The Ecstasy of Rita Joe

Our first meeting with Tanya Ryga about the opera rights to George Ryga’s play, The Ecstasy Of Rita Joe.

A reading of the libretto for The Ecstasy Of Rita Joe (an opera), (adapted by Victor Davies from George Ryga’s play), was given a very successful workshop organized by Guillermo Silva Marin through Opera In Concert on May 11, 2014. With dramaturgy by Heather Davies, performers Laura McAlpine, Stefan Fehr, Gregory Finney, Elizabeth Beeler, Virginia Reh, Domenico Sanfilippo, Henry Ingram, and Guillermo Silva-Marin, generously brought the text to life and showed the exciting possibilities for the work.

For many years my dear friends John Juliani and August Schellenberg urged me to write an opera based on The Ecstasy Of Rita Joe.  After composing the music for the CBC radio adaptation of the play, I began to think that it might be possible.  Although now 47 years old, the issues and situations in the play are still very much alive.  A tragic love story about two young aboriginal people in the city, the text of the play is powerfully evocative, poetic, with vibrant alive characters.  The play is known throughout the world and is credited with being the first major Canadian play. In its premiere in Vancouver Francis Hyland played Rita Joe, August Shellenberg was Jaimie Paul, and Chief Dan George played Rita Joe’s father. The opera’s development continues…

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