NAC revives pandemic-stalled shows for mix of new and old gems to lure back audiences


Following two seasons scuttled by the pandemic, the National Arts Centre is inviting audiences back to its stages with a mix of new and revived shows.

Canada’s multidisciplinary performing arts hub announced a 2021-22 slate Tuesday that resurrects several works that had been sidelined by COVID-19 restrictions but are now buoyed by renewed optimism for the return of live music, theatre and dance.

That includes the world premiere of an orchestral rendition of “Songs for Murdered Sisters” on Feb. 9 and 10, 2023 with baritone Joshua Hopkins, poetry by Margaret Atwood and music by Jake Heggie. The show, which calls attention to gender-based violence, has twice been postponed since it was originally planned for September 2020.

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An Ottawa celebration of the life and work of Buffy Sainte-Marie will also now go ahead in September after scrapping a date earlier this year, while the Australian cabaret show “Hot Brown Honey” will run Oct. 12 to 15, more than two years after it was postponed.

NAC president and CEO Christopher Deacon says artists have missed the “exhilarating, inspiring, and restorative” experience of performing for a live audience.

The new season will also mark the return of subscription packages, on sale Thursday. Individual show tickets go on sale June 22.

“Over these past two years, artists have missed the unique alchemy that takes place when artists and audiences meet in a performance hall,” Deacon said Tuesday in a release.

“We invite everyone to come to the NAC and discover, or rediscover, the magic of the performing arts on the NAC’s stages.”

Multiple COVID-19 waves over the past two years have played havoc with live performance schedules, either shuttering venues or ushering in a swath of pandemic measures  and sometimes confusion  over indoor masking, capacity caps, concessions and vaccinations.

The NAC’s website says there are currently no capacity limits or distancing requirements at its venues, although visitors must wear a mask when not eating and drinking. Proof of vaccination rules were also lifted earlier this year, except for select events.

The orchestra season will open with a performance by Montreal pianist Bruce Liu, the reigning Chopin Competition winner, on Sept. 8 and 9, and later features “Reggae Roots,” featuring Jamaican-born Halifax-based vocalist Jah’Mila on Feb. 23 to 25.

Theatrical projects include Black Theatre Workshop’s mounting of Aleshea Harris’ “Is God Is,” described as “a Tarantino-esque tale of revenge” and directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, from Feb. 9 to 18, 2023; and Colleen Murphy’s climate crisis exploration “The Breathing Hole,” a co-production with NAC Indigenous Theatre running Nov. 30 to Dec. 10.

Ann-Marie MacDonald’s internationally acclaimed novel “Fall on Your Knees”” hits the stage as a two-night show running March 8 to 25, 2023. It lands in Ottawa after making its world premiere in Toronto and a run in Halifax. After the NAC stop, it heads to London, Ont.

The dance season opens Oct. 14 to 15 with the NAC debut of New York’s Ballet Hispanico and their show, “Dona Peron,” the story of Eva (Evita) Peron, while the Royal Winnipeg Ballet puts its spin on Atwood’s award-winning novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” Oct. 27 to 29.

Celebrated German dance company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch returns to Canada after an aborted booking in September 2020 to mount their show “Nelken,” but this time with the late Pina Bausch’s “Palermo, Palermo” from Feb. 16 to 18, 2023.

Other highlights include performances by pianist-composer Jean-Michel Blais, alt-rockers The Sheepdogs, Ukrainian folk quartet DahkaBrahka and the return of end-of-year holiday favourites Kellylee Evans and Celtic Christmas duo Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy.

NAC’s French Theatre will bring Michel Tremblay’s new play “Cher Tchekhov” to audiences Nov. 17 to 19, while the choral show “Un. Deux. Trois” runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 before embarking on a cross-Canada tour.

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