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THE SCOOP | The Canadian Opera Company Launches New Land Acknowledgement Commissioning Program

By Anya Wassenberg on January 10, 2022

COC_Land_Acknowledgement
‘Where the water meets the land’, installed at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (photo: COC staff)

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) has announced a new and collaborative approach to land acknowledgement. Métis mezzo-soprano Rebecca Cuddy has been named as the inaugural artist collaborator.

The new program invites Indigenous artists to work with a COC staff member to create a visual land acknowledgement and artist statement. It puts an artistic and personal touch on a practice that has been criticized in various ways.

“We hope that when people take in our programming, whether that’s in-person or online, they’re also able to experience land acknowledgement in a new way — something that engages their senses, allows them to reflect on their own learnings and knowledge, and go away wanting to know more,” says COC General Director Perryn Leech in a media release. “Creating creative pathways of connection lies at the heart of what we do as a performing arts organization; we hope that continued creative collaborations like this one will support the boosting of Indigenous voices so that these stories and realities are shared widely, and into the future.”

Rebecca Cuddy and ‘where the water meets the land’

Métis mezzo-soprano and visual artist Rebecca Cuddy created a three-dimensional installation titled where the water meets the land. It features beadwork, and a bright orange blossom that represents the tragedy of the mass graves found at residential school sites.

Ian Cusson’s composition Fire sits on a music stand, along with a text by poet Joy Harjo, with the line, “I am the continuance of blue sky, I am the throat of the mountains” visible. Circling the installation, the sound of Ian Cusson’s composition follows the viewer, with Cusson on piano and Maple Sugaron on the fiddle, along with the sounds of water, bird calls, crickets, and a crackling fire.

The piece will be on display at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and a filmed version with precede all COC digital concerts for the rest of this season.

“The concept of the piece is that no one works alone, no one does anything alone,” says Rebecca Cuddy in a release. “So we’re highlighting the joy of Fire by composer Ian Cusson with beautiful text by American poet Joy Harjo of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Composer Troy Slocum helped us design the soundscape and I was especially grateful for the mentorship of Carey Newman throughout this process; Carey is an incredible multi-disciplinary artist and speaker on the spirit of reconciliation, whose work I have admired for years — it was a privilege to collaborate on this project.”

Cuddy is a member of the Circle of Artists, an advisory body made up of Indigenous artists from across Canada who advise the COC. Director/dramaturg Julie McIsaac, who will oversee the upcoming production of Fantasma, was the inaugural staff contributor.

“This has been an unparalleled and enlightening experience,” says McIsaac. “Through months of emails, phone calls, and walks by the water amidst the birds and the trees, Rebecca shared with me her way of seeing, of creating, and being in the world. Listening to and inviting many voices has been a priority throughout this process; not only was it essential for the COC to source and commit the resources that would enable Rebecca to achieve her vision for this artwork, it was also a wonderful opportunity to welcome many artists and individuals to work with us, whether by contributing to the seen and heard elements of the piece, or by witnessing the creation.”

For more details, see here.

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