FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO, TUESDAY, JUNE 11…... The Canadian Children's Opera Company (CCOC) will record a new English-Mandarin opera written for children by the Dora award-winning team of Alice Ping Yee Ho and Marjorie Chan. Commissioned for the CCOC, The Monkiest King had its world premiere in May 2018 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts and is nominated for two 2019 Dora Awards; one for Outstanding New Opera and one for Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble.
The opera tells the story of the mythical Monkey King, Sun WuKong, as he matures through his adventures as a young super-powered monkey. The character, which grew to include Taoist, Buddhist and Hindu influences, spread outside of China throughout East and Southeast Asia. He has appeared in many forms and adaptations, prominently including the Classic 16th-century novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en, and remains prevalent in the modern day with appearances in Hong Kong action movies and video games. A proud trickster character, Sun Wukong rebels against heaven, but ultimately learns humility. This clever retelling of the Song Dynasty character was created by Dora Award-winners Alice Ping Yee Ho and Marjorie Chan and brought to life by the talented children and youth of the CCOC, accompanied by a professional chamber orchestra of Western and Chinese instruments under the direction of CCOC Music Director, Teri Dunn.
While Canadians are most familiar with the European tradition of opera, storytelling through the combination of art forms transcends cultural boundaries. The Monkiest King blends the European and Chinese opera traditions in a unique way, framed to be sung by children, for children and audiences of all ages. "This is an important work for me as a composer", says Alice Ho. "It is my first children's opera and the Canadian Children’s Opera Company was brave to commit to a significant project that looks profoundly into Chinese culture. The legendary Chinese character Sun Wukong, The Monkey King, is probably the most famous modern-day Chinese "Marvel" hero - it was a dream project for me to bring this mischievous good-natured character to life for the very first time in a contemporary children’s opera setting.
I have faith that this new recording will bring something exuberant and challenging to our growing diversified music communities, a great addition to Canadian opera repertoire! "
CCOC Board Chair Maria Ringo says, “The CCOC is the only opera company in North America to commission new operas for children, and we were so proud to premiere The Monkiest King in 2018. My daughter joined the Company at age 6 and it has made a profound positive influence on her confidence, discipline and love of the arts. This opportunity to perform once again as the role of Piper/Monkiest King on this CBC recording is a huge honour for her and for all our kids involved. It is what they live for.”
The 2018 original cast will record the opera June 26 – 29 2019 at the Glenn Gould Studio, to be released on Centrediscs later this year.
The Canadian Children's Opera Company is a world-class ensemble that introduces the magic of opera to children and youth through professional musical and dramatic education and the performance of established and newly commissioned operatic and choral repertoire. The first of its kind in this country, the CCOC has commissioned no less than 12 major operatic works by Canadian and international composers and librettists. Every year, children are involved in a production with professional directors, designers, singers and coaches from the international opera and theatre communities.
Founded by singer, broadcaster and impresario Ruby Mercer and Music Director Lloyd Bradshaw, the company was designed to offer top quality instruction in operatic and choral singing, stagecraft and drama. This training, paired with numerous and varied annual performance opportunities, places the CCOC in a central position in the Canadian opera scene. From 32 original members, the CCOC has now grown to around 200 children and youth participants and remains the only permanent children’s opera company in Canada.
Auditions for the 2019/2020 season will be held in until the fall and are open to all children and youth with a love of singing and storytelling. Financial assistance is available. Information is available on the website.
Alice Ho (www.alicepingyeeho.com) was born in Hong Kong, came to North America for her undergraduate study at Indiana University as a piano major. She fell in love with her composition classes, and the rest is history. Over the past 5 or 6 years, Alice has received more and more commissions for opera and for singers. “The tale of The Monkey King is probably the most popular story in China”, says Alice. She loves that The Monkiest King (孫悟空- 淘氣小猴皇 ) talks about the birth of Sun Wukong and explores his learning process as he transforms from a trickster into a helpful, loyal follower. Every scene describes a different part of the journey for Sun Wukong, and she had a lot of opportunities to explore the use of Chinese and Western instruments to create unique sounds in the music. She found The Monkiest King to be quite complex, working not only in English and Mandarin, but adding in Cantonese as well. While Mandarin is considered the official language of China, Alice grew up speaking Cantonese and was pleased to be able to use her first language in this opera to represent the villagers and their folk tales.
Marjorie Chan (www.marjoriechan.com) has been writing for stage productions for years, including concert pieces, cabaret, and plays. She trained as an actor, but found she loved creating and presenting new works, especially ones that could feature cultures and ethnicities not typically seen on stage; particularly Asians and people of colour. She is currently the Artistic Director for Cahoots Theatre where she looks for new material that is culturally diverse and inclusive. For The Monkiest King, Marjorie chose to focus on the early life of Sun Wukong, in order to create a manageable work for this one-hour production.
Together, Alice Ho and Marjorie Chan won the 2013 Dora Award for Outstanding New Opera for their Toronto Masque Theatre commission of The Lessons of Da Ji.