Opera focuses on historic Canadian event

Naomi's Road details a young Japanese-Canadian girl’s experiences as her family is interned during the Second World War

Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga appears in the title role of Naomi’s Road. The opera will be performed in Hope May 4.

Members of the Vancouver Opera will be presenting Naomi’s Road in the conference room at the recreation centre in Hope on May 4.

The one hour opera is based on a Joy Kogawa novel and will introduce the audience to an important event in Canadian history through a moving and dramatic performance. Set during the Second World War, it depicts the journey of nine-year-old Naomi and her Japanese-Canadian family from Vancouver to an internment camp in the interior of B.C. This sensitive and compelling story is told through four talented singers, accompanied by a pianist.

Last year marked the 70th anniversary of the internment of Japanese Canadians. The Order in Council PC 1486, passed by the Canadian government on Feb. 23, 1942, authorized the removal of all “persons of Japanese racial origin” and gave the RCMP the power to search without warrant, enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew, and to confiscate personal property. More than 20,000 Japanese Canadians were affected. One of the internment camps where the Japanese-Canadians were sent was located just east of Hope, where Sunshine Valley is today. That camp was called Tashme.

Ann Hodges penned the libretto for Naomi’s Road in the winter of 2003/2004 and composer Ramona Luengen wrote the last notes of her score in September of 2004.

Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga appears in the title role of Naomi. She is a lyric soprano of Japanese and Finnish descent, born and raised in Calgary, Alta. Darnel-Kadonaga studied at Mount Royal College and the University of British Columbia, graduating with a masters in voice and opera performance from McGill University. She has performed several roles, including Geraldine in Barber’s A Hand of Bridge, Miss Jessel in Turn of the Screw, Despina in Cosi fan Tutte, Musetta in La bohème, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, and the comical role of Gianetta in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gondoliers.

Sam Chung appears as Naomi’s brother, Stephen. Originally from Winnipeg, Man., the tenor was last seen on the Vancouver Opera main stage as Gastone in the 2011 production of La Traviata. Chung has performed with Burnaby Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera Studio Weimar and has understudied several roles for Vancouver Opera.

The remaining characters are performed by Erica Iris, who appears as Mother, Mitzi, and Obasan, and Henry Chen, who appears as Daddy, Bully, Rough Lock Bill and the Trainmaster. Mezzo-soprano Iris has been praised for her “gorgeous big voice, seamless from top to bottom, dramatic, and highly expressive.” She has sung Tituba in The Crucible, Dido in Dido and Aeneas, Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos), and Carmen. Winner of the 2011 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, she toured Canada in 2011.

Chen, a bass-baritone, recently completed his training at the Vancouver Academy of Music. He has performed in many operas and concerts with various companies in Vancouver. His most recent performance was Papageno in the Vancouver Academy of Music Summer Opera Workshop’s Die Zauberflöte.

Naomi’s Road is presented by The Hope Museum, The Hope Library, and Recreation, Cultural & Airpark Services. Tickets are $10 at the rec centre, 1005 Sixth Avenue. The show starts at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, call 604-869-2304.

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