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Sad news: Toronto's Queen of Puddings Music Theatre to cease operations at end of season

By John Terauds on February 8, 2013

Shannon Mercer, Krisztina Szabo, Jacqueline Woodley, Carla Huhtanen, Laura Albino, and Andrea Ludwig in Svadba-Wedding (John Lauener photo).
Shannon Mercer, Krisztina Szabo, Jacqueline Woodley, Carla Huhtanen, Laura Albino, and Andrea Ludwig in Svadba-Wedding (John Lauener photo).

One year shy of its 20th anniversary, founding co-artistic directors Dáirine Ní Mheadhra and John Hess have announced that Toronto’s Queen of Puddings Music Theatre is closing its illuminated musical storybook on Aug. 31.

This is what their official statement is on the matter:

“With Queen of Puddings, we’ve achieved what we set out to do, which was to commission and produce original Canadian opera to a high artistic standard, and to develop an international profile for this work. In this current season the company is thriving, with the great success and critical acclaim for our production of Ana Sokolovic’s opera Svadba-Wedding, touring nationally and internationally, and coming up on April 30th the premiere of a new vocal chamber work at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre by composer Chris Paul Harman. The end of our season in August 2013 feels like a very natural artistic ebbing point, and thus feels like the right moment to close the company. We want to conclude in a year like this, which is full of artistic pleasure, highlights, and fulfillment of our goals, with continued financial stability due to a deficit-free track record.”

According to the press release, Ní Mheadhra will continue to freelance in contemporary opera and Hess will focus on teaching (at University of Western Ontario) and collaborative piano work.

Queen of Puddings didn’t have something new very often, sometimes taking a couple of years between projects. But Ní Mheadhra and Hess were always about quality and being ready with something significant to say, not meeting seasonal needs.

There are very, very few companies or ensembles with the guts to work in this manner, because irregular schedules always translate into irregular income.

Besides two decades of producing new works that never took anything for granted about form or presentation, Queen of Puddings served as a springboard for many young artists, most significantly soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who stunned Toronto in the 1999 opera Beatrice Chancy by James Rolfe and librettist Geroge Elliot Clarke.

The Midnight Court by Ana Sokolovic, premiered in 2005, remains lodged in my memory as the single most compelling and enchanting production of new opera I have seen.

And there have been many more, most recently Sokolovic’s Svadba-Wedding, which had a European tour a few months ago, and the musical theatre hybrid Beckett: Feck It!, a fantastic exploration of the plasticity of the performing arts when presented within a cohesive creative vision.

“We are very deeply indebted to our dear friends and close colleagues, for their marvellous support, warmth, and collegiality during the life of our company,” stated Ní Mheadhra and Hess.  “They have been integral to our work and we couldn’t have given the best of ourselves without their belief that we would do no less.”

Queen of Puddings leaves a rich legacy — and will leave a significant hole in Toronto’s performing arts landscape.

John Terauds

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