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International Opera Company of the Month: Opera Lyra Ottawa

BroadwayWorld is excited to expand its popular feature series outside the U.S. borders setting our sights on showcasing performance companies around the world! Each month we will introduce you to an intearnational theater, dance and opera company located in one of our coverage countries.

Today, we're thrilled to present you to Opera Lyra Ottawa in Ottawa, Canada!

Opera Lyra Ottawa (OLO) was founded by soprano Diana Gilchrist in 1984 to fill the void created when the National Arts Centre cancelled its annual opera festival in 1983. It has since developed a considerable reputation for its acclaimed mainstage productions, becoming one of the largest independent arts organizations in the National Capital Region.

OLO's first production, "The Impresario" by Mozart took place in February 1984 at the York Street Theatre in Ottawa's Byward Market. Produced, directed and performed by Gilchrist herself, OLO's first opera was the product of vision and teamwork. In the wake of the success of "The Impressario" Opera Lyra's first season was born. Performing no less than two performances (opera concerts or staged operas) each season, Opera Lyra began to achieve its goal of becoming Ottawa's premiere opera company.

Opera Lyra Ottawa's productions have evolved significantly from its first community-based
production. Many notable Canadian artists have performed with Opera Lyra including tenor Richard Margison in La Bohème (1988), baritone Louis Quilico in Rigoletto (1994), sopranos Maria Pelligrini in Madama Butterfly (1996) and Liping Zhang in Madama Butterfly (2004), soprano Wendy Nielsen in Don Giovanni (2007) and Russell Braun in Eugene Onegin (2008). As one of Canada's leading regional companies, many Canadian artists consider OLO as a good opportunity to perform roles for the first time. Recent examples include Gaetan Laperriere in the title role of Falstaff (2006) and Laura Whalen as Violetta in La Traviata (2008).

In 1999, OLO expanded upon its programming when Tyrone Paterson, OLO's current Artistic Director, founded the Young Artists Training Programme. The program has grown in stature and structure and is now known as the OLO Opera Studio Program. It remains one of the few Canadian training programs for up-and-coming Canadian opera professionals during the early stage of their careers. The OLO Opera Studio offers a blend of professional instruction and practical experience for aspiring Canadian singers, stage directors, conductor/repetiteurs and stage managers. Many of the program's former members have moved on to appear in mainstage productions in Canada and abroad.

In 2002 Opera Lyra Ottawa was awarded the prestigious Lieutenant Governor Award for the Arts for its outstanding achievements in private sector support and increased community involvement.

Opera Lyra believes that education in the performing arts is vital to its community, and offers a variety of programs to introduce children and youths to the power and beauty of opera. These programs, which include student-only performances and productions complete with teacher resources, help to foster an appreciation for the art form and lasting memories for thousands of young people in the National Capital Region each year. The company's most recent achievement in its education outreach has been the addition of a student-only matinee for one mainstage opera each year, which was made possible through the support of local entrepreneur Michael Potter.

The 2012-2013 production season will continue with LA TRAVIATA taking the stage March 21 and 23 at the NAC - Southern Hall. For tickets, please click here.

To learn more about Opera Lyra Ottawa, click here.

If you know of an international performance company we should feature, send your suggestions to

Info courtesy of OLO. Photo Credit: Sam Garcia, OLO.

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