwood, South Wales in 2003. KidsOp was founded in 1997 as a means to create new operas for children and adults to perform together.

The Story:

Jason and Hanna is set in a town that is on the edge of a major conflict and follows two developments: the gradual split between the adults in the town, whose hatred becomes increasingly vehement; and a split in the town’s youth as they separate into two gangs and violence erupts between the two groups.

Central to this scenario is the friendship of Jason and Hanna, two youth who find themselves on opposite sides of the divide. In the ensuing violence, one is killed and the other wounded. The reality of the situation brings home to their parents the futility of the hatred that set the events in motion.

The Artists:

Jason: Connor Coughlin; Hanna: Meaghan Fletcher; Jason’s parents: Eric Shaw and Donnalynn Grills; Hanna’s parents: Mel Braun and Arianna Sovernigo

The specially selected chorus of two dozen local singers, ranging in age from 10 to 14, is under the direction of Carolyn Boyes and includes many award-winning young artists including The Ladybug Foundation founder, Hannah Taylor.

The production will be sung in English and will be directed by Katherine Twaddle and conducted by Tadeusz Biernacki with musical accompaniment provided by two pianos and percussion.

Set and costume design is by Sheldon Johnson, Manitoba Opera’s Director of Production and the lighting design is by Scott Henderson.

War-Affected Children:

According to the Canadian International Development Agency’s website, there are more than 30 wars in the world today. More than 300,000 girls and boys under the age of 18 are fighting in armed conflicts worldwide. In the last decade, two million children have died in wars, six million children have been disabled, 12 million children have been left homeless, and one million children have been orphaned. Countless children have been psychologically scarred.

For more information on war-affected children go to:



Manitoba Opera gratefully acknowledges the support of the following
organizations and individuals in the presentation of Jason and Hanna:
Canada Council for the Arts
The Winnipeg Foundation
Winnipeg Arts Council
Manitoba Arts Council
Mauro Centre for Peace & Justice
The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba
Peter D. Curry Memorial Fund
Gail Asper and Michael Paterson

Room 1060, 555 Main Street, Wpg. R3B 1C3
(Lower Level, Centennial Concert Hall)
phone: 204.942.7479 | fax: 204.949.0377
e-mail: mbopera@manitobaopera.mb.ca
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