A Midwinter Night's Dream
A Midwinter Night's Dream. Children's opera by Harry Somers with libretto by Tim Wynne-Jones. Inuit Chief Moonwok's son Jimmy, returns to his Arctic village, after an exciting visit to Edmonton, just in time for the traditional Midwinter's Feast. Sensing Jimmy's boredom at the prospect of the celebration's traditional singing, dancing, and stories of the old ways, the village Shaman, Ai'o'u, casts a spell and sends the boy on a quest. Jimmy falls through a hole in the ice to the dark ocean floor, dry because the tide is out. There the choir of the dead hovers to claim him with the rising tide. Ai'o'u, however, enlists the choir of the Northern Lights to dispel the darkness. Jimmy escapes through a hole in the ice and returns to the village, no longer a boy but a man with his own wonderful tale to tell, and a new appreciation of the importance of stories in personal and village identity. 'Stories are,' in the words of Ai'o'u, 'who we are'.
Somers' score includes atmospheric effects in which the children's chorus is instructed to imitate nature sounds, and also two contrasted musical styles - one based on Inuit singing, and the other derived from North American musical theatre and pop music. The opera was premiered 17 May 1988, at Toronto's Harbourfront by the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, which commissioned the work for its 20th anniversary. For the nine-performance run Thomas Schweitzer was director, John Tuttle conductor, and the piano accompanists were Lydia Adams and Peter MacDonald. Ben Heppner was Ai'o'u and Jeremy Beckman, Jimmy. Others in the cast included Christopher Coyea, Lisa Gaasenbeek, Janet Fairclough, and Jill Keith. A second performance, produced by Chamber Concerts Canada as part of its Musical Mondays series, was given at Young People's Theatre in Toronto in June 1989 with the CCOC conducted by Tuttle, but with different soloists, including Dennis Giesbrecht as Ai'o'u and Isaac Pulford as Jimmy; this performance was broadcast on CBC radio 21 Oct 1989.